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A villanelle is a form used widely in France in the sixteenth century, and which remains popular among formal poets. Its strict repetition and rhyme scheme makes it a source of headaches and sleepless nights for those who enjoy writing them. The form lends itself better to exploration of a haunting theme than to a lyrical subject or story, simply because of the amount of repetition.

Formally, the repeated lines are strict; some people vary them somewhat, altering punctuation or a few words, to soften the form somewhat. Most villanelles are in iambic pentameter, but any meter could be used, or none. The form is made up of five tercets and a quatrain, for a total of nineteen lines. The first and third lines of the first triplet rhyme and are repeated in each stanza. Call them A1 and A2, and the rhyme/repetition scheme is as follows:

One: A1 b A2
Two: a b A1
Three: a b A2
Four: a b A1
Five: a b A2
Six: a b A1 A2

Only A1 and A2 are repeated; all the lines designated \'a\' rhyme with them, and those designated \'b\' rhyme with each other.

As you can see, a strong couplet is a good place to start; the inner lines of each stanza can help deepen the meaning. Note that you\'ll need seven words that rhyme with A and six that rhyme with B. At times that\'s the most limiting factor when working with villanelles. Another challenge is flow; try to vary your treatment of the repeating lines so that they don\'t feel like they\'re just being dropped into the poem.

I\'ve found that once you begin to write villanelles, it\'s hard to stop. The form was often read aloud and was probably intended to be performed; the repetition makes it easier for the audience to grasp its meaning quickly, and makes it easy on the ear. A similar but shorter (and easier!) form is the triolet, for those who like the repetition and rhyme but want to write more succinctly.
Third in our series of informative deviations, thanks again to ~ tessuraea.
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:iconangelofporcelain:
angelofporcelain Featured By Owner May 1, 2011
You just explained this better than any textbooks or lecturers. Thankyou so much. <3 :joy:
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:icondarkcrescendo:
darkcrescendo Featured By Owner Sep 5, 2005  Hobbyist Writer
The Art of the Villanelle

Attend this line, which you'll have heard
repeated in this villanelle
until you're sick of every word --

a repetition as absurd
as any babbled cries in hell.
Attend this line, which you'll have heard

re-echoed like a mocking bird,
returning like a carousel,
until you're sick of every word.

(And then the rhymes! Would not a third
with "ell" and "erd" have worked as well?)
Attend this line, which you'll have heard

until your vision's gotten blurred,
until your ears ring like a bell,
until you're sick of every word

each time the line is disinterred!
You'll whisper in a padded cell,
"Attend this line, which you'll have heard..."
until you're sick of every word.

-- Peter Schaeffer,


I just thought this would be amusing to all of us who write villanelles :)

Benedictions!
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:iconsparrowsong:
SparrowSong Featured By Owner Sep 30, 2005  Hobbyist Writer
That's QUITE clever.
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:icondarkcrescendo:
darkcrescendo Featured By Owner Oct 1, 2005  Hobbyist Writer
That's what I thought when I found it =p

I couldn't find much else by the same author though, which is a shame. The man obviously has a sense of humour :)

Benedictions!
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:iconsparrowsong:
SparrowSong Featured By Owner Oct 1, 2005  Hobbyist Writer
And wrote quite an admirable villenelle, as well!
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:icontheflawedone:
TheFlawedOne Featured By Owner Jul 15, 2004  Hobbyist Writer
I'm so glad you sent me the link! This is one of many that I have tried. [link]


If you have time, please let me know what you think. Thanks :)
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:iconcorruptedangel:
corruptedangel Featured By Owner Aug 20, 2003
So how do you actually pronounce villanelle?
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:iconpoetic-forms:
poetic-forms Featured By Owner Aug 21, 2003   Writer
probably just like it sounds. Doesn't look that hard in terms of the french. My guess would be Vil-A-nell.

~alenia
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:iconmattiello:
Mattiello Featured By Owner Jun 19, 2008  Professional Writer
It's actually an italian word.
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:iconcorruptedangel:
corruptedangel Featured By Owner Aug 21, 2003
Thats what i thought, i submitted one actually... its in my gallery as 'Imaginary' if your interested. [link]
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:icondarkcrescendo:
darkcrescendo Featured By Owner Jul 3, 2003  Hobbyist Writer
Well, it is certainly a challenging style. Addictive though.

My first two attempts can be found at my page: 'The Black Tower', and 'The Pendulum'

I will certainly be using the villanelle style a lot more in future.

Thanks for the information on it!

Benedictions!
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:icontessuraea:
tessuraea Featured By Owner Jun 20, 2003   Writer
what's wrong with it?

...genuinely curious. At first and second glance, it's a villanelle.
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:iconimical:
imical Featured By Owner Jun 5, 2003   Photographer
Dylan Thomas' "Do not go gentle into that good night" does not exactly follow the true definition. I had a Poetry project for Lit and got in trouble for using that one , before yur post. Main one used that made it popular in US is Theodore Roethke's "the Waking" don't mean to sound like an ass just don't want anyone to make the same mistake that I did.
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:iconmattiello:
Mattiello Featured By Owner Jun 19, 2008  Professional Writer
What's wrong with it? It fits all of the rules.
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:icontessuraea:
tessuraea Featured By Owner May 28, 2003   Writer
For other examples, check out the devpack here at ~poetic-forms. :) (Smile)
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:iconsya:
Sya Featured By Owner May 28, 2003  Professional General Artist
This is a good example, though the piece is not my own:

Dylan Thomas
"Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night."

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light!


Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.


Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light!

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light!

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse me, bless me, now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light!
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:iconmattiello:
Mattiello Featured By Owner Jun 19, 2008  Professional Writer
I find this rather funny. I wrote my own "how to" on villanelles, and I use the piece you mentioned above to demonstrate it. It is rather good.
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:iconpanterasuno2:
panterasuno2 Featured By Owner May 28, 2003
Very informative....thanks! :D (Big Grin) Perhaps an example would help to illustrate it, for those without a working knowledge of the basics of poetry tho...it can get confusing at times. Poetry, not your explanation ;) (Wink)
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