The forms we have been enjoying are all of the Rondeau family, defined by the rentrement. The rentrement, as we saw in the last post's roundel, is an opening phrase or line that becomes a refrain. A French poet of the 19th century, Theodore de Banville, said of the rentrement, "It is at once the subject and its means of expression."
In "The Literary World", published in 1889, Charles Henry Luders gave us this quick lesson in the "Rondelet":
A RONDELETWhile each poem in the rondeau family is derived from a dance round set to music, the rondelet is also a short, disciplined format. There are a mere seven lines. A rondelet composed in French will be syllabic, counting 4-8-4-8-8-8-4. When written in English, the syllable count is often disregarded, and tends to be iambic. You are free to use the strict syllable count or choose another! While the strictness of the French-style meter helps to bring a spare beauty to your verse, a looser English-style meter can give you a little room to play around with this form. However, there must be meter and flow even if you choose a looser interpretation of the rules. "Rondelet", above, hews very close to the French syllable count, but not exactly, and its meter and flow are similar to what we are aiming for, here. Try reading your piece out loud to be sure it doesn't sound choppy.
Is just seven verses rhymed on two.
Is an old jewel quaintly set
In poesy--a drop of dew
Caught in a roseleaf. Lo! For you,
This format is also rhymed, and the scheme ends up looking like this:
A (Refrain)The first line, our rentrement, becomes the third and the seventh line as well.
A fun way to approach the rondelet is to begin it like a traditional haiku. Pick two clear images and try to reconcile them. Be sure to take your time in selecting the perfect descriptions, and don't settle for something easy or trite. It's not difficult to turn a small piece like this into doggerel. It's like walking a tightrope: you have to find a balance, adhering to the format yet allowing your own voice to shape it. Don't be afraid to modify the strictest rules as needed, while treating them with respect.
I couldn't find any online, readily available versions of the rondelet, none I truly liked, so I don't have an example to post for you in the article. I will of course link up along with runaway sentence. at the bottom when my version is posted, and look forward to reading your versions of this tricky, yet rewarding, little form.