The Villanelle

January 30, 2018

Writing poetry takes time, deep thought, and careful attention to details. It can be remarkably tedious and difficult, especially for people who are new to writing it. The Villanelle is a form poetry that is excellent for people new to poetry due to its structured, repetitive, rhyming nature. The almost musical sound of this format and the way poems can be created with ease has made it very popular.

The Villanelle originated as a ballad-like song for people who lived in the countryside of Europe. It began to take on a structured, poetic format in France, where it was popularized by Jean Passerat. In modern times, the Villanelle is most frequently used by English speakers using the following format.


A1

B

A2

 

A

B

A1

 

A

B

A2

 

A

B

A1

 

A

B

A2

 

A

B

A1

A2

 

Each line with the same letter must end in a common rhyme, such as the “ight” sound. The lines labeled A1 and A2 are repeated throughout the poem. It is not essential to stick the format, and it can be interesting to change it and see how the meaning changes. The Villanelle can be extremely versatile, if the writer wants it to be, and allows for so many intricate ways of expression. A common Villanelle is Dylan Thomas’ “Do Not Go Gently 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.

 

Thomas paints a picture that is vivid and interesting; the repeated lines are cleverly immersed in line after line, the meaning changing slightly every time. Even here, Thomas changes the format of the Villanelle, cutting out the second A B A2. The Villanelle can seem effortlessly beautiful, and although it is incredibly structured, it allows for the expression of a variety of thoughts and emotions.

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