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Poetic Forms: The Villanelle



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Tue May 13, 2014 6:41 pm
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Rydia says...



The Villanelle


I'd like to introduce you to one of my favourite forms of poetry: the Villanelle! The great thing about the Villanelle is its use of rhythm and repetition, which adapts well to both light and dark themes. In the example poem, Dylan Thomas uses the form to a haunting and heart-wrenching effect:

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night
Dylan Thomas (1914-1953)

Do not go gentle into that good night, (a1)
Old age should burn and rave at close of day; (b)
Rage, rage against the dying of the light. (a2)

Though wise men at their end know dark is right, (a)
Because their words had forked no lightning they (b)
Do not go gentle into that good night, (a1)

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright (a)
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay, (b)
Rage, rage against the dying of the light. (a2)

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight, (a)
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way, (b)
Do not go gentle into that good night, (a1)

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight (a)
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay, (b)
Rage, rage against the dying of the light. (a2)

And you, my father, there on the sad height, (a)
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray. (b)
Do not go gentle into that good night, (a1)
Rage, rage against the dying of the light. (a2)

How to do it


The Villlanelle works around two repeated lines and a regular rhyme scheme of aba aba until it reaches the final stanza, where it becomes abaa.

In it’s basic form it is 19 lines in length, represented as: a1-b-a2/a-b-a1/a-b-a2/a-b-a1/a-b-a2/a-b-a1-a2

Here, a1 and a2 are always the same line and every line with an a must follow the a rhyme scheme, while every line with a b must follow the b rhyme scheme. For example, if line a1 ends in hot, then the other a lines may end in not, pot, dot etc.

An optional rule of the Villanelle is that every line must be written in Iambic Pentameter. This is ten syllables in length and a rhythm of

Da- DUM Da-DUM Da-DUM Da-DUM Da-DUM

Do not go gentle into that good night

Every second word should be a stress word, or have the ability to be stressed.

The most important thing when writing a Villanelle is to make sure that the two repeated lines are strong and versatile.

Find more poetic forms at Writing Gooder.
Writing Gooder

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