Villanelles

A villanelle is a nineteen-line poem with two repeating rhymes and two refrains. It consists of five tercets followed by a quatrain. The first and third lines of the opening tercet are repeated alternately in the last lines of the succeeding stanzas; then in the final stanza, the refrain serves as the poem’s two concluding lines. Using capitals for the refrains and lowercase letters for the rhymes, the form is: A1 b A2 / a b A1 / a b A2 / a b A1 / a b A2 / a b A1 A2.

What I like about villanelles is how versatile they are.  They can serve for almost any occasion.

Villanelles can be fun:

The Lady Dances To the Violin
“O wad some powr the giftie gie us” … Robert Burns

The lady dances to the violin
She strives to win her gallant paramour
While lightly, lightly bobs her double chin.

Her slippers tripping, marking each refrain
Gently placed, in order, on the floor:
The lady dances to the violin.

She smiles, she laughs, she then pouts on a whim
Her pink chiffon hints of a coups d’amour
While lightly, lightly bobs her double chin.

She swears that they must try that pas again
The dandy hurries to the players, for
His lady dances to the violin.

The hours pass, her corsets start to strain,
She smiles, denying that her feet are sore
While lightly, lightly bobs her double chin.

At last, the other dancers form a train
To exit, yet she looks not to the door.
The lady dances to the violin
While lightly, lightly bobs her double chin

© Julia F. Varnell-Sarjeant 2011

Villanelles can express inspiration:

I heard the Robins Wake the Dawn

As day was coming, dousing dark with grays
And sun rose, nagging night to move along
I heard the robins wake the dawn with praise

The new beginning swept the yesterdays
Into the black abyss where nights belong
As day was coming, dousing dark with grays

The falcons wove in intricate ballets
Beating time to mourning doves’ new song
I heard the robins wake the dawn with praise

The minstrel paused, musing on his lays
Taking pleasure in the growing dawn
As day was coming, dousing dark with grays

High in the weeping birch the homestead sways
As beak to beak the mothers feed their young
I heard the robins wake the day with praise

And thus the mornings pass into the days
Extinguishing the night lights one by one
As day was coming, dousing dark with grays
I heard the robins wake the dawn with praise.

© Julia F. Varnell-Sarjeant 2011

Villanelles can express nostalgia or melancholy:

We know so little

We know so little when we’re young, inspired
The words we’d speak but lack the wit to form,
Before the wisdom comes we’re old, grown tired

The energies and dreams ambitions fired
Are trapped by untaught rhetoric, unborn
We know so little when we’re young, inspired

Disillusioned by what we desired,
Eager striving sours to weary scorn.
Before the wisdom comes we’re old, grown tired.

All plans and all intentions, so soon mired
Into a web of ritual aging storm:
“We know so little when we’re young, inspired.”

In time we mock the ideals we once squired
As Don Quixotes chasing fireflies, born
Before the wisdom comes.  We’re old, grown tired.

And as those visions one by one are pyred
The endless lines of stars turned ashes form.
We know so little when we’re young, inspired:
Before the wisdom comes we’re old, grown tired.

© Julia F. Varnell-Sarjeant 2011

Best of all, villanelles can be political.

Ode to Teabaggers

Their faces disfigure, contort with rage
They’re pining for a past that’s never been
They can’t accept the coming modern age

The hater and the screamer is their sage
Outshouting debate, creating a din
Their faces disfigure, contort with rage

The consequences of the war they wage
Not thought of, caring only that they win
They can’t accept the coming modern age

Fighting on as history turns a page
The fury grows as rationale grows thin
Their faces disfigure, contort with rage

In anger, with violence they engage
Insisting different ideas are a sin
They can’t accept the coming modern age

Growling, like lions in a cage
Not wanting a new era to begin
Their faces disfigure, contort with rage
They can’t accept the coming modern age

© Julia F. Varnell-Sarjeant 2011

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