1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Rondeau
RONDEAU (Ital. Rondo), a structural form in poetry and
(in the form of “ rondo ”) in music. In poetry the rondeau
is a short metrical structure which in its perfect form consists
of thirteen eight- or ten-syllables verses divided into three
strophes of unequal length, and knit together by two rhymes
and a refrain. In Clement Marot's time the laws of the rondeau
were laid down, and, according to Voiture, in the 17th century,
the following was the type of the approved form of the rondeau:—
"Ma foy, c'est fait de moy, car Isabeau
M'a conjuré de luy faire un Rondeau:
Cela me met en une peine extrême.
Quoy treize vers, huit en eau, cinq en ème.
Je luy ferois aussi-tot un bateau
En voilà cinq pourtant en un monceau:
Faisons en huict, en invoquant Bordeaux,
En puis mettons, par quelque stratagème,
Ma foy, c'est fait !
Si je pouvois encore de mon cerveau
Tirer cinq vers, l'ouvrage seroit beau;
Mais dependant, je suis dedans l'onzième,
Et si je croy que je fais le douzième
En voila treize ajustez au niveau.
Ma foy, c'est fait !”
All forms of the rondeau, however, are alike in this, that the distinguishing metrical emphasis is achieved by a peculiar use of the refrain. Though we have a set of rondeaux in the Rolliad (written by Dr. Lawrence the friend of Burke, according to Edmund Gosse, who has given us an admirable essay upon exotic forms of verse), it was not till recent years that the form had any real vogue in England. Considerable attention, however, has lately been given in England to the form. Some English rondeaux are as bright and graceful as Voiture's own. Swinburne, who in his Century of Roundels was perhaps the first to make the refrain rhyme with the second verse of the first strophe, has brought the form into high poetry. In German, rondeaux have been composed with perfect correctness by Weckherlin, and with certain divergences from the French type by Götz and Fischart; the German name for the form is rundum or ringel-gedicht.
Although the origin of the retrain in all poetry was no doubt the improvisatory's need of a rest, a time in which to focus his forces and recover breath for future flights, the refrain has a distinct metrical value of its own; it knits the structure together, and so intensifies the emotional energy, as we see in the Border ballads, in the Oriana of Lord Tennyson, and in the Sister Helen of Rossetti. The suggestion of extreme artificiality—of “ difficulty overcome ”—which is one great fault of the rondeau as a vehicle for deep emotion, does not therefore spring from the use of the refrain, but from the too frequent recurrence of the rhymes in the strophes—for which there is no metrical necessity as in the case of the Petrarchan sonnet. The rondeau is, however, an inimitable instrument of gaiety and grace in the hands of a skilful poet.