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The word is the diminutive of rondel, a similar, longer verse form. This is the basic structure:
Line 1 :: A—four syllables
Line 2 :: b—eight syllables
Line 3 :: A—repeat of line one
Line 4 :: a—eight syllables
Line 5 :: b—eight syllables
Line 6 :: b—eight syllables
Line 7 :: A—repeat of line one
The refrained lines should contain the same words, however substitution or different use of punctuation on the lines has been common.
The term roundelay originates from 1570, from Modern French rondelet, a diminutive of rondel meaning "short poem with a refrain," literally "small circle". From Old French rondel, a diminutive of rond meaning "circle, sphere," originally an adjective from roont. The spelling developed by association with lay (noun) "poem to be sung."
Michel Barrucaud, François Besson, Eric Doumerc, Raphaelle Gosta de Beaurregard, Aurélie Guilain, Wendy Harding, Isabelle Keller-Privat, Catherine Lamone, Lesley Lawton et Sylvie Maurel, An introduction to poetry in English, Presses Universtitaires du Mirail, Toulouse.
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