From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The rondelet is a brief French form of poetry. It contains a refrain, a strict rhyme scheme and a distinct meter pattern.[1]

The roundelay is a 24 line poem written in trochaic tetrameter. What they have in common is that they both only use two rhyme sounds, and make use of refrains.[2]

Rondelet 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.

Samuel Beckett's "Roundelay"[edit]

Samuel Beckett created a contemporary roundelay in the poem of the same name. In his rigorous and original variation, he demonstrates additional potential and flexibility of this form in this extraordinarily evocative and haunting short work.

This poem is carefully built upon a palindromic structure and uses lines with slightly changed variants and exact repetitions. The use of the word "sound" 6 times significantly determines the focus of the text and adds "sonic atmosphere." Beckett's poem has 13 lines with a middle repeat in line 7 of "on all that strand"-stated three times in total-dividing the poem in two mirrored halves. Its syllables/per line vary from 3-6. The syllable count line by line is: 4/4/3/3/6/3/4/3/6/3/3/4/4 which forms a perfect palindrome split by the center, 4-syllable line 7 mentioned above.

This poem, like so many of his works, demonstrates a supreme mastery of repetition, sonic effects, and structure. Its initially simple appearance leaves astonishing complexity and mathematical/musical rigor hidden in plain sight.


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."[3]


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 Universitaires du Mirail, Toulouse.


External links[edit]