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

The roundelay [2] 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. Both can be found documented on the , where Lawrence Eberhart, a director of the International Poetry Fellowship has spent the past two years cross-referencing specifications and examples found on the World Wide Web. For most poetry forms so identified, conflicts are pointed out, and visual template examples are provided.

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.

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. It is worthy of lengthy and hyper-detailed analysis and submits readily to a parallel application of musical analysis as should be obvious from the details above. A musical composition could easily follow the exact plan of this poem and be developed into a fine piece. This poem seems somewhat overlooked or overshadowed by some of his other works. Hopefully in time it will achieve a much-deserved wider and fully appreciative audience.


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."[1]


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.