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Understanding Poetry: The Villanelle

Understanding Poetry: Villanelle

A form of poetry that originated in the 16th century but didn't become a fixed form until the 19th century, the Villanelle_began as Spanish and Italian songs of a rustic nature. The poem itself is composed of 19 lines in its entirety, with two refrains, and two repeating rhymes. The rhyme scheme of aba aba aba aba aba abaa is used. This is a total of 6 three lined stanzas. Lines 1 and 3 alternate to create the two refrains throughout the entire poem.

Example
Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night
by Dylan Thomas


Line 1 Refrain) Do not go gentle into that good night,
Line 2)Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Line 3: Refrain)Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Line 4)Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Line 5) Because their words had forked no lightning they
Line 6) Do not go gentle into that good night.

Line 7)Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Line 8)Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Line 9) Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Line 10) Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
Line 11)And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Line 12)Do not go gentle into that good night.

Line 13)Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Line 14)Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Line 15)Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Line 16)And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Line 17)Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Line 18) Do not go gentle into that good night.
Line 19) Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

As you can see, the rhyme scheme as adhered to, as well as alternating refrains from lines 1 and 3. "Do not go gentle..." and "Rage, rage". Also notice the two repeating rhymes: end rhymes for "night" = right, bright, flight, sight...and end rhymes for "day" = gay, pray, they, bay... This is the ab rhyme scheme throughout the entire poem.

Prompt: Write a villanelle about the subject matter of life.
Image: Dylan Thomas

-brr

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