Word for Wednesday: Villanelle

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March 21 marks World Poetry Day and to celebrate we’ve chosen poetry for this month’s Word for Wednesday theme.
The word poetry dates to the late-fourteenth century and comes from the Old French ‘poetrie’, from the Latin ‘poeta’. 

So far we’ve looked at the words sonnet and limerick. This week’s word is villanelle.  

A villanelle is a nineteen-lined lyrical or pastoral poem made up of five three-lined stanzas (tercets) followed by one four-lined stanza (a quatrain).  

This type of poem uses a pattern of two repeated lines (refrains). The first line of a villanelle is repeated as the sixth, twelfth, and eighteenth lines. The third line of a villanelle is repeated as the ninth, fifteenth, and nineteenth lines.

A villanelle also has a complicated rhyme scheme: ABA ABA ABA ABA ABA ABAA. This means the first and last lines of every tercet end in the same rhyme, and the middle lines of each tercet end in the same rhyme. 

The word dates to the 1580s and entered English via French. It comes from the Italian ‘villanella’ meaning ‘ballad’ or ‘rural song’, from the Latin ‘villanus’ meaning ‘farmhand’.

16 Mar 2022
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