Monday, April 14, 2008

Monday Poetry Stretch - Kyrielle

While reading some poetry in the last few weeks I came across a form I have not written in before. I tucked it away for a stretch, and now its time has come. A kyrielle is a French from that was originally used by Troubadours. In the original French kyrielle, lines had eight syllables. Written in English, the lines are usually iambic tetrameters. The distinctive feature of a kyrielle is the refrain in which the final line of every stanza is the same. The name of the form comes from the word kyrie, a form of prayer in which the phrase "Lord have mercy" (kyrie eleison) is repeated.

A kyrielle can be any length as long as it is written 4 line stanzas of iambic tetrameters. A kyrielle also has a rhyme scheme. Two popular forms are aabB/ccbB/ddbB etc. or abaB/cbcB/dbdB etc., where B is the repeated refrain.

Here is an example of the form.
by John Payne

A lark in the mesh of the tangled vine,
A bee that drowns in the flower-cup's wine,
A fly in sunshine,--such is the man.
All things must end, as all began.

A little pain, a little pleasure,
A little heaping up of treasure;
Then no more gazing upon the sun.
All things must end that have begun.

Where is the time for hope or doubt?
A puff of the wind, and life is out;
A turn of the wheel, and rest is won.
All things must end that have begun.

Golden morning and purple night,
Life that fails with the failing light;
Death is the only deathless one.
All things must end that have begun.

Ending waits on the brief beginning;
Is the prize worth the stress of winning?
E'en in the dawning day is done.
All things must end that have begun.

Weary waiting and weary striving,
Glad outsetting and sad arriving;
What is it worth when the goal is won?
All things must end that have begun.

Speedily fades the morning glitter;
Love grows irksome and wine grows bitter.
Two are parted from what was one.
All things must end that have begun.

Toil and pain and the evening rest;
Joy is weary and sleep is best;
Fair and softly the day is done.
All things must end that have begun.
If you want to learn more about the kyrielle you can read this Wikipedia entry. or the article Kyrielle: The Kyrie Reformed.

So, what kind of kyrielle will you write? Leave me a note about your poem and I will post them all here later this week.


  1. Ah. This might take me some time. You've got me thinking now...

  2. I'm thinking too, but I'm having a great deal of trouble thinking in eights now! I'm stuck on iambic pentameter, so iambic tetrameter will really be a stretch!

  3. Having a tough time with this one - not sure if I am doing it correctly. I have never been good at hearing things like iambic tetrameters and such. I will keep working on it...