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Definition: rondeau from Collins English Dictionary

n pl -deaux (-dəʊ, -dəʊz)

1 a poem consisting of 13 or 10 lines with two rhymes and having the opening words of the first line used as an unrhymed refrain See also roundel

[C16: from Old French, from rondel a little round, from rond round]

Summary Article: rondeau
From The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

French medieval lyric poem form of 10 or 13 lines with only two rhymes throughout, and with the opening words used twice as a refrain.

The term ‘rondeau’ is a later form of rondel, and first occurs in the 13th century, when it was used for lyrics accompanying a dance or ‘round’.

History of the rondeau In the 14th century the rondeau passed from the musical to the literary sphere, and various types are found in the works of French writer Eustache Deschamps. Of these, two mainly survive, the form used by French poet Charles d'Orléans in ‘Le temps a laissé son manteau’ being described as a rondel. This has 13 lines on two rhymes, grouped in three stanzas of 4, 4, and 5 lines (the first two lines recurring as the third and fourth of the second stanza and the first line being repeated as a refrain at the end of the third stanza). The most usual rhyme scheme is ABba, abAB, abbaA, where capitals indicate the repeated lines.

During the 15th century, perhaps through misinterpretation of the copyists' abbreviations, the refrain was reduced to the repetition, outside the rhyme scheme, of the first half of the first line. This second type was used by poets until the 17th century, when the form dropped out of use until its revival in the 19th century. The pattern consists of 13 lines on two rhymes, grouped in three stanzas of 5, 3, and 5 lines with partial refrain after the eighth and last lines, as used by French writer Vincent Voîture. The usual rhyme scheme is aabba, aabR, aabbaR, but later poets (for example, the French poet Alfred de Musset), have varied this.

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