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Rondeau Redouble

A Rondeau Redouble is a type of poem that only permits the use of two rhymes, consists of six stanzas of four lines each, and repeats complete lines throughout. A peculiar rule is that the final fifth stanza should have five lines, ending with a repeated half-line, taken from the first line of the poem. The key to this style of poetry is the construction of the first stanza, with the four lines appearing, in turn, as the final lines of the following four verses.

Its origins lie in the word rondeau, translating as round, a form of French, Medieval poetry, frequently set to music. Notoriously difficult to write, a rondeau redouble requires a strong opening line that is memorable and worth repeating, plus the choice of rhyme sounds which have to offer enough different variations of words to create a satisfying and logical poem. A renowned poem in this style is "Rondeau Redoublé (and Scarcely Worth the Trouble, at That)" by Dorothy Parker. 

The rondeau redouble is the French translation of a double rondeau. Consisting of 25 lines, it features a four-line refrain which forms the first quatrain. These four lines are then used successively as the last lines of the following four quatrains. The sixth and final stanza is a quintrain which contains no repetition of previous lines; it does, however, include a 'tail' which is the beginning clause or phrase from line one. The same two rhymes are used throughout and the rhyming scheme is as follows:

  • Stanza One: A1B1A2B2
  • Stanza Two: babA1
  • Stanza Three: abaB1
  • Stanza Four: babA2
  • Stanza Five: abaB2
  • Stanza Six: babaR (tail from line one)


Rondeau Redoublé (and Scarcely Worth the Trouble, at That)

by Dorothy Parker


The same to me are sombre days and gay.


      Though joyous dawns the rosy morn, and bright,
Because my dearest love is gone away
      Within my heart is melancholy night.


My heart beats low in loneliness, despite


      That riotous Summer holds the earth in sway.
In cerements my spirit is bedight;
      The same to me are sombre days and gay.


Though breezes in the rippling grasses play,


      And waves dash high and far in glorious might,
I thrill no longer to the sparkling day,
      Though joyous dawns the rosy morn, and bright.


Ungraceful seems to me the swallow's flight;


      As well might Heaven's blue be sullen gray;
My soul discerns no beauty in their sight
      Because my dearest love is gone away.


Let roses fling afar their crimson spray,


      And virgin daisies splash the fields with white,
Let bloom the poppy hotly as it may,
      Within my heart is melancholy night.


And this, oh love, my pitiable plight


      Whenever from my circling arms you stray;
This little world of mine has lost its light ...
      I hope to God, my dear, that you can say
                                       The same to me.

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