LOTR Kyrielles


Introductory post with thanks to Lewis Turco and his Book of Forms:

The kyrielle as we know it in English poetry is adapted from a medieval French form. The name "kyrielle" is derived from the kyrie eleison of the church liturgy, it's main defining characteristic here being the frequent repetition of a refrain.  (For instance each section would end with "Lord have mercy on us.")

The kyrielle is written using couplets, which are simply two lines of the same length that rhyme on their last word.  Two couplets make up each stanza - this is called a quatrain (set of four lines).  The length of the lines is determined by number of syllables, usually eight syllables to each line, though there may be variations as long as the lines in the quatrain match one another.  It is ideally written in iambic tetrameter, which means four stressed syllables per line (every other one - ta-TA, ta-TA, ta-TA, ta-TA), but hey, we're just learning here!  Iambic pentameter is also used.

There is no limit to the number of stanzas but three is the generally accepted minimum.

The refrain can be of any length - as little as one word or a whole line.

The original French form was not rhymed, but the modern English variant is because the English language lacks the naturally rhyming endings of the Romantic-based languages. The rhyming structure is  a/a/b/B, c/c/b/B, d/d/b/B. with B being the repeated line or refrain.  Variations are also used, such as  a/b/a/B, c/b/c/B, d/b/d/B.

I hope that didn't sound too confusing, because it is quite a simple form to use when you try it!


A sample that I just made up, with the tags to show you the rhyming pattern:

a  Farther from home I've never been,
a The road is long, though wonders seen,
b I once had read in dusty tomes-
B O how I long for Shire-home.
(refrain)

a Such wearing sorrows for the heart,
a We knew the end before the start...
b We go now where no life may roam,
B
O how I long for Shire-home. (refrain)

a Is this the end of all my dreams?
a This sunset neverending seems...
b Are songs or tales across this foam?
B
O how I long for Shire-home. (refrain)


-Primula