The rondel as a poetic form is a variant of the French rondeau.

It originated in Renaissance France, and is usually composed of thirteen lines around two rhymes. Each line has eight or ten syllables. The poem is divided into three stanzas - two quatrains and a cinquain. The first two lines of the first stanza serve as a refrain at the end of the second stanza(lines 7 and 8), and the first line is also the last line(line 13 - hence the 'roundness' from which the form gets its name). This form, as you may be able to tell by now, is much easier to look at than to explain. With that in mind, the rhyme scheme and format of the poem is usually:

A
B
b
a

a
b
A
B

a
b
b
a
A

...where capital letters indicate the repeating lines.

There are, of course, variations on the rondel variation, which include:

  • The Free Rondel - in which the first line sets the number of syllables that will be in each line. Free rondels may also vary the rhyme scheme, making the first stanza ABab or the last stanza ababA.
  • The French Sonnet, or Rondel Prime - in which the first two lines reappear at the end of the poem as a couplet, making it fourteen lines long. The definition Webster 1913 gives is actually for a French Sonnet.

When writing a rondel, it is best to keep in mind that the ending words of your first two lines will each need five rhymes in order to complete the poem. Some words that are not good choices to end lines with*: Cusp, Death, Jinx, Love, Mollusk, Month, Mouth, Normal, Orange, Sculpt, Sixth, and Wolf.

Edmund Gosse, Robert Louis Stevenson, W.E. Henley, and Neil Gaiman are all guilty of having indugled in this form of poetry. I have only written one so far, but they're pretty fun to do. (provided you're not one o'those "no form can be imposed upon my angst!" types.)

Sources include: The Norton Anthology, Mediadrone, and Bartleby.com. Oh, and I guess I should cite Mr. Gaiman, for getting me interested in the form with his rondel, Reading the Entrails.

It appears that creators (Blizzard Entertainment) of Diablo II game have a definition of their own.

In the game, a rondel is more like a dagger or a dirk. I must admit that my perception of Blizzard staff having exclusive knowledge of some esoteric names for melee weapons has just been shattered. It was more like they ran out of names for items in the game so they just pulled them out of... thin air. I feel let down.

Ron"del (?), n. [Cf. Rondeau, Roundel.]

1. Fort.

A small round tower erected at the foot of a bastion.

[Obs.]

2. [F.] (a)

Same as Rondeau.

(b)

Specifically, a particular form of rondeau containing fourteen lines in two rhymes, the refrain being a repetition of the first and second lines as the seventh and eighth, and again as the thirteenth and fourteenth.

E. W. Gosse.

 

© Webster 1913.

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