Chant Royal, one of the fixed forms of verse invented by the ingenuity of the poets of medieval France. It is composed of five strophes, identical in arrangement, of eleven verses each, and of an envoi of five verses. All the strophes are written on the five rhymes exhibited in the first strophe, the entire poem, therefore, consisting of sixty lines in the course of which five rhymes are repeated.
It has been conjectured that the chant royal is an extended ballade, or rather a ballade conceived upon a larger scale; but which form preceded the other appears to be uncertain. On this point Henri de Croy, who wrote about these forms of verse in his Art et science de rhetorique (1493), throws no light. He dwells, however, on the great dignity of what he calls the Champt Royal, and says that those who defy with success the ardour of its rules deserve crowns and garlands for their pains. Etienne Pasquier (1529-1615) points out the fact that the Chant Royal, by its length and the rigidity of its structure, is better fitted than the ballade for solemn and pompous themes. In Old French, the most admired chants royal are those of Clement Marot; his Chant royal chrestien, with its refrain "Sante au corps, et Paradis a lme", was celebrated. Theodore de Banville defines the chant royal as essentially belonging to ages of faith, when its subjects could be either the exploits of a hero of royal race or the processional splendours of religion. La Fontaine was the latest of the French poets to attempt the chant royal, until it was resuscitated in modern times.
This species of poem was unknown in English medieval literature and was only introduced into Great Britain in the last quarter of the 19th century. The earliest chant royal in English was that published by Edmund Gosse in 1877; (*) The Praise of Dionysus.
In the middle ages the chant royal was largely used for the praise of the Virgin Mary. Eustache Deschamps (1340-1410) distinguishes these Marian chants royaux, which were called serventois, by the absence of an envoi. These poems are first mentioned by Rutebeuf, a trouvre of the 13th century. The chant royal is practically unknown outside French and English literature. (E. G.)
Being the entry for CHANT ROYAL in the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, the text of which lies within the public domain.
(*) The original entry contains the text "it is here given to exemplify the structure and rhyme-arrangement of the form" and procceeds to quote The Praise of Dionysus in its entirety.