Poetic Forms: 17. Villanelle

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17. Villanelle

Villanelle refers to a country house or farm. Originally they were Italian folk songs and often had an accompanying dance. They had as their theme the joy of country living. Today a villanelle can be used to express any theme.

French poet Jean Passerat (1534-1602) wrote a poem in the late 1500’s titled villanelle and it became the guide for the strict form of this poem.

The poem is 19 lines long, divided into five three line stanzas and a final four line stanza.

The first and third lines of the first stanza are repeated alternately - so the first line becomes the last line in the second stanza, and the third line becomes the last line in the third stanza, and this pattern repeats

The poem rhymes in a pattern of A-B-A until the last stanza, which uses both of the repeating lines: A-B-A1-A2
The last two lines of the poem are lines one and three, making a rhymed couplet, and like a sonnet, this is where the poem should use the opening lines to sum up or express its main thought.

A villanelle does not have a required meter or line length, though generally the first and last lines of the triplets should match each other, and then all the center lines should match each other.

A strong villanelle uses line breaks and refrains that make sense. Experimenting with line break (enjambment) can take the edge off the repetition of the refrain making it seem less forced.

It is good to use a word or line that can have slightly different meanings. Misdirection is also good – but so is simple and straightforward and stripped back to feeling and heartbeats.

A1 first A (sets meter for pairs)
B first B (can be different meter, and will set up meter for the centers)
A2 second A (rhymes and matches meter with first A)

A third A
B second B
A repeat A1

A fourth A
B third B
A repeat A2

A fifth A
B fourth B
A repeat A1

A sixth A
B fifth B
A repeat A2

A seventh A
B sixth B
A repeat A1
A repeat A2


This is Dylan Thomas' Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night. It is probably the most famous villanelle and it should inspire you to see how little he pushes the line breaks, the structure, etc.. It is just simple, elegant and heart-stopping.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night,

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night,

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.

Story Information

Author: fileg

Status: General

Completion: Work in Progress

Era: Other

Genre: Research Article

Rating: General

Last Updated: 02/01/04

Original Post: 06/12/03

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