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French Poetic Genres and Verse Forms

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Explore the Craft of Writing Poetry

French Verse
Some of the earliest French poetry came from the Provencal Troubadours who developed distinct styles and forms of verse which set French versification on the path of a strict and narrow course for over 400 years. Although the sonnet was very probably inspired by the verse of the Troubadours, French poetry sometimes get a bad rap as difficult and lacking spontaneity because of its attention to structural detail. Yet the Lai, the Rondeau, and the Ballade family of forms have found their way through the centuries and are still used today.

           The Albatross by Charles Baudelaire French Poet (1821-1867)

            Often, to amuse themselves, the crew of the ship
            Would fell an albatross, the largest of sea birds,
            Indolent companions of their trip
            As they slide across the deep sea's bitters.

            Scarcely had they dropped to the plank
            Than these blue kings, maladroit and ashamed
            Let their great white wings sink
            Like an oar dragging under the water's plane.

           The winged visitor, so awkward and weak!
           So recently beautiful, now comic and ugly!
           One sailor grinds a pipe into his beak,
           Another, limping, mimics the infirm bird that once could fly.

           The poet is like the prince of the clouds
           Who haunts the storm and laughs at lightning.
           He's exiled to the ground and its hooting crowds;
           His giant wings prevent him from walking.

Alternating Sonnet Alexandrine line        Alba or Aubade Ballade Ballade Grande Ballade Royal
Ballade Supreme Stanza Balada Ballata Bergerette Blason Bref Double
Breton Lay Canso Chain Verse                 Chanso or Chanson             Chante Fable Chant Royal Stanza
Chanson de Geste Cinquain   Courtly Compliment Dansa Débat
Descort Desdansa Double Ballade Double Ballade Supreme Double Ballade
with Eight Line Stanza
Double Chant Royal 
Double Refrain Kyrielle       Double Rondeau Dizain Eclogue Débat Ensenhamen Enuig
Fabliau Fatras Free Verse Freie Verse French Heroic Line           French Sonnet
Geste Grand Ballade Hutain Iambe Kyrielle Kyrielle Sonnet
Laisse Lai Lai Nouveau Noel Pantoum Pastorela
Prose Poem Quatern Retourne Revielle Reverdie Rime Couée
Rhyme Royal Rondeau Rondeau Prime Rondeau Redoubled Rondel Rondel Prime
Rondel Supreme Rondelet Rondine Ronsardian Ode Sestina Salut d' Amour
Sirvante Short Rondel Trine Triolet Trouveres School Viadeyra
Vignette Villanelle Viralai Virelai Ancien

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