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Explore the Craft of Writing PoetryEnglish Poetry The Roundel The key to the Roundel is the rhymed rentrement which is incorporated into the body of the poem and becomes its anthem. The English Roundel is a variation of the older French Rondeau. A rentrement is the first phrase of the opening line repeated as a refrain. In the Middle Ages the term Roundel was synonymous with Rondeau or Rondel. Chaucer's A Knight's Tale, 1529, has been called all three. Later, the term Roundel became associated with the properties of the form introduced by Algernon Swinburne in his A Century of Roundels, 1883.

The Roundel as introduced by Swinburne is:

  • a poem of 11 lines, made up of a quatrain, followed by a tercet and ending with a quatrain.
  • metered, primarily iambic pentameter but can be written in iambic tetrameter.
  • composed with a rentrement or 1st phrase of L1 which is repeated as a refrain in L4 and L11.
  • rhymed with only 2 rhymes, rhyme scheme aba(Bb), bab, aba(Bb) B being the rentrement or refrain. The end word of the rentrement should rhyme with the end word of L2.

The Roundel by Algernon Charles Swinburne,

English Poet, (1837-1909)


A roundel is wrought as a ring or a star-bright sphere,

With craft of delight and with cunning of sound unsought,

That the heart of the hearer may smile if to pleasure his ear

A roundel is wrought.


Its jewel of music is carven of all or of aught--

Love, laughter, or mourning--remembrance of rapture or fear--

------That fancy may fashion to hang in the ear of thought.


As a bird's quick song runs round, and the hearts in us hear

Pause answer to pause, and again the same strain caught,

So moves the device whence, round as a pearl or tear,

A roundel is wrought.

Sunset's Tango by Judi Van Gorder


When sundown sings and airs its crimson glow,

the covert clouds that float on winsome wings

will join to dance, romance, adagio,

when sundown sings.


Into the grey-blue sea slides the golden ring

while the falling night plays the gigolo

and woos the sleepy stars awakenings.


The sunset's tango advances smooth and slow

in fuchsia, reds and golds that bleed and cling

to the gliding dancers of twilight's nightly show,

while sundown sings.

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