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Poetry Magnum Opus

Chanson de Geste / Laisse


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Explore the Craft of Writing Poetry
The Epic
French Verse

Chanson de geste is Old French, a song of heroic deeds, Epic poems from between the 11th and 15th centuries. They focused particularly on the deeds of Charlemagne and his lords. One of the oldest surviving major works of French literature is of this genre, the mid 12th century, La Chanson de Roland which is approximately 4000 lines.

The elements of the Chanson de geste are:

  1. a narrative.
  2. made up of multiple Laisse which are stanzas of variable lengths.
  3. syllabic, each line is decasyllabic (10 syllables) most divided by a strong caesura usually after the 4th syllable. (later Chansons sometimes used 12 syllable lines.)
  4. usually rhymed by assonance not true rhyme, however later versions did use true rhyme. Each laisse carries the same vowel sound in the last syllable of the line, therefore each laisse is monorhymed. aaaaa bbb ccccccccccc dd etc.
  5. chanted rather than sung, creating a ritualistic cadence.
  • The laisse (French from Latin - lectio -reading) is a type of stanza used in medieval times especially in epics or descriptive verse. The lines of the stanza are the same meter but the length of the stanzas vary. The form most often used assonant rhymed decasyllabic verse. Stereotyped phrases and frequently repeated themes were common. The Chanson de Geste established the laisse as a viable verse form which became popular in later works.

    These days "laisse" is sometimes substituted for "strophe" to indicate variable number of lines and to separate it from "stanza" which implies a consistent or same number of lines. The assonant rhyme and decasyllabic lines are no longer considered a part of the definition.

~~ © ~~ Poems by Judi Van Gorder ~~

For permission to use this work you can write to Tinker1111@icloud.com

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