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The Ballade Family of Forms including Huitain, Dizain & Chant Royal


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French Verse

The Ballade is the dominant Old French form of the 14th and 15th centuries. The NPEOPP refers to the Ballade as "the vehicle of the greatest of early French poetry". It was brought to England by Chaucer who used the Ballade stanza for the Monk's Tale consequently the ballade stanza is also called the Monk's Tales Stanza.

The Ballade gave birth to a whole family of forms, however it is not a relative nor should it be confused with the seemingly universal, "Ballad". The Ballade and its variations are relatively long, somewhat stingy with their rhyme allotment and always employ a refrain established in the last line of the first stanza which is repeated as the last line of each succeeding stanza including the envoy.

The Ballade Envoy provides the climatic summation of the poem and in the early poems often began with the salutation, "Prince", to address the presiding judge of medieval poetic competitions. This earned the envoy the knick-name of "the prince". Although most Ballades and their variations usually include an envoy, they are sometimes written without.

The defining features of the Ballade family of forms are:

  1. metered or syllabic. Most often written in lines of 8 syllables each, but in English, can be found in tetrameter or pentameter. Whatever verse is employed, lines should be all the same length.
  2. rhymed, the rhyme schemes are limited, employing only 3, 4 or 5 rhymes depending on the form, with no rhyme word being repeated throughout the poem.
  3. stanzaic, written in variable stanza lengths and envoy lengths depending on the form.
  • The Ballade Stanza or Monk's Tale Stanza's elements are:
    1. an octave, usually written in conjunction with other stanzas.
    2. written without envoy.
    3. syllabic, 8 syllable lines.
    4. rhymed, usually ababbcbc
  • Huitain, is a poem made up of a single Ballade Stanza without an envoy. The verse form was most popular in the 16th century and was often used for epigrams in the 18th century. One source suggests the Hutain may have begun in Spain with the simple 8 syllable by 8 line frame which is typical of early Spanish verse. Which came first and who influenced who, who knows. The French were sometimes known to use the frame for a collaborative poem between 2 or more poets. Each poet contributing a hutain around a central theme.  The elements of the Huitain are:
    1. an octastich, an 8 line poem
    2. written in octasyllabic (8) lines,
    3. rhymed, the most common rhyme scheme ababbcbc.
      I'll Try Again

      Bedtime once more, the fight begins.
      It's prime to get a good night's sleep,
      instead, my mind's alert on pins
      and needles, with thoughts in a heap.
      Sometimes I laugh, sometimes I weep.
      I think, I read, or watch TV,
      trying to distract, seeking the deep
      REM to set my weary brain free.
                                ~~Judi Van Gorder
  • The Ballade is 28 lines made up of 3 octaves or "ballade stanzas and concluded with a quatrain envoy. There are only 3 rhymes in the poem, rhyme scheme for all octaves ababbcbC, Ballade envoy bcbC C being the refrain.
    The Prodigals by Austin Dobson (1840-1921)

    "Princes!—and you, most valorous,
    Nobles and Barons of all degrees!
    Hearken awhile to the prayer of us,—
    Beggars that come from the over-seas!
    Nothing we ask or of gold or fees;
    Harry us not with the hounds we pray;
    Lo,—for the surcote's hem we seize,--
    Give us—ah! give us—but Yesterday!"

    "Dames most delicate, amorous!
    Damosels blithe as the belted bees!
    Hearken awhile to the prayer of us,—
    Beggars that come from the over-seas!
    Nothing we ask of the things that please;
    Weary are we, and worn, and gray;
    Lo,—for we clutch and we clasp your knees,—                                     
    Give us—ah! give us—but Yesterday!"

    "Damosels—Dames, be piteous!"
    (But the dames rode fast by the roadway trees.)
    "Hear us, O Knights magnanimous!"
    (But the knights pricked on in their panoplies.)
    Nothing they gat or of hope or ease,
    But only to beat on the breast and say:—
    "Life we drank to the dregs and lees;
    Give us—ah! give us—but Yesterday!"

    Youth, take heed to the prayer of these!
    Many there be by the dusty way,—
    Many that cry to the rocks and seas
    "Give us—ah! give us—but Yesterday!"

    Reluctant Ballade by Judi Van Gorder

    I never thought to write this form
    because of length and stingy rhyme
    The subject stuff, I did brain-storm,
    to structure verse is paradigm.
    It's a mountain for me to climb
    I prayed I wouldn't get this wrong
    and wished the tome would be sublime,
    reluctantly I write this song.

    I tried to make my lines conform,
    the sound should be a ringing chime,
    a challenge making me perform,
    my words resounding in their prime
    the opposite of pantomime.
    I know that this is getting long
    and reading it must take some time,
    reluctantly I write this song.

    Enough if it's received lukewarm,
    I pulled the words out from the grime
    and did my best to show, inform
    and though I'm close to done, still I'm
    running out of "ime" rhymes, a crime!
    No longer will this read prolong,
    it's getting close to dinnertime,
    reluctantly I write this song.

    My Prince, before you choose to slime,
    I hope that you'll just hit the gong
    'cause I'll not earn a silver dime,
    reluctantly I write this song.

  • Double Refrain ballade is also 28 lines made up of 3 octaves and concludes with a quatrain envoy with only 3 rhymes in the poem. However this form has 2 refrains L4 and L8 of the first stanza are repeated as refrains in L4 and L8 in the succeeding stanzas, rhyme scheme for all octaves abaBbcbC, Double Refrain envoy bBcC, B and C being refrains.
  • Double Ballade also called "Double Ballade with Eight line stanza" doubles the stanza number of the Ballade. It is 52 lines made up of 6 octaves and ends with a quatrain envoy. The rhyme scheme remains consistent with the Ballade, throughout the poem it turns on only 3 rhymes, , all octaves rhyme ababbcbC Ballade envoy bcbC. If you think I am going to write one of these as an example, you're nuts.
  • Dizain is a decastich, the whole poem made up of a single Ballade Supreme stanza, a 10 line stanza without an envoy. Lines of 8 or 10 syllables each with a rhyme scheme ababbccdcd.
                 Dizain for the evolutionary
                 socialist dream of edouard Bernstein                              

                                                    by DC Martinson

                 Sleep no more, you working classes,
                 don't fight the pulse to congregate.
                 Rise, you power of the masses,
                 and from the grip of wealth luxate
                 your dignity that is innate.
                 Don't spill blood like those in power,
                 don't prattle like those who cower
                 behind the stench of flame and flag;
                 for those who live in the tower
                 will fall: we will not have to drag.

    Ups and Downs by Judi Van Gorder

    Warming Trends by Judi Van Gorder

    Living Still by Judi Van Gorder







  • Ballade Supreme is 35 lines made up of 3 ten line stanzas and concludes with a quintet envoy. There are only 4 rhymes in the poem, rhyme scheme for all ten line stanzas ababbccdcD ,     Ballade Supreme envoy ccdcD, D being the refrain.

    a clown's smirk by ee cummings
    A clown's smirk in the skull of a baboon
    (where once good lips stalked or eyes firmly stirred)                
    my mirror gives me, on this afternoon;
    i am a shape that can but eat and turd
    ere with the dirt death shall him vastly gird,
    a coward waiting clumsily to cease
    whom every perfect thing meanwhile doth miss;
    a hand's impression in an empty glove,
    a soon forgotten tune, a house for lease.
    I have never loved you dear as now i love

    behold this fool who, in the month of June,
    having of certain stars and planets heard,
    rose very slowly in a tight balloon
    until the smallening world became absurd;
    him did an archer spy(whose aim had erred
    never)and by that little trick or this
    he shot the aeronaut down, into the abyss



    -and wonderfully i fell through the green groove
    of twilight, striking into many a piece.
    I have never loved you dear as now i love

    god's terrible face, brighter than a spoon,
    collects the image of one fatal word;
    so that my life(which liked the sun and the moon)
    resembles something that has not occurred:
    i am a birdcage without any bird,
    a collar looking for a dog, a kiss
    without lips; a prayer lacking any knees
    but something beats within my shirt to prove
    he is undead who, living, none is.
    I have never loved you dear as now i love.

    Hell(by most humble me which shall increase)
    open thy fire! for i have had some bliss
    of one small lady upon earth above;
    to whom i cry, remembering her face,
    i have never loved you dear as now i love.

    Canto the ninth by DC Martinson

    Is Christ having supper with Marx?
    Who, by Him, would be turned away?
    Certainly Jesus, with His sparks
    Of oration, would not betray
    A common meal -- or common fray.
    He would eat with Karl, I am sure,
    And of his Grace He would outpour
    His Life and Words as food to eat.
    Bread and milk, too, He will procure:
    He shall sustain the whole, compleat.

    Is Christ debating in the parks
    With want-makers who naught but prey
    On basic needs; or with loan sharks
    Who bind the poor till dying day?
    Yes! First to be inside melee,
    The Son in power, I am sure,
    Will transform evil to be pure
    To God and us He is helpmeet;
    Our joys to share, sorrows endure:
    He shall sustain the whole, compleat.

    Is Christ concerned about trademarks
    Like Cross and Sickle? Or the way
    The many bibles have earmarks
    Such as James, Jerome, or Douay?
    Love God and neighbor: there's the play
    To be one with Christ. I am sure
    That God's Begotten has the cure.
    All will be saved and that's His feat!
    Each hell will be pro tem detour:
    He shall sustain the whole, compleat.

    In John we read of His grandeur
    By drawing all to him. The lure
    Is His alone -- what can compete
    With His plan to make sin obscure?
    He shall sustain the whole, compleat.

    And I, if I may be lifted up from the earth,
    will draw all men unto myself. John 12:32

  • Double Refrain Ballade Supreme is an American invention that is a slight twist on the Ballade Supreme and adds refrain. It repeats the 35 line poem made up of 3 ten line stanzas followed by a quintet envoy. Rhyme ababbCcdcD envoy cCdcD with C and D being the refrains.
  • Double Ballade Supreme doubles the stanzas of the Ballade Supreme. It is 65 lines made up of 6 ten line stanzas and ends with a quintet envoy. There are only 4 rhymes in the poem, rhyme scheme for all stanzas ababbccdcD, Ballade Supreme envoy ccdcD D being the refrain.
  • Grand Ballade or Chant Royal is written in 5 eleven line stanzas and concludes with a quintet envoy. There are only 5 rhymes in the poem, rhyme scheme for all 5 of the stanzas, ababccddedE Grand Ballade or Chant Royal envoy ddedE E being the refrain.

    The Dance of Death After Holbein by Austin Dobson (1840-1921)
    "Contra vim Mortis
    Non est medicamen in hortis."

    He is the despots' Despot. All must bide,
    Later or soon, the message of his might;
    Princes and potentates their heads must hide,
    Touched by the awful sigil of his right;
    Beside the Kaiser he at eve doth wait
    And pours a potion in his cup of state;
    The stately Queen his bidding must obey;
    No keen-eyed Cardinal shall him affray;
    And to the Dame that wantoneth he saith--
    "Let be, Sweet-heart, to junket and to play."
    There is no King more terrible than Death.

    The lusty Lord, rejoicing in his pride,
    He draweth down; before the armed Knight
    With jingling bridle-rein he still doth ride;
    He crosseth the strong Captain in the fight;
    The Burgher grave he beckons from debate;
    He hales the Abbot by his shaven pate,
    Nor for the Abbess' wailing will delay;
    No bawling Mendicant shall say him nay;
    E'en to the pyx the Priest he followeth,
    Nor can the Leech his chilling finger stay . . .
    There is no King more terrible than Death.

    All things must bow to him. And woe betide
    The Wine-bibber,--the Roisterer by night;
    Him the feast-master, many bouts defied,
    Him 'twixt the pledging and the cup shall smite;
    Woe to the Lender at usurious rate,
    The hard Rich Man, the hireling Advocate;
    Woe to the Judge that selleth Law for pay;
    Woe to the Thief that like a beast of prey


    With creeping tread the traveller harryeth:--
    These, in their sin, the sudden sword shall slay . . .
    There is no King more terrible than Death.

    He hath no pity, -- nor will be denied.
    When the low hearth is garnished and bright,
    Grimly he flingeth the dim portal wide,
    And steals the Infant in the Mother's sight;
    He hath no pity for the scorned of fate:--
    He spares not Lazarus lying at the gate,
    Nay, nor the Blind that stumbleth as he may;
    Nay, the tired Ploughman,--at the sinking ray,--
    In the last furrow,--feels an icy breath,
    And knows a hand hath turned the team astray . . .
    There is no King more terrible than Death.

    He hath no pity. For the new-made Bride,
    Blithe with the promise of her life's delight,
    That wanders gladly by her Husband's side,
    He with the clatter of his drum doth fright.
    He scares the Virgin at the convent grate;
    The Maid half-won, the Lover passionate;
    He hath no grace for weakness and decay:
    The tender Wife, the Widow bent and gray,
    The feeble Sire whose footstep faltereth,--
    All these he leadeth by the lonely way . . .
    There is no King more terrible than Death.

    Youth, for whose ear and monishing of late,
    I sang of Prodigals and lost estate,
    Have thou thy joy of living and be gay;
    But know not less that there must come a day,--
    Aye, and perchance e'en now it hasteneth,--
    When thine own heart shall speak to thee and say,--
    There is no King more terrible than Death.

  • Double Chant Royal is an American version (or maybe I should say perversion) of the Chant Royal which I found at Poetry Base. The Double Chant Royal has 10 eleven line stanzas turned on only 5 rhymes. Rhyme scheme ababccddedE ending with a Chant Royal envoy rhymed ddedE.
  • Double Refrain Chant Royal is an American twist on the Chant Royal which I also found at Poetry Base. It is still 5 eleven line stanzas followed by a quintain envoy with a change of rhyme and an added refrain. Rhyme ababcCcdedE CdedE. C and E are refrains.
  • Ballade Royal is a departure from the standards of the Ballade family and more a variation on the Rhyme Royal. Follow this link to read more about the Ballade Royal with example.

~~ © ~~ Poems by Judi Van Gorder ~~

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

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