Roundelay

The roundelay is quite different from the rondelet, despite the names sounding so similar. It is also different from the roundel, the rondel, the rondine, the rondeau and the rondeau redoublé. These forms all evolved from a common ancestor, hence the similar names. The modern forms are all fixed and tightly defined, but in times past the word roundelay was used in other ways, sometimes as a general term for any kind of lyric. 

Here's a somewhat cynical contemporary roundelay:

Economics for beginners
This looks bad, but hold your horses!
Check the facts before you whine.
Ask the papers what their source is!
Their motives could be malign.
Put your faith in market forces;
Everything will turn out fine.

Ask the papers what their source is!
Their motives could be malign.
Every minister endorses
What’s become the party line:
Put your faith in market forces;
Everything will turn out fine.

Every minister endorses
What’s become the party line:
Bound to happen - as of course is
Our industrial decline.
Put your faith in market forces;
Everything will turn out fine.

Bound to happen - as of course is
Our industrial decline.
None of us knows what remorse is.
Don’t expect us to resign.
Put your faith in market forces;
Everything will turn out fine.

This is one of those forms where most of the lines get repeated - there are 24 lines in the poem, but only 12 of them are different. The structure is actually very simple, if you consider it in terms of pairs of lines. There are only 6 pairs of lines in the poem, arranged according to this scheme: ABR/BCR/CDR/DER, where R denotes the 2-line refrain that ends each stanza. The metre is trochaic tetrameter (see the metre page if necessary) but it is permissible for some of the lines to be (as here) one syllable short. 

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© Bob Newman 2005. All rights reserved.

This page last updated 06/08/2005