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Encyclopedia > Rhyme royal

Rhyme royal is a rhyming stanza form that was introduced into English poetry by Geoffrey Chaucer.



The rhyme royal stanza consists of seven lines, usually in iambic pentameter. The rhyme scheme is a-b-a-b-b-c-c. In practice, the stanza can be constructed either as a tercet and two couplets (a-b-a, b-b, c-c) or a quatrain and a tercet (a-b-a-b, b-c-c). This allows for a good deal of variety, especially when the form is used for longer narrative poems.


Chaucer first used the rhyme royal stanza in his long poems Troilus and Criseyde and Parliament of Fowles. He also used it for four of the Canterbury Tales and in a number of shorter lyrics. It is believed that he adapted the form from a French ballade stanza.

James I of Scotland used rhyme royal for his Chaucerian poem The Kingis Quaire, and it is believed that the name of the stanza derives from this royal use. John Lydgate used the stanza for many of his occasional and love poems, Robert Henryson in his translation of Aesop's Fables and in The Testament of Cresseid, Thomas Wyatt in his poem They flee from me that sometime did me seek, Thomas Sackville in the Induction to The Mirror for Magistrates, and Shakespeare in The Rape of Lucrece, to give a few examples. Along with the couplet, it was the standard narrative metre in the late Middle Ages. Edmund Spenser derived his Spenserian stanza partly by adapting rhyme royal. Like all stanzaic forms, it fell out of fashion during the Restoration, and has never really recovered anything like its original status. Probably the most important 20th century poems in the form are W. H. Auden's Letter to Lord Byron and The Shield of Achilles.

Some Examples

Here is the opening stanza of Troilus and Criseyde:

The double sorwe of Troilus to tellen,
That was the king Priamus sone of Troye,
In lovinge, how his aventures fellen
Fro wo to wele, and after out of Ioye,
My purpos is, er that I parte fro ye,
Thesiphone, thou help me for tendyte
Thise woful vers, that wepen as I wryt

and this is the first stanza of the Wyatt poem:

They flee from me that sometime did me seek
With naked foot, stalking in my chamber.
I have seen them gentle, tame, and meek,
That now are wild and do not remember
That sometime they put themself in danger
To take bread at my hand; and now they range,
Busily seeking with a continual change.

Ballade Royal

The ballade royal is a poem form that uses rhyme royal stanzas within the discipline of a ballade. Ballade royal may use iambic pentameters or iambic tetrameters. Typically, there are four stanzas with the final stanza taking the place of the more usual envoi. The final line of each stanza is a repeated refrain. Chaucer used this form in his Ballade of Good Counsel.

External links

  • Troilus and Criseyde (http://www.readbookonline.net/title/3047/)
  • Ballade of Good Counsel (http://www.readbookonline.net/readOnLine/3185/)
  • They flee from me that Sometime did me Seek (http://eir.library.utoronto.ca/rpo/display/poem2407.html)

  Results from FactBites:
Guide to Verse Forms - Rhyme (2742 words)
Another form of internal rhyme has a word in the middle of one line rhyming with the the word at the end of a different line; this is sometimes called cross rhyme - which is liable to be confused with cross-rhyme, a particular kind of 4-line stanza.
One particular form of cross rhyme, in which the word at the end of one line rhymes with a line in the middle of the next, is common in Irish poetry, where it is known as aicill rhyme.
Rhyming a word in the middle of one line with a word in the middle of another is called interlaced rhyme.
Guide to Verse Forms - Rhyme Royal (538 words)
Rhyme Royal - sometimes known as the Troilus stanza - has 7 lines of 10 syllables each (normally iambic pentameters) and a rhyming scheme of ababbcc.
But rhyme royal is nothing to do with chant royal (which is another variant of the ballade).
Rhyme royal is a close relative of ottava rima.
  More results at FactBites »



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