Chant Royal

Chant Royal is a variant of the ballade form. Three (or, according to some authorities, five) eleven-line stanzas are followed by a five-line envoi. The long stanzas rhyme ababccddedE, with the same rhymes throughout; the envoi rhymes ddedE. NB the capital E's mean that, as with the ballade, the same entire line is repeated at the end of each stanza as a refrain. Here's an example:

On kingship
It is a burden, not a precious thing, 
To find oneself enthroned as royalty.
Is “superman” a synonym for “king”?
The people seem to think that it should be.
Uneasy lies the head that has been crowned,
But still it has to spread goodwill around.
The soldiers on the eve of Agincourt,
Not sleeping, for their thoughts of blood and gore,
Took comfort from the king who shared their plight.
He gave them what he could – he had no more-
A little touch of Harry in the night.

When queens get boring, nag, or have a fling,
Turn out no better than they ought to be,
One sometimes has to show them where’s death’s sting,
And count each grave a minor victory.
Fresh candidates for marriage still abound
– at any rate, so the eighth Henry found.
He wed but six; thereafter he forbore.
Good manners, for he could have managed more.
But each wife, in her time, knew the delight
Of his attentions; heard his regal snore -
A little touch of Harry in the night.

So now a new Hal’s hat is in the ring.
What kind of king will he turn out to be?
(Yes, Wills comes first, so Hal’s the second string,
But he will make the grade, if you ask me.)
However much the wretched press may hound
However naff they make the royals sound,
The people’s love for them you can’t ignore.
So will Hal lead the battleline once more,
Next time his subjects end up in a fight?
Or execute his queens? Who’ll be up for 
A little touch of Harry in the night?

Prince, don’t you find the kingship thing a bore?
There’s much about it that you must deplore.
If I were you, I’d turn tail and take flight.
You’ll stay though, and give all of us, I’m sure,
A little touch of Harry in the night.

It's not obligatory (or even common) to write about royal subjects, of course - though it is traditional (as with the ballade) to address the envoi to "Prince".

The overall length of a Chant Royal (as above) is 38 lines, which makes it a feasible form for competitions with a 40-line limit.

Notable Chant Royals (or Chants Royal?)

Not many are written, as far as I know. 

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© Bob Newman 2004, 2005. All rights reserved.

This page last updated 19/08/2007