The distinctive feature of the kyrielle is that it has a refrain - the final line of every stanza is the same. The name comes from the kyrie, a form of prayer in which each section concludes with the same words: "Kyrie eleison", meaning "Lord have mercy upon us". Repeating whole lines within a poem is sometimes known as rime en kyrielle; this phenomenon is found in quite a number of verse forms.
The verse form called the kyrielle is usually written in iambic tetrameters, and in 4 line stanzas rhyming aabB, for example:
The dawnís not many hours away But I canít face another day. Itís less than zero Fahrenheit. I wish that I could sleep tonight. For me, no soothing lullaby. In darkness, troubles magnify, Dread shadows in the candlelight. I wish that I could sleep tonight. The fact is, life is never fair - The reasonís neither here nor there I lie here fretting at my plight. I wish that I could sleep tonight. How many hours can it take? If in a cave, Iíd stay awake Till stalactite met stalagmite! I wish that I could sleep tonight.
Rhyming abaB is also fine:
You were my best and closest friend. I thought you honest and upright. But now all that is at an end. I hope that you can sleep at night. That woman meant the world to me. You say she gave you the green light, But you see what you want to see. I hope that you can sleep at night. Her love for me is, I now know, Extincter than a trilobite. No friend of mine, you gigolo! I hope that you can sleep at night.
And you can even do aA:
I hate that worthless parasite! I bet that he canít sleep at night. Heíd steal the very widowís mite! I bet that he canít sleep at night. His heart is black as anthracite. I bet that he canít sleep at night. His conscience is far from snow white. I bet that he canít sleep at night.
That last example is perilously close to being a ghazal.
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© Bob Newman 2004. All rights reserved.
This page last updated 03/01/2005