Kyrielle

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