April is National Poetry Month, the goal of
which is to "achieve an increase in the visibility,
presence, and accessibility of poetry in our culture"
Although Grammatically Correct generally focuses on
grammar (and style to a lesser extent), we agree with Paul
Engle that, "poetry is ordinary language raised to the N th
power." Poetry helps reminds us that language has
rhythm, cadence, and beauty, so we challenge you to write a
poem this month, and this issue of Grammatically Correct
provides direction on how to write a villanelle.
Britannica (2007), the word villanelle comes
from an Italian word meaning peasant and referred to a
rural ballad (para 1). It further states that as a poem, the
form first appeared in French poetry.
is a 19 line poem: 5 three-line stanzas and 1 four-line
What makes the villanelle unique is its
repetition: the first and third lines of the first stanza
are alternately repeated as the last line of the next four
stanzas and as the last two lines of the last
As for rhyme, the villanelle follows this
pattern: aba, aba, aba, aba, abaa.
line 1 - a
line 2 - b
line 3 - a
line 4 - a
line 5 - b
line 6 - a (Repeat line 1)
line 7 - a
line 8 - b
line 9 - a (Repeat line 2)
line 10 - a
line 11 - b
line 12 - a (Repeat line 1)
line 13 - a
line 14 - b
line 15 - a (Repeat line 2)
line 16 - a
line 17 - b
line 18 - a (Repeat line 1)
line 19 - a (Repeat line 2)
A classic and popular villanelle is "Do Not
Go Gentle into That Good Night” by Dylan Thomas. Note the
repetition and rhyming.
Line 1 Do not go gentle into that good
Line 2 Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Line 3 Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Line 4 Though wise men at their end know dark
is right, (a)
Line 5 Because their words had forked no lightning they
Line 6 Do not go gentle into that good night, (a)
Line 7 Good men, the last wave by, crying how
Line 8 Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Line 9 Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Line 10 Wild men who caught and sang the sun
in flight, (a)
Line 11 And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way, (b)
Line 12 Do not go gentle into that good night, (a)
Line 13 Grave men, near death, who see with
blinding sight (a)
Line 14 Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Line 15 Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Line 16 And you, my father, there on the sad
Line 17 Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Line 18 Do not go gentle into that good night, (a)
Line 19 Rage, rage against the dying of the light.