Virelai Ancien

Viralai Ancien is a Medieval descendant of the Lai. It is long with very restricted rhyme. 

The is:
○ stanzaic, usually written in any number of 12 line stanzas made up of 4 tercets. Six or nine line stanzas can be used but according to Bob Newman anything less than 12 lines is for wimps.
○ syllabic, 8-8-4-8-8-4-8-8-4-8-8-4-8-8-4.
○ rhymed aabaabaabaab bbcbbcbbcbbc etc. The short line rhymes of the previous stanza become the long line rhymes of the next stanza. At the end, the long line rhymes of the 1st stanza becomes the short line rhyme of the last stanza.

Pasted from

My thanks to Judi Van Gorder for years of work on this fine PMO resource.


Virelai Ancien

The virelai ancien is a medieval form that has done well to survive this long, and is unlikely to be widely mourned if it doesn’t survive very much longer. Perhaps my feelings toward it would be more charitable if I hadn’t just forced myself to write one of the wretched things. This is how it turned out:
The Virelai Ancien

The virelai’s a lot of fun!
Of flavours, most forms have but one,
But it has two.
The ancient flavour first was spun
When time itself had just begun;
The world was new.
Some neolithic Tennyson
Beneath the prehistoric sun,
Who’d had a few –
The Muse struck him, and soon he’d done
A verse form that would run and run.
’Twas quite a coup!

He sang of hunting caribou;
Of making of it a ragout;
Of gluttony.
His whole tribe – later called the Sioux –
Went wild about this form’s debut,
Its subtlety.
A tidal wave of ballyhoo,
Of photo shoot and interview –
Celebrity –
Engulfed our hero ere he knew.
Then other bards tried to outdo
His minstrelsy.

It was a wondrous sight to see,
This verse form’s popularity –
They wanted more!
For there had been a scarcity
Of highly-structured poetry
There, theretofore.
The virelai’s complexity
Imparted a resplendency
None could ignore.
It spread by bush telegraphy
To Blackfoot, Crow, and Cherokee,
From shore to shore.

It didn’t last. A natural law
Of nature, red in tooth and claw
(Exemptions: none)
Ordains that, like the dinosaur,
Each species must in time withdraw,
Its race well run –
Though no Sioux critic, brave or squaw,
The virelai nouveau foresaw,
Or how it won.
And yet the ancien lost the war.
The Sioux don’t write them now, and nor
Does anyone.

As you see, you need rhymes literally by the dozen – each rhyme occurs 8 times in the long lines of one stanza, and 4 times in the short lines of the next (and the form loops back at the end, so that the short lines of the last stanza rhyme with the long lines of the first). You can have as many stanzas as you like, but personally I’d say four was enough for anybody. 
(Actually you’re allowed to have 9-line stanzas, or even 6-line stanzas, as long as you stick with the pattern of 2 long lines followed by a short one, and honour the rhyming scheme. But stanzas shorter than 12 lines are for wimps.)
In truth, the virelai ancien seems to me to be much more of a test of ones ability to find rhymes than a recipe for writing a good poem. But if you enjoy a challenge, go for it!

Pasted from

My thanks to Bob Newman for his years of work on the wonderful Volecentral resource.

My example

Photo Shoot Recruit (Viralai Ancien)

We left a house of ill repute
where we’d produced a photo shoot
with maidens there.
We never sought forbidden fruit
(we were old farts and lacked the loot;
it wasn’t fair.)
One girl was blond and very cute
could have been Laura Vandervroot;
I could but stare.
Then we continued on our route,
where starlets longed for our salute;
they posed with flair.

So many of them were named Cher,
or Joy, Cherie, or even Claire
I got confused.
I viewed a many derriere
and ogled bosoms almost bare
and still perused.
A plain or ugly girl was rare
They all looked lovely in the glare
Their beauty oozed.
In evening gowns or under wear,
they paraded without a care.
I was bemused.

Then finally we were all excused.
When asked what kind of film I’d used
I said, “Aw,shoot!”
The roll of film had gone unused.
My boss was feeling unamused.
I got the boot.
Although I’m sore and slightly bruised
and thoughts of pay were disabused
d absolute
I certainly remain enthused
My camera can be re-used
so failure’s moot.

© Lawrencealot – August 28, 2014

Visual Template

Virelai Ancien

Tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.