Sunday 10 May 2015

The Rondeau's Renaissance

The rondeau is a form of Medieval and Renaissance poetry which originated in France.  The poem is 15 lines long and follows a rhyming scheme of:  aabbaR--aabR--aabbaR.  Thomas Wyatt brought the rondeau to England in the 15th Century.  Paul Laurence Dunbar reintroduced the form in the 19th and 20th Century.  One of the most popular rondeaus in history is "In Flanders Fields", the World War I poem written by Dr. John McCrae.  Here is one of Paul Lauren Dunbar's rondeaus, We Wear the Mask:

We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,
This debt we pay to human guile
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.

Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.

We smile, but O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask.

Here is the rondeau, On Prussian Plains, that I wrote for Rob's Oma, about the invasion of East Prussia toward the end of the Second World War:

On Prussian plains she works the land;
She plants the seeds and crops by hand.
Babe in a basket by her side,
A girl in braids goes for a ride
While her brave soldier fights so grand.

The war goes not as Prussia planned.
Her friends all flee by sea or land;
But she remains and plans to hide
On Prussian plains.

The Russian soldiers seize her land;
Force her to roam with babes in hand.
She begs for food, but is denied.
Then comes the news her husband died.
They even take her wedding band
On Prussian plains.

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