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goldKyrielle2I want to wish everyone happy holidays and all the blessings of the season. This Christmas finds us all in very different places, celebrating in many different ways. It is also a time that stretches one’s mind and affects our emotions. We in the U.S. have been much affected by the shooting in Connecticut this last week. I think caring for one another and particularly for that community has weighed on us as we prepare to hold our own families tight this season. All of us send our sympathies to that community and are profoundly sorry for its loss.

This form is based on the Catholic Mass, and it is another French form. But while the initial phrase Kyrie Eleison is translated as “Lord, have mercy” and is a phrase in the Mass alternating with the phrase Christie Eleison, the poem does not necessarily have to use that phrase, nor does it have to have anything to do with religion or spirituality. In fact, as it is now used it seems the refrain acts as an allusion to the liturgical repetition.  As I investigated the form, I discovered it is not very different from the Quaterns we looked at last time.

The Encyclopedia Britannica gives this definition: kyrielle, ( French: “repeated series of words or phrases”) a French verse form in short, usually octosyllabic, rhyming couplets. The couplets are often paired in quatrains and are characterized by a refrain that is sometimes a single word and sometimes the full second line of the couplet or the full fourth line of the quatrain.

The word is from the Old French kiriele, which is a derivative of the word kyrie, a type of Christian liturgical prayer.

However I have read many variations of Kyrielles. True, like the Quatern, it is a form that employs eight syllable lines; I have read them as well in iambic and trochaic meter. While traditionally in couplets, there are several variations in the rhyme scheme: abab, aabb, aaab, and abcb, The only constant seems to be in having the refrain fall either after the quatrain or as the fourth or last line of the stanza (quatrain). I have seen very old versions as a single couplet followed by the refrain. As in most French forms, three verses is the usual minimum with no maximum number.

So to sum up:

1.  the form can be written a number of ways usually as a quatrain.
2.  the form ends in a refrain which is repeated as the last line or after every stanza.
3.  the lines should be written in tetrameter (in iambs or trochees) or a count of eight syllables.
4.  the original form addressed spiritual topics but that usage has somewhat disappeared.

Here is a youtube of the Gregorian chant version of the Kyrie, this version dates to the 7th Century A.D.

I sent out a request  to a couple of people for Kyrielle examples. Here’s an example of the Kyrielle provided graciously by Beth Winter.

I Dared Not Dream

Blockaded from rejection’s pain,
I swore to never trust again
yet kismet breached a porous seam.
I live a dream I dared not dream.

When fancies thrive in moonless nights
as shadows shrink from star-born lights
and sacrifice sustains esteem,
I live a dream I dared not dream.

Though minutes race, our time is still
as all my wishes, you fulfill
and faith allies with ardor’s scheme,
I live a dream I dared not dream.

© Beth Winter * All Rights Reserved

On the web are a number of Kyrielle Sonnets. The Kyrielle lends itself nicely to being arranged as a tetrameter sonnet. I found this definition at writing.com:

Kyrielle Sonnet

A Kyrielle Sonnet consists of 14 lines (three rhyming quatrain stanzas and a non-rhyming couplet). Just like the traditional Kyrielle poem, the Kyrielle Sonnet also has a repeating line or phrase as a refrain (usually appearing as the last line of each stanza). Each line within the Kyrielle Sonnet consists of only eight syllables. French poetry forms have a tendency to link back to the beginning of the poem, so common practice is to use the first and last line of the first quatrain as the ending couplet. This would also re-enforce the refrain within the poem. Therefore, a good rhyming scheme for a Kyrielle Sonnet would be: AabB, ccbB, ddbB, AB -or- AbaB, cbcB, dbdB, AB

Luke Prater replied with this one. I am so pleased to present it here. He has written it three different ways but I liked this for its inventiveness and universality. To see all three click here: Last Flush

Last Flush – (modified Kyrielle Sonnet)

Engorging, slick, devour her skin
in credit, carriage, blacksack bin.
We spit the dregs of her last flush -
O Lord, be merciful to us.

The itching started, trees were ripped,
mass-drilling and her min’rals stripped.
One grimreap day will see us done -
O Kýrie, eléison.

Industrialise, copulate,
tip landfill, overpopulate.
Her waters break; she’ll take whoever -
O Nkósi, o yibá nencéba.

In gouging, sick, sick in her skin -
Seigneur, ayez pitié de nous.

© Luke Prater – 19 March 2011 * All Rights Reserved

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