virelai


virelai
(virelay)
   The virelai was one of the fixed forms of French verse of the 13th, 14th, and 15th centuries.Usually set to music, one form of the virelai used short lines and was divided into stanzas, each using only two rhymes. In general the last rhyme of one stanza became the first rhyme of the next stanza, so that the virelai might rhyme aabaab bbcbbc ccdccd etc., with no determinate length. This sort of virelai might also have two opening lines that would occur intermittently as a refrain. A second form of the virelai alternated longer and shorter lines within stanzas, with the shorter lines of one stanza providing the rhyme for the longer lines of the next stanza. Such a virelai might rhyme abab bcbc cdcd, where the first and third lines of each stanza are long and the second and fourth are short. Again this kind of virelai could be any length.
   Like other fixed forms, including the RONDEAU and the BALLADE, the virelai was generally used as a vehicle for conventional expressions of love, although another type of virelai was called the realistic type, and was intended to describe vividly some active scene.
   The virelai was never a popular form in England, though in his prologue to The LEGEND OF GOOD WOMEN, CHAUCER claims to have written some in his youth. But the best known French poets of the 14th and 15th centuries, including MACHAUT, DESCHAMPS, and CHRISTINE DE PIZAN, wrote a number of virelais. Perhaps the bestknown example is this one by Eustache Deschamps:
   Sui je, sui je, sui je belle?
   Il me semble, à mon avis,
   Que j’ay beau front et doulz viz
   Et la bouche vermeillette;
   Dittes moy se je suis belle.
   J’ay vers yeulx, petits sourcis,
   Le chief blont, le nez traitis,
   Ront menton, blanche gorgette;
   Sui je, sui je, sui je belle?
   J’ay dur sain et hault assis,
   Lons bras, gresles doys aussis,
   Et par le faulz sui greslette;
   Dittes moy se je suis belle.
   (Wilkins 1969, 79)
   And so on, for some 45 lines. Deschamps’s poem (an unusual example of the first form of virelai mentioned above) uses only two rhymes throughout, plus the refrain. An example of the second form is this one by Christine de Pizan:
   En ce printemps gracieux
   D’estre gai suis enviex
   Tout à l’onnour
   De ma dame, qui vigour
   De ses doulz yeulz
   Me donne, don’t par lesquielx
   Vifs en baudour.
   Toute riens fait son atour
   De mener joye à son tour,
   Bois et prez tieulx
   Sont, qu’ilz semblent de verdour
   Estre vestus et de flour
   Et qui mieulx mieulx.
   (Wilkins 1969, 93)
   Note how varied is the line length of these opening stanzas of Christine’s poem. But note that the last short line of the first stanza does provide the rhyme for the first long line of the second.
   Bibliography
   ■ Wilkins, Nigel, ed. One Hundred Ballades, Rondeaux and Virelais from the Late Middle Ages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969.

Encyclopedia of medieval literature. 2013.

Look at other dictionaries:

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