What’s currently considered the “English Madrigal”, that being, according to semi-common agreement and put in print by Lewis Turco, an Italian madrigal form given more strict English language rules by Geoffrey Chaucer, is in actuality a variation of the Rondel. It is mistaken for a madrigal variation on occasion because of the similarities between the two forms, but Chaucer himself titled the poems referred to by some as English Madrigals as Rondels, such as Rondel of Merciless Beauty, so there you go. Argue with him, tho he’s the silent type these days. For more information on the Rondel, see it’s own glossary term. Needless to say, the Rondel lends itself to variations, and Chaucer developed his own.
- written in Iambic Pentameter
- 3 stanzas
- all 3 lines in the opening tercet are refrains
- rhyme pattern is as follows: AB1B2/abAB1/abbAB1B2 with B1 and B2 referring to two refrains with the same rhyme.
- “Chaucer’s rondel here also has 13 lines, but the rhyme scheme is ABB* abAB abbABB*. I used asterisks to show that there are two different B lines to be repeated. That really should be done with superscript numbers 1 and 2. Chaucer has a sequence of five poems called “Merciless Beauty” that uses this particular form. The form is sometimes called “English madrigal,” but it has nothing to do with the English madrigals (literary or musical) of the early 17th century. And it is not English, as I have found the largest number of such poems as songs in French miracle plays that were compiled by Benedictine abbot Gautier de Coincy (1177-1236). I’ll give one at the end of the Comments, to make the lines neat.”-Margaret Coats, Ph.D. in English and American Literature and Language from Harvard University 2/15/22.