Alberto Ríos


Forms of Verse, Fall 2000

Irena Praitis, Matthew Heil


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.  (Encyclopedia Britannica)

A "French Form" originally used by the Troubadours in the early Renaissance, it is related to the "Kyrie," a litany in Christian masses.  Kyrie Eleison (Lord, have mercy) is a repeated refrain, and still finds voice today as evidenced by John Berryman's Dream Song "Kyrie Eleison," and Mr. Mister's song "Kyrie Eleison."  You can find a full text of this song at

For more information on how to write a Kyrielle, visit this website.  It also offers a mini Kyrielle anthology.


Oxford English Dictionary offers rather humorous examples with its definition of the Kyrielle.  It wouldn't be because the English have something against a "French Form" associated with Catholicism, would it?

1. A long rigamarole
ex. 1653.  Urquhart.  Rabelais I. XXII.  With him he mumbled all his kirielle and dunsical breborons. 

2. A kind of Fr. verse divided into little equal couplets and ending with the same word which serves for the refrain.
ex. 1887 Sat. Rev. 3 Dec. 770/1.  Among the verse forms the kyrielle of which we have three specimens, is not a form at all, and ought to have been discarded. 


Here's an example:

KYRIELLE/John Payne (1842-1916)

A lark in the mesh of the tangled vine,
A bee that drowns in the flower-cup's wine,
A fly in sunshine,--such is the man.
All things must end, as all began.

A little pain, a little pleasure,
A little heaping up of treasure;
Then no more gazing upon the sun.
All things must end that have begun.

Where is the time for hope or doubt?
A puff of the wind, and life is out;
A turn of the wheel, and rest is won.
All things must end that have begun.

Golden morning and purple night,
Life that fails with the failing light;
Death is the only deathless one.
All things must end that have begun.

Ending waits on the brief beginning;
Is the prize worth the stress of winning?
E'en in the dawning day is done.
All things must end that have begun.

Weary waiting and weary striving,
Glad outsetting and sad arriving;
What is it worth when the goal is won?
All things must end that have begun.

Speedily fades the morning glitter;
Love grows irksome and wine grows bitter.
Two are parted from what was one.
All things must end that have begun.

Toil and pain and the evening rest;
Joy is weary and sleep is best;
Fair and softly the day is done.
All things must end that have begun.



Go to Kyrielle

Return to Forms of Verse Home Page
Top of Page