Poetry utilizes many different tools related to its rhythm, style, structure, and composition to achieve a variety of effects it may apply to the reader. Some of those, specifically different composition types, contribute to the internal typology that has formed throughout the evolution of poetry as a literary form. Villanelle is one of these types, and this paper aims to discuss its use of repetitions and the ways in which it aids in getting across the sensation behind the poem. As an example of villanelle’s impact on the feel of the poem, this paper examines The House on the Hill by Edwin Arlington Robinson.
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Villanelle, allegedly, developed in 15th century Italy, and was originally a form of a song performed with the lyre music. Structurally, it is a poem of nineteen lines that includes five three-line stanzas followed by a four-line stanza. The altering repetition between the first and the third lines throughout stanzas is the most noticeable feature of the villanelle, that is also highlighted in the title question. It allows the poem to convey an intensified feeling of cyclicality, that is extremely appropriate for certain topics.
Namely, Edwin Arlington Robinson’s poem The House on the Hill depicts an abandoned, empty house, lost in time and now merely a ghost. When the opening line of the first stanza, “They are all gone away” appears again as a third line of the third stanza (Robinson, 2012), the initial sensation of loneliness and emptiness is re-emphasized for the reader. The same might be said for all the repetitions in the poem, that intensify the image of the abandoned house.
In conclusion, villanelle’s use of repetitions keeps the reader’s attention focused on the meaning conveyed in the repeated lines. It is extremely effective in poems that aim to put a reader in a particular mood, that does not change throughout the piece. Consistent atmosphere and certain melodicism are the direct effects of the villanelle’s structural features.
Robinson, E. A., (2012). The House on the Hill. Edwin Arlington Robinson. Poems. (pp. 314). The World’s Poetry Archive. Web.