10.6 Rhyme royal
A rhyme royal is a 7-line stanza of iambic pentameter consisting essentially of a quatrain dovetailed onto two couplets, with a rhyming scheme of ababbcc (The rhyme of the fourth line serves both as the final line of the quatrain and the first line of the couplet). It is mainly a medieval stanza and was first used in English by Chaucer in his Complaint unto Pity. It was so called, perhaps, because King James I of Scotland (1406-1437) used it for his poem The King's Quair early in the 15th century. Chaucer wrote his greatest single poem, the romance of Troilus and Criseyde, in it.
If no love is, O God, what fele2 I so?
And if love is, what thing and whiche3 is he?
If love be good, from whennes cometh my wo?4
If it be wikke5, a wonder thinketh me,6
When every torment and adversitee
That cometh of him, may to me savory thinke7;
For ay thurst I, the more that I it drinke.8
And if that at myn owene lust I brenne,9
Fro whennes cometh my wailing and my pleynte?10
If harme agree me, wher-to pleyne I thenne?11
I noot, ne why unwery that I faynte.12
0 quike deeth, o swete harm so queynte13,
How may of thee in me swich quantitee,14
But if that I consente that it be?
And if that I consente, I wrongfully
Compleyne, y-wis15; thus possed to and fro,
A sterelees withinne a boot am I
Amid the sea, bytwixen windes two,16
That in contrarie stonden eyermo.17
Alias!18 what is this wonder maladye?19
For hete20 of cold, for cold of hete, I dye.21
The first three lines have interlacing rhymes, and the last four lines are rhyming couplets; each stanza, seems first to delay, and then to advance forward. The stanza form is formal enough for the ornament and ceremonious description appropriate to a romance, and yet fluent enough for the realistic and humorous narrative of this particular romance, which is ironic as well as serious.