What Is The Final Stanza Of A Villanelle?

by Amy

Poetry, with its diverse forms and structures, has long been a vessel for expressing complex emotions, ideas, and narratives. Among its various forms, the villanelle stands out for its distinctive structure and evocative use of repetition. In this essay, we will delve into the final stanza of a villanelle, exploring its role, composition, emotional impact, and providing illustrative examples from renowned poets.

Explanation of the Villanelle Structure

Before delving into the final stanza, it’s essential to understand the overarching structure of a villanelle. A villanelle is a fixed form poem consisting of 19 lines. It typically comprises five tercets, or three-line stanzas, followed by a concluding quatrain, or four-line stanza. What distinguishes the villanelle is its intricate rhyme scheme and the repetition of two key lines, known as refrains, throughout the poem.

See also: Can A Villanelle Poem Rhyme?

Role of the Final Stanza

The final stanza holds a pivotal role within the villanelle’s structure. After the repetition of the refrains in the preceding tercets, the concluding quatrain serves as the culmination of the poem’s thematic exploration. It provides closure, resolution, or reflection, offering readers a sense of completeness to the journey embarked upon through the poem.

Content and Composition

In the final stanza of a villanelle, the poet often revisits both refrains, integrating them seamlessly into the concluding quatrain. This repetition not only reinforces the central themes of the poem but also creates a sense of symmetry and unity. The composition of the final stanza is meticulously crafted to harmonize with the preceding tercets, ensuring a seamless transition and a satisfying conclusion.

Emotional Impact

The emotional impact of the final stanza is profound, resonating with readers on a visceral level. Through the repetition of the refrains and the careful choice of language, the poet evokes a range of emotions, from nostalgia and longing to acceptance and transcendence. The final stanza invites readers to reflect on the journey traversed throughout the poem and find solace or enlightenment in its resolution.

Examples and Analysis

To illustrate these concepts, let’s examine excerpts from two renowned villanelles: “Do not go gentle into that good night” by Dylan Thomas and “One Art” by Elizabeth Bishop.

In “Do not go gentle into that good night,” Thomas’s final stanza repeats the refrain “Rage, rage against the dying of the light,” emphasizing the poem’s theme of defiance in the face of mortality. The repetition imbues the stanza with a sense of urgency and defiance, underscoring the poem’s emotional intensity.

In “One Art” by Elizabeth Bishop, the final stanza repeats the refrain “The art of losing isn’t hard to master,” echoing the poem’s exploration of loss and resilience. Here, the repetition of the refrain underscores the poet’s acceptance of life’s impermanence and the importance of embracing change.

Through these examples, we see how the final stanza of a villanelle encapsulates the essence of the poem, leaving a lasting impression on readers and inviting them to contemplate life’s complexities.


In conclusion, the final stanza of a villanelle serves as the crowning moment of the poem, synthesizing its themes, emotions, and imagery into a poignant and resonant conclusion. By understanding the role, composition, and emotional impact of the final stanza, readers can appreciate the beauty and depth of this enduring poetic form.

FAQs about Villanelles

1. Does a villanelle have 6 stanzas?

No, a traditional villanelle does not have six stanzas. A villanelle typically consists of five tercets (three-line stanzas) followed by a concluding quatrain (four-line stanza), making a total of 19 lines. Each tercet and the final quatrain adhere to a specific rhyme scheme, contributing to the unique structure of the poem.

2. What is the rhyme scheme ending a villanelle?

The rhyme scheme ending a villanelle is AB AAB ABA AAB ABA AAB ABA A. In other words, the first and third lines of the opening tercet (ABA) serve as refrains, repeating alternately throughout the poem. The final quatrain also incorporates these refrains, usually in the first and third lines, creating a sense of closure and symmetry.

3. What are the parts of a villanelle?

A villanelle consists of two main parts: tercets and a quatrain. The poem begins with five tercets, each containing three lines. These tercets follow a specific rhyme scheme and include two refrains that repeat throughout the poem. Following the tercets is a concluding quatrain, comprising four lines. The quatrain also adheres to the rhyme scheme and incorporates the refrains from the tercets, providing a sense of resolution to the poem.

4. How many lines are there in a villanelle?

A traditional villanelle consists of 19 lines. This comprises five tercets, each containing three lines, followed by a concluding quatrain consisting of four lines. The consistent structure of the villanelle, with its predetermined number of lines and rhyme scheme, allows poets to explore themes and emotions within a tightly controlled framework.

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