rondeau

We come around a round like o
Because what goes returns, you know
If mouth does not, then letter will
If letter not, mouth fills the bill
It always comes – it goes to show

That history’s a poem so
Involved in form we follow though
We think it free but if free will
We come around

In verse we make our garden grow
We do – forget – repeat – the flow
Is water in a turning mill
Or swirling step we dance until
As line turns back to make rondeau
We come around

This is a rondeau: a poem that comes around. Round like the o, round like your mouth when you say the eau. The poem is a fixed form, set as if to music – and there is also a musical form called rondeau. The word rondeau recalls round and French ronde, related words; by accident it also carries water, French eau.

The form has a most famous exemplar, one that is not so much a dance as a returning remembrance. It is the poem that is read everywhere in Canada – I don’t know where else – every Remembrance Day, November 11:

In Flanders Fields
by John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place, and in the sky,
The larks, still bravely singing, fly,
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead; short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe!
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high!
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Either way, we come around.

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