Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. Any of several medieval French verse and song forms, especially one in which each stanza has two rhymes, the end rhyme recurring as the first rhyme of the following stanza.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. Alternative spelling of virelai.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. An ancient French song, or short poem, wholly in two rhymes, and composed in short lines, with a refrain.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. An old French form of poem, in short lines, running on two rimes; also, a succession of stanzas on two rimes, and of indeterminate length, the rime of the last line of each becoming the rime of the first couplet in the next, thus: a, a, b, a, a, b, a, a, b; b, b, c, b, b, c, b, b, c; c, c, d, c, c, d, c, c, d; etc.

Etymologies

Middle English virelai, from Old French, alteration (influenced by lai, lay) of vireli, song refrain.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From French. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • Then last of all haue ye a proportion to be vsed in the number of your staues, as to a caroll and a ballade, to a song, & a round, or virelay.

    The Arte of English Poesie

  • "Ballade" was also the name of a somewhat intricate French stanza form, employed by Gower and Chaucer, and recently reintroduced into English verse by Dobson, Lang, Goose, and others, along with the virelay, rondeau, triolet, etc.

    A History of English Romanticism in the Eighteenth Century

  • Borrow has resuscitated a literary form which had been many years abandoned, and he has resuscitated it in no artificial manner -- as a rhythmical form is rehabilitated, or as a dilettante re-establishes for a moment the vogue of the roundel or the virelay -- but quite naturally as the inevitable setting for a picture which has to include the actors and the observations of the author's vagabond life.

    Isopel Berners The History of certain doings in a Staffordshire Dingle, July, 1825

  • Then last of all haue ye a proportion to be vsed in the number of your staues, as to caroll and a ballade, to a song, & a round, or virelay.

    The Arte of English Poesie

Comments

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  • Virelay was a form of medieval French lyric poetry or song. Also virelai.

    September 16, 2009

  • "Methinks my life is a twice-written scroll
    Scrawled over on some boyish holiday
    With idle songs for pipe and virelay"

    (Hélas!, Oscar Wilde)

    April 26, 2008