Envoy (envoi)

The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms - Ross Murfin 2018

Envoy (envoi)

Envoy (envoi): A brief, concluding stanza of a poem. Envoys are often addressed to a patron, an important person, or an abstract entity but may also be used to comment on or summarize the poem as a whole. In addition, envoys may include a line used as a refrain in the body of the poem. Major forms of verse with an envoy include the ballade, which ends with a four-line stanza (a quatrain) that often has a bcbc rhyme scheme; the chant royal, a form related to the ballade that typically ends with a five-line stanza rhyming ddede; and the sestina, which ends with a three-line stanza that incorporates the last word of each of the preceding six stanzas in a specific pattern.

EXAMPLES: The envoy of François Villon’s “Ballade des dames du temps jadis” (1498), quoted here in the original, fifteenth-century French:

Prince, n’enquerez de sepmaine

Ou elles sont, ne de cest an,

Que ce refrain ne vous remaine:

Mais ou sont les neiges d’antan?

Two nineteenth-century English poets, Algernon Charles Swinburne and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, creatively translated Villon’s ballades. What follows is Rossetti’s translation, in what he calls “The Ballad of Dead Ladies” (1870), of the just-quoted envoy by Villon:

Nay, never ask this week, fair lord,

Where they are gone, nor yet this year,

Except with this for an overword, —

But where are the snows of yester-year?