Part One: Whence the rondeau?
The word rondeau means 'little circle' in French, and refers to the way these poems start and end with the same phrase. As a form of poetry and music, they've been around in some form since the 13th century; they've only managed to cross over into English verse sometime within the last two hundred and fifty years.
The term was originally applied to a form of courtly music noted for its strict two-rhyme scheme, as well as for using repetition most often of the entire first two lines as a refrain. A wide variety of fixed-verse constructions were originally classed as rondeaux; to this day, many of them have similar names: from the shortest (the rondelet and roundel) through the mid-length (the rondel and rondine) to the longest (the roundelay and rondeau redoblé).
As French poetry evolved, the rondeau found itself being adopted and adapted as a means of expressing