RIME ROYAL, the name given to a strophe or stanza-form, which is of Italian extraction, but is almost exclusively identified with English poetry from the fourteenth to the early seventeenth centuries. It appears to be formed out of the stanza called Ottava rima (q.v.), by the omission of the fifth line, which reduces it to seven lines of three rhymes, arranged ababbcc. It was earliest employed with skill, if not, as seems probable, invented, by Chaucer, who composed his long romantic poem of Trotius and Cressida in rime royal, of which the following is an example:
" And as the new-abashecl nightingale, Thet stinteth first when she beginneth sing, When that she heareth any herde tale, Or in the hedges any wight stirring, And, after, siker doth her voice out-ring, Right so Cresseyda, when her drede stint, Opened her heart, and told all her intent."
The " Prioress' Tale," in the Canterbury Tales, offers another particularly beautiful proof of Chaucer's skill in the use of the rime royal. In the fifteenth century this stanza was habitually used, in preference to heroic verse, by Hoccleve and Lydgate, and, with more melody and grace, by the unknown writer of The Flower and the Leaf. In the sixteenth century, rime royal was chosen by Hawes as the vehicle of his Pastime of Pleasure (1506) and by Barclay in his Ship of Fools (1509); it was now regarded as the almost exclusive classical form for heroic poetry in England, and it had long been so accepted in Scotland, where The King's Quair of King James I., the Fables of Henryson and The Thistle and the Rose of Dunbar had closely followed Chaucer's pattern. The greater part of that huge poetic mis-, cellany, The Mirror for Magistrates (1550-1610), was written in rime royal, Sackville's momentous Induction among the rest. The seven-line stanza began to go out of fashion with the revival of Elizabethan poetry, but we find it still used in Spenser's Hymn of Heavenly Beauty, Shakespeare's Lucrece and the Orchestra of Sir John Davys. After 'the first decade of the seventeenth century rime royal went out of fashion. Since then it has been occasionally revived, but not in poems of great length or particular importance. Rime royal should always be written in iambic metre, and be formed of seven lines of equal length, each containing ten syllables.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)