What Is a Metrical Romance Poem?

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A metrical romance poem is a type of prose poem that was especially popular during the Renaissance. These poems do not rhyme and deal with themes such as love, rites of passage, chivalry, adventure and interpersonal relationships. Knights, fair maidens and epic journeys appear frequently in metrical romance poems.

Metrical romance poems were the dominant poetic form among royalty, nobility and wealthy landowners during the Renaissance. These poems tell tales and almost always have a happy ending. Despite their name, metrical romance poems do not always include a love story. The defining feature of a metrical romance poem is the hero character, a courageous man with excellent moral character. Most heroes are knights. Prose poems that lack a hero but have the other characteristics of a metrical romance are called metrical tales. The most famous example of a metrical tale is “The Canterbury Tales” by Geoffrey Chaucer. Spenser’s “Fairie Queen,” however, has a hero and is therefore a metrical romance.

Metrical romance poems composed during the high Renaissance have since been translated into many languages. The oldest surviving examples were originally written in Old French and German. By the end of the Renaissance they had been translated into colloquial English.