Albert's Poetry Cafe ~ Poet Craft: Forms ~ Terza Rima with Salvatore!  August 16, 2008 - August 30, 2008

Contest Completed


Silver Medal - Autumn\'s Curtsy
Bronze Medal - Rain King




Terza rima is a poetic rhyme scheme which involves interlocking rhymes, written in iambic tercets (three lines of verse that follow the unstressed/stressed measure).

The rhyme scheme��a chain pattern��is aba bcb cdc ded�and continues this way for as many three-lined stanzas as the poet desires. Four stanzas plus the couplet at the end would be a good suggestion.

Usually terza rima poems are written in iambic pentameter: unstressed syllable +stressed syllable = one foot. Pentameter = five feet. If the poet chooses a different line length than pentameter, let�s say, tetrameter (four feet) or hexameter (six feet), he or she must maintain that meter throughout the poem.

Chaucer introduced the terza rima into the English language with his poem �Complaint to His Lady.� Other poets like John Milton, Lord Byron, and Shelley also used the form, sometimes with some variations. For example, Shelley in his �Ode to the West Wind,� ends the poem, not with a tercet, but a rhyming couplet; in fact, this poem has been referred to as a �Terza Rima Sonnet.�

A section from Shelley's �Ode to the West Wind� with a couplet ending:

O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn's being, (a)
Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead (b)
Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing, (a)

Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red, (b)
Pestilence-stricken multitudes: O thou, (c)
Who chariotest to their dark wintery bed (b)

The winged seeds, where they lie cold and low, (c)
Each like a corpse within its grave, until (d)
Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow (c)

Her clarion o'er the dreaming earth, and fill (d)
(Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air) (e)
With living hues and odours plain and hill: (d)

Wild Spirit, which art moving everywhere; (e)
Destroyer and preserver; hear, oh, hear! (e)

�Acquainted with the Night,� by Robert Frost, is another famous poem that ends a terza rima pattern with a rhyming couplet.

In Dante�s time the terza rima was also used by those two other Tuscan giants of Literature: Boccaccio and Petrarch. Of course, it was much easier to write terza rima in Italian because it is a much easier language for rhyming than English is. But if a poet makes use of near rhymes (�blame� and �chain�) and sight rhymes (�bear� and �hear�) instead of strict perfect rhymes, it should not be too difficult to have fun with this form.

In the 20th Century, other renowned poets like W.H. Auden, William Carlos Williams, T.S. Eliot, and Archibald MacLeish, also wrote poems in terza rima.

Sal Buttaci

Thank you Sal, you have given us all GREAT form to work with, so poets, pens poised and above all have fun!



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4 Contestants
4 Submissions
Created Aug 16, 2008