Poetry Kaleidoscope: Guide to Poetry


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A quatrain is a poem or a stanza within a poem that consists of four lines. It is the most common of all stanza forms in European poetry.

Basic Forms

  • abab (from "The Unquiet Grave")
"The wind doth blow today, my love
And a few small drops of rain;
I never had but one true-love
In cold grave she was lain.
  • xbyb (from "The Wife of Usher's Well")
There lived a wife at Usher's Well,
And a wealthy wife was she;
She had three stout and stalwart sons,
And slept with them out at sea.
  • aabb (from William Blake, "The Tyger")
Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
  • abba, also called the envelope stanza or introverted quatrain (from Tennyson In Memoriam)
Strong Son of God, immortal Love,
Whom we, that have not seen thy face,
By faith, and faith alone, embrace,
Believeing where we cannot prove;
  • aaxa, or the Omar Khayym stanza (also known as Rubaiyat)
Awake! for Morning in the Bowl of Night,
Has flung the Stone that puts the stars to flight:
And Lo! the Hunter of the East has caught
The Sultan's Turret in a Noose of light.

External links

Quatrains of Michael J. Farrand.

Other forms

  • the heroic stanza or elegiac stanza (iambic pentameters rhyming abab; from Thomas Gray's "Elegy Written in a Country Church-yard")
The Curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
The lowing herd wind slowly o'er the lea,
The plowman homeward plods his weary way,
And leaves the world to darkness and to me.
  • The Shichigon-zekku form used in Chinese and Japanese poetry. Both rhyme and rhythm are key elements, although the former is not restricted to falling at the end of the phrase.
  • ballad meter (The examples from "The Unquiet Grave" and "The Wife of Usher's Well" are both examples of ballad meter.)
  • various hymns employ specific forms, such as the common meter, long meter, and short meter.

Poetry Guide Home | Up | Chant Royal | Cinquain | Envoi | Habbie Stanza | Onegin Stanza | Ottava Rima | Quatrain | Rhyme Royal | Sapphics | Spenserian Stanza | Terza rima | Verse Paragraph

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