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Poetry Guide: Cinquain

In poetry, a cinquain or quintain is a five line stanza, varied in rhyme and line, usually with the rhyme scheme ababb. An example of cinquain is the following stanza from Robert Browning 's poem "Porphyria's Lover":

Murmuring how she loved me -- she
Too weak, for all her heart's endeavour,
To set its struggling passion free
From pride, and vainer ties dissever,
And give herself to me for ever.

Cinquain also has a more specialized meaning. Under the influence of Japanese poetry, the American poet Adelaide Crapsey developed a poetic form she also called a "cinquain". Hers is a short, unrhymed poem of twenty-two syllables, five lines of 2, 4, 6, 8, 2 syllables respectively.

Her cinquains were published posthumously in 1915 in her The Complete Poems. Cinquains became better known through the work of Carl Sandburg (Cornhuskers, 1918) and Louis Utermeyer (Modern American Poetry, 1919). Here is the Crapsey cinquain "Triad":

These be
Three silent things:
The falling snow... the hour
Before the dawn... the mouth of one
Just dead.