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Poetry Guide: Spenserian Stanza

The Spenserian stanza is a fixed verse form invented by Edmund Spenser for his epic poem The Faerie Queene. Each verse contains nine lines in total: eight lines of iambic pentameter, with five feet, followed by a single line of iambic hexameter, an "alexandrine," with six. The rhyme scheme of these lines is "ababbcbcc."

Spenser's invention may have been influenced by the Italian form ottava rima, which consists of eight lines of iambic pentameter with the rhyme scheme "abababcc." This form was used by Spenser's Italian role models Ludovico Ariosto and Torquato Tasso. Another possible influence is the rhyme royal, a traditional mediæval form used by Geoffrey Chaucer, among others, which has seven lines of iambic pentameter that rhyme "ababbcc."

Spenser's verse form fell into disuse in the period after his death. However, it was revived in the 1800s by Lord Byron in Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, by John Keats for The Eve of St. Agnes, and by Percy Bysshe Shelley for The Revolt of Islam and Adonais.