Terza Rima

Well, I am about to finish taking you backward through the related forms--

Now that you have tackled the Terzanelle and the Villanelle, this is the form they grew from, another Italian form, the Terza Rima.

This is a challenging form, but it should not seem the least bit daunting after the great work you have been doing with the other two.

The Terza Rima is written in triplets, or tercets, like the two forms you have been working with.

But here’s something that can help you develop your way to the final thought – there can be any number of tercets - as many as you want or need to get you to the place where you say “That’s It!”

It will end with a single couplet, and there are two ways to get that –

you can carry down the last of the middle lines and write a single rhyming line to form the couplet –

or, you can make the middle line of the last triplet rhyme with your first (A) pair, and carry down either the two rhymed lines from the first stanza, like a villanelle or a terzanelle, or one of those lines, to re-establish the pattern.

Or, for those of you who like the thrill of the game, you can use the pattern of the Terza in a strict form of four triplets and a final couplet and produce that marvelous hybrid – the Terza Rima Sonnet!

Lines 1 and line 3 will rhyme with each other, and the middle line of the verse will establish the rhyme for the next triplet pair.

As with so many of the forms, in English, the poem is usually rendered in iambic pentameter. but don’t let that hold you back (I am starting to see Iambic Pentameter in English language verse as somehow being related to the class system. Let’s get some rollicking tetrameter going and give those old verses a bit of upstairs/downstairs new blood!)

Just make sure you use the same meter throughout, (or you can vary the middle line to get the rhythm you want, but then match those to each other.)

Here is the map:

A first A
B first B
A second A (rhymes with the first line)

B second B
C first C
B third B, rhymes with other B lines

C second C
D first D
C third C rhymes with other C lines

Continue until you are ready to sum up, and end (for example):

X second x
Y first Y
X third x
Y second Y
Y third Y


In the variant, you would use:

X second x
Y(A) rhyme this line with your original A lines
X third x
A repeat first A from above
A repeat second A from above

I am playing with this form right now, so I hope to have one to show you soon.

Here is your good example:

Robert Frost Acquainted with the Night
a Terza Rima sonnet

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain--and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light

I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-by;
and further still at an unearthly height
One luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.


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