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Poetry Competitions UK
14 Jun 2011

How to Write a Terza Rima

Terza rima is a 3-lined rhyme scheme using a chain rhyme in the pattern aba bcb cdc ded. Although no specific line length is required, most terza rima poems in English are written in iambic pentameter. There is no limit to the number of lines, but poems or sections of poems written in terza rima end with either a single line or couplet repeating the rhyme of the middle line of the final tercet.

The poet Dante is credited with inventing the form and used it for his Divine Comedy, though the form was introduced into English by Chaucer.

The easiest way to highlight the terza rima's structure is by highlighting it on an example. This is because there is no set line or poem length. This particular examples uses a rhyming couplet to close.

I have been one acquainted with the night. (a)
I have walked out in rain—and back in rain. (b)
I have outwalked the furthest city light. (a)
I have looked down the saddest city lane. (b)
I have passed by the watchman on his beat (c)
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain. (b)
I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet (c)
When far away an interrupted cry (d)
Came over houses from another street, (c)
But not to call me back or say good-bye; (d)
And further still at an unearthly height (a)
One luminary clock against the sky (d)
Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right. (a)
I have been one acquainted with the night. (a)

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