Terza Rima

Terza Rima, “third rhyme”, adapted from the Italian poets of the 13th century is a stanzaic form that employs a pattern of interlocking rhyme. Some connect the form’s origins to the three-lined Ritournel, which was an early Italian form of popular poetry, but others to the Sirventes of the Provencal troubadours. It is most likely the latter because the Tuscan poets of the 13th century tended to emulate the metrical patterns of their predecessors, the Provencals.

Written in tercets of interlocking rhyme known as the Sicilian tercet, there is no limit on the number of stanzas in the poem, however it is difficult to divide without breaking the continuity of the rhyme. It was Dante’s, The Divine Comedy written in 1307, that brought the Terza Rima from folk-verse, to a major poetic form.

• The Capitolo is framed with the same metric, rhyme and stanzaic structure as the Terza Rima. In 15th century Italy when the Terza Rima adopted didactic subjects, it was called a Capitolo but by the 19th century the term Capitolo was used for a Terza Rima frame with a satirical or light subject.

The Terza Rima and Capitolo are:
• narrative and/or lyrical poetry.
• in English usually iambic pentameter but can be written in tetrameter.
• stanzaic, with any number of tercets that interlock by rhyme. The poem is concluded by a single final line that rhymes with the 2nd line of the preceding tercet.
• rhymed in an interlocking rhyme scheme aba bcb cdc ded . . . until the conclusion when the end line rhymes with the 2nd line of the last tercet.
• when written in a satirical tone, is called a Capitolo.

Hand in my Back by Judi Van Gorder
I’ve felt the pure persuasive power of God,
a mighty hand placed squarely in my back
that gently pushes me to tread unshod.

He’s sure and solid, taking up all slack,
reminding me He’s here and He is strong
and I am not alone against the pack.

When I am lost and life is going wrong
the earth beneath me shifts like desert sand
it’s then I seek to hear Him in a song
and feel His hand that seers me with His brand.

Pasted from http://www.poetrymagnumopus.com/index.php?showtopic=1146
My thanks to Judi Van Gorder for years of work on this fine PMO resource.


Terza Rima is a chained form with three-line stanzas (tercets). In each stanza, the first and third lines rhyme. The second line rhymes with the first and third lines of the next stanza. There are three different ways of ending the poem:
• a final line that rhymes with the middle line of the previous stanza
• a final pair of lines, both of which rhyme with the middle line of the previous stanza
• a final tercet, using the same rhymes as the previous stanza, but transposed i.e. the last two stanzas rhyme aba bab.
Here’s a short example:

Stranded on Cheam station

Nothing but the tick of the station clock,
And the sound of the wind in the trees
That grow untended between the tracks.

This is the way it will be in the last days.
Machines stand idle with none to work them.
Doors swing and chatter in the breeze.

In a world indifferent, blandly suburban,
Shops open, unstaffed, are making no sale.
Foxes roam free in overgrowing gardens.

Streetlamps stay lit, till the elements fail.
Alarms are all false; no-one is alerted.
Man’s handiwork crumbles into new soil.

Cameras scan blindly, the bypass deserted,
The last ever up-train long since departed.

This precise form and length of terza rima happens to have 14 lines, and is therefore sometimes known as a terza rima sonnet – though some would quibble over whether it was a “proper” sonnet.
We could end it in either of the other two ways if we replaced the final couplet by just:

Cameras scan blindly, the bypass deserted.
or by the tercet:

Cameras scan blindly, the bypass deserted.
Horsetails spread, like the rust on the rail,
The last ever up-train long since departed.

Notable Terze Rime
Dante (who invented it) used this form for the entire Divine Comedy.

Pasted from http://www.volecentral.co.uk/vf/terza.htm
My thanks to Bob Newman for is work on the wonderful Volecentral resouce.

Terza Rima
Type:  Structure, Metrical Requirement, Rhyme Scheme Requirement, Stanzaic
Description:  Accentual syllabic or syllabic form written in tercets with an interlocking rhyme scheme. At some point, the poem ends with a single line stanza rhyming with the preceding stanza’s middle line.
At least one soi-disant expert claims that it is usually iambic pentameter and that it ends in a couplet as: yzy zz. But he seems to be incorrect on many of his assertions.
Another variation is ending with a uniformly rhymed triplet: aba bcb cdc…yzy zzz.
Why can’t these poets make up their minds or stick to the original?
Origin:  Italian
Rhyme: aba bcb cdc…yzy z
Meter: xX xX xX xX xX
Rhythm/Stanza Length:  3
See Also:
Capitolo, Enclosed Tercet, Enclosed Triplet, Iambic Pentameter, Sicilian Tercet, Sicilian Triplet, Terza Rima Sonnet, Terzanelle, Villanelle xxx

Pasted from http://www.poetrybase.info/forms/003/310.shtm
My thanks to Charles L. Weatherford for his years of work on the wonderful Poetrybase resource.

Example Poem:

Second Chance (Form:Terza Rima)

Oh dearest one can you believe that fate
has saved us for each other? Even though
I wanted you, I acted way too late?
When Europe called, with scholarship I know
you had to leave. My duties kept me here,
and let me grieve, still thinking I should go.
Then accident with dad, and duties clear
delayed me; slammed doors. ’til we each were wed.
For both of us our lives were filled with cheer.
New hurts were hurled at both; young spouses dead,
such hateful hurts so thoroughly depriving.
Each now alone, with loneliness ahead.
I found a poem and thru that you–surviving.
You found me, old love, happiness arriving.
© Lawrencealot – January 1, 2014

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