The cinquain, also known as a quintain or quintet, is a poem or stanza composed of 5 lines. Examples of cinquains can be found in many European languages, and the origin of the form dates back to medieval French poetry.
The most common cinquains in English follow a rhyme scheme of ababb, abaab
. Sixteenth and seventeenth-century poets such as Sir Philip Sidney, George Herbert
, Edmund Waller
, and John Donne
frequently employed the form, creating numerous variations.
Helen, thy beauty is to me
Like those Nicean barks of yore,
That gently, o’er a perfumed sea,
The weary, way-worn wanderer bore
To his own native shore.
Related forms: Baxter’s Hexastitch
, Butterfly Cinquain
, Crapsey Cinquain
, Cinquain Chain
, Cinquain Swirl
, Didactic Cinquain
, Mirror Cinquain
, Oddquain Butterfly
, Standard Cinquain
, The Balance
A Visual Template:
Rhyme optional with Crapsey cinquain
American poet Adelaide Crapsey invented the modern form, inspired by Japanese haiku and tanka. In her 1915 collection titled Verse, published one year after her death, Crapsey included 28 cinquains. Crapsey’s cinquains utilized an increasing syllable count in the first four lines, namely two in the first, four in the second, six in the third, and eight in the fourth, before returning to two syllables on the last line. In addition, though little emphasized by critics, each line in the majority of Crapsey cinquains has a fixed number of stressed syllables, as well, following the pattern one, two, three, four, one. The most common metrical foot in her twenty-eight published examples is the iamb, though this is not exclusive. Lines generally do not rhyme. In contrast to the Eastern forms upon which she based them, Crapsey always titled her cinquains, effectively utilizing the title as a sixth line. The form is illustrated by Crapsey’s “November Night”:
With faint dry sound,
Like steps of passing ghosts,
The leaves, frost-crisp’d, break from the trees
The Crapsey cinquain has subsequently seen a number of variations by modern poets, including:
a form with one 5-line stanza in a syllabic pattern of two, eight, six, four, two.
a form with two 5-line stanzas consisting of a cinquain followed by a reverse cinquain.
a nine-line syllabic form with the pattern two, four, six, eight, two, eight, six, four, two.
a sequence of five cinquain stanzas functioning to construct one larger poem.
a series of six cinquains in which the last is formed of lines from the preceding five, typically line one from stanza one, line two from stanza two, and so on.
Another form, Called a Didactic cinquain, sometimes used by school teachers to teach grammar, is as follows:
Line 1: Noun
Line 2: Description of Noun
Line 3: Action
Line 4: Feeling or Effect
Line 5: Synonym of the initial noun