Terza Rima

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:

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.

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Bob Newman 2004, 2005. All rights reserved.

This page last updated 01/08/2005