Terza Rima

The Story So Far

1. Foot, Metrics, Prosody and Scansion

1.1 General Overview

1.2 Anglophonic metrics

1.3 Romance languages

1.4 Classical languages

2. Verse Forms

2.1 Sestina

2.2 Villanelle

2.3 Pantoum

2.4 English Sonnet

2.5 Rondelet

2.6 Italian Sonnet

2.7 Pushkin Sonnet

Experimental Intermission

1.1. Iambic pentameter stanzas

The terza rima is a rhyming verse stanza form that consists of an interlocking three-line scheme, first used by Dante. The scheme runs thus:


There is no limit to the number of lines, but a poem written in terza rima typically ends with either a single line or couplet repeating the rhyme of the middle line of the final tercet. So, the above model would end either E or EE.


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

I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed 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-bye;
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.

Acquainted With the Night by Robert Frost


Let’s give it a go!

Across shredded wallpaper that impels
The years to be weighed by stains, comes the night;
Alongside the ghosts of cigarette smells

And beer that’s stale as ozone, all that shite
Accumulated in the heart of rooms
That lived, died; long since gave up the fight,

Their carcasses becoming stately tombs
Where light of day can happily decay,
Where darkness incubates, the evening’s wombs.

Through council terrace windows, (an array
Of Edwardian folly that matches
The country’s repugnant 80s display…

Last decade’s children yet rage at Thatcher’s
Silly car boot sale, while to Brown and Blair
For going further, no blame attaches)

The street lamps’ flickering filaments flare,
Gifting those strange rooms an unearthly dream
Like small electric candles, lit in prayer.

But, true, more akin to a wrecker’s scheme:
Like lawless Leasowe pirates long ago
Brought ships to rocks with a deceptive beam,

The midnight’s artificial amber glow
Attempts to draw the dusty ghosts on out
And to them its luminous pleasures show.

But to solitude, spirits are devout:
External torment, I could do without.

Closing thoughts

Another dud, I’m afraid. I need to get back to whatever I was doing right before. It might just be a case of uninspired subject matter – I haven’t been laid in days, so I’ve resorted to writing pretentious homages to rooms that smell funny in Dante’s form. The political bit is downright bloody awful, a complete non-sequitur.

Urgh at the alliteration in this poem, too. “Filament’s flickering flare,” my fat fucking arse.

On the plus side, I like “Where light of day can happily decay,” and the couplet isn’t too bad either. I think it’s just that the closer I try to stick to accentual rather than just syllabic measurement, the more I do the sort of Yoda-esque archaic speak to get it to fit. I’m considering just writing my next poem in French alexandrines or something, though I fear I’ll miss the rhythm when reading it back.

Also, I’m trying too hard to be consciously “urban,” to create a modern texture, and it comes across as artifice. I don’t care at all about how old buildings smell or druggies dying on a lad’s night out; I care about love and fucking. I like a poem being like a letter to someone, and both the Spenserian variations and the terza rima are too narrative. I’m not ready to tell stories in verse.


Published by

Laurence Thompson

Laurence Thompson is an English writer. He is almost certainly drunk.

4 thoughts on “Terza Rima”

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