Rail yard background, from the Library of Congress

Connections

A Hypertext Resource for Literature

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Line Groupings and Stanzas

When two rhyming lines get together, they form a couplet. If they happen to be lines of iambic pentameter--as couplets very often are--then they form a heroic couplet. (For much more on those, see the section on heroic couplets above.)

A tercet is a group of three lines. The most famous tercet form is the Italian terza rima, the form of Dante's Divine Comedy, which uses the interlocking rhyme scheme aba bcb cdc . . . .

A quatrain is a group of four lines. Ballad stanzas are quatrains, but many other kinds of poems use quatrains, too, with all conceivable variations of rhyme scheme. Shakespearean sonnets consist of three quatrains and a couplet.

Those are the most common groupings, but you should also know the sestet, or group of six, and octave, or group of eight, because they are the building blocks of the Petrarchan sonnet. Sonnets and other set stanza forms are covered in the Forms section above.

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