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Tinker

Terza Rima and Capitolo

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Explore the Craft of Writing Poetry
Italian Verse
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 was most likely the Tuscan poets of the 13th century who 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 elements of the Terza Rima and Capitolo are:

  1. narrative and/or lyrical poetry.
  2. in English usually iambic pentameter but can be written in tetrameter.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. when written in a satirical tone, is called a Capitolo.

    The Bridge at Tsavo,1898 by David Parsley

    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.

    • The Rishal is a recent invented form which appears to be a chained version of the Terza Rima without a linking rhyme. It was created by Chindarella at All Poetry.The elements of the Rishal are:
      1. Stanzaic, written in 3 or more tercets with a concluding single line, the same as the Terza Rima.
      2. Syllabic rather than metric, lines of 10 syllables each, (iambic pentameter without the iambic pattern requirement). L1 of each stanza is written in 2 hemistiches.
      3. Rhymed, internal rhyme is employed in L2 of each stanza, the 5th syllable of the line rhyming with the end syllable, (I imagine a little flexibility in the placement of the internal rhyme could be overlooked by other than the purist.) Rhyme scheme a (b-b) a / c ( d-d) c / e (f-f) e / etc . The single end line is unrhymed.
      4. Written in a chain from stanza to stanza by repeating the 2nd hemistich of L1 of the previous stanza in the 1st hemistich of L1 of the next stanza and so on. . . including the last single line repeating the 2nd hemistich of L1 of the previous stanza as the 1st hemistich of the single line

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