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The Quatern

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Explore the Craft of Writing Poetry

French Poetry


The Quatern (Latin – 4 each) is a French verse form, possibly from the Middle Ages since it is so close to the Retourne and Kyrielle which also came from that period. The Quatern like so many other French forms employs a refrain. The defining feature is the movement of the refrain within the quatrain from stanza to stanza.


The Quatern is:

  • stanzaic, written in 4 quatrains.
  • syllabic, usually written in lines of 8 syllables.
  • rhymed at the poet's discretion. Possible rhyme schemes are Axax xAxa axAx xaxA x being unrhymed and the cap A being the refrain. Or Aabb aAcc ddAa eeaA or any combination the poet chooses as long as the refrain is in the proper position.
  • composed with a refrain that is repeated as
    L1 of the first stanza

    L2 of the second stanza

    L3 of the third stanza

    L4 of the fourth stanza


    A a b b

    a A c c

    d d A a

    e e a A


    A x a x

    x A x a

    a x A x

    x a x A . . x being unrhymed


    The Pen Whispers by Judi Van Gorder


    My pen hesitates on the page

    when I sit to write this letter,

    unsure just how I can assuage

    your reaction to my ramblings.


    We have talked about this before.

    The pen hesitates on this page

    and whispers how much I love you,

    better I shout it from a stage.


    Instead I hide inside a cage

    fearing you will never hear me.

    The pen hesitates on the page

    hoping these words won't go ignored.


    We have travelled long together

    yet grow no closer as we age.

    My romantic dreams unfinished

    this pen hesitates on the page.

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