Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Quintain


Sometimes called a quintet and most commonly known as a cinquain, this poem or stanza consists of five lines, sometimes with the same meter in each line but often with alternating meters and line lengths (e.g., the limerick [link:]). The earliest Fr. poem, the 11th-c. Vie de Saint Alexis, is written in decasyllabic cinquains; in 1174, Guernes de Pont-Sainte-Maxence wrote cinquains in alexandrines [link:]. The 19th-c. poet Victor Hugo wrote cinquains with alternating alexandrine and eight-syllable lines. In Eng., George Puttenham uses the term quintain. Examples include Philip Sidney (Psalms 4, 9, 20, 28; Astrophil and Stella, Song 9; Old Arcadia), John Donne ("Hymne to God my God"), Edmund Waller ("Go, lovely Rose"), William Wordsworth ("Peter Bell," "The Idiot Boy" in tetrameters), and E. A. Poe ("To Helen"). The Am. poet Adelaide Crapsey popularized unrhymed cinquains, inventing a syllabic form (built on the analogy to Japanese tanka [see JAPAN, MODERN POETRY OF [link:]] and influenced by *haiku) in her 1915 book Verse. Her five lines consisted of 2-4-6-8-2 syllables; and her poems were mostly iambic. Unlike Japanese tanka, Crapsey gave her cinquains titles, which often served as a sixth line. Twentieth-c. variations on Crapsey's form include the following (all syllabic): reverse (two, eight, six, four, and two syllables); mirror (a cinquain followed by a reverse cinquain); butterfly (a concrete, nine-line stanza with two, four, six, eight, two, eight, six, four, two syllables); crown (a sequence of five connected cinquains forming one poetic sequence); and garland (a series of six cinquains in which the sixth cinquain is formed from lines taken from the preceding five poems, line one from stanza one, two from two, etc.). Since the early 20th c., cinquain tends to refer specifically to Crapsey's original (two, four, six, eight, two) syllabic verse form, which has achieved specific popularity in Am. elementary classrooms as the "didactic" cinquain. The term cinquain, then, has supplanted the more general quintain, which describes only a poem or stanza of five lines rather than Crapsey's syllabic form. More specific rhyme schemes for the quintain are named the English cinquain (a poem in no specified measure with rhyme abcba), the Sicilian quintain (ababa), and the pentastich (no specified meter). Tetrameter quintains include the Spanish cinquain or *quintilla [link:] (ababa, abbab, abaab, aabab, and aabba).

        * Schipper, v. 2; Crapsey, A.. Verse (1915); Lote, v. 2; Scott; Toleos, A., [link:]



QUINTAIN. (2012). In The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics. Retrieved from

Copyright © 2012 by Princeton University Press
The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics
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1 comment:

  1. I'm studying about cinquains and found this entry from the Princeton Encyclopedia very insightful.