10-line Poem Challenge #20: Double Tetractys

Before diving into today’s new study, please take a minute or two to read these amazing Dectina Refrains….

Double Tetractys

First, let’s define a Tetractys. It sounds like the number 4 should play a significant role, but in my opinion at least, the connection is a stretch at best. But we’ll go with it because the term has been around longer than you and me both.

The Tetractys was invented by British poet Ray Stebbing, but he didn’t invent the name. Euclid, the great Classical mathematician, believed that the numbers 1, 2, 3, and 4 must have some mystical significance because their sum was 10. He called this relationship a tetractys. Thus, a tetractys is four numbers whose sum is 10.

So what does that have to do with poetry? Well, Ray Stebbing learned about Euclid’s tetractys and decided to use it to create a new stanza of five lines with a syllabic count of 1-2-3-4-10. He further stated that each time an additional set of five lines is added, the syllabic count is to be reversed.

Thus a Double Tetractys (the object of our study today) would have a syllabic count of 1-2-3-4-10-10-4-3-2-1.

A Triple Tetractys would look like 1-2-3-4-10-10-4-3-2-1-1-2-3-4-10, and so forth. As you can see, like the Etheree, the Tetractys may also be reversed.

Mr. Stebbing hoped the Tetractys would catch on and become Britain’s answer to the Japanese Haiku. Of this form he said, “Its challenge is to express a complete thought, profound or comic, witty or wise, within the narrow compass of twenty syllables.”

So in summary, the Double Tetractys is

  • A decastitch (10-line stanza) with an emphasis on the syllabic count of each line.
  • Syllabic count: 1-2-3-4-10-10-4-3-2-1
  • It should express a complete thought and may be on any theme and express any mood.
  • Rhyme is optional.


Below are two samples for you. Before I began my study this morning, I did a Google search for Double Tetractys poems and found quite a few. Since many of them are right here in WP, I’ve included the links below. One of the poems I found this morning started and ended with antonyms, and I wanted to do the same. My eyes drifted to my coffee cup sitting nearby, and out poured another poem about my good friend “Joe.” It was going to begin and end with “cold” and “hot,” but it didn’t work out that way. Instead, I began and ended with “cold.” I also made lines 5 and 6 rhyme. There is no need for rhyme, but sometimes I just can’t help myself. ☺ The second poem has been worked and reworked, and I’m almost happy with it. At least I can smile….


call for a
hot cuppa Joe
to send summery warmth into my veins.
It works just as well for the days when rains
dampen sidewalks
and spirits
with the

Copyright © 2018 Abigail Gronway – All Rights Reserved


and know
the joy of
lifted burdens
as your revived spirit gains strength for the
day that will spill over to others. But—
if you find you
cannot laugh,
at least

Copyright © 2018 Abigail Gronway – All Rights Reserved


It’s Your Turn!

Now it’s time for you to write a Double Tetractys. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

  1. Choose a topic. It can be anything. If you’re struggling for an idea, you might consider the Daily Prompts from The Daily Post
  2. DON’T worry about rhyme, as it’s not necessary here.
  3. DO keep a handle on the syllable count for each line.
  4. Try to avoid filler words. Instead, use a thesaurus to find precise words that give you the right syllable count for each line.
  5. Don’t be afraid to break a word if need be, but avoid it if possible. Or perhaps you may want to go crazy with word breaks, so as to enhance a humorous mood.
  6. And of course, when you are finished, share your poem with the rest of us.

Don’t know how? Follow these simple steps…

  1. Write your blog post.
  2. Include the tag Decastich Challenge or 10LPC
  3. Include a pingback/link to this post in your post so I can find you.
  4. Publish your post.

Dig Deeper

To find more samples and to learn from those who taught me, check out these sites. All links open in a separate tab so you can easily find your way back here.

Poet’s Collective ~ The forms on this website are not organized in alphabetical order, but he does have at least one sample poem for each form, he even has tags for rhyme scheme. He also has a visual template for every form so you can see the rhyme scheme and stress patterns, as applicable. That is extremely helpful.

Sol Magazine ~ This resource covers much more than just 10-line poems.

“Metric Forms from Pathways for the Poet” ~ This is an outline of information from Pathways for the Poet by Viola Berg (1977), a book for and by educators. This resource also includes more than just 10-line poems, but it helped to fill in the gaps where my other sources were a bit scanty with their information.

Shadow Poetry ~ This is my favorite resource for learning about poetic forms (and not just the decastich), but I have discovered that there is ever so much more to learn than what I can find here. This is, however, a very good place to start.


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