The Standard Cinquain
The Cinquain, Quintain, and Quintet are all terms we may be familiar with as poets, referring to a poem or stanza composed of five lines. Examples of cinquains can be found in many European languages, and the origin of the form dates back to medieval French poetry.
What immediately comes to your mind when you hear the word cinquain? Do you think of the unrhymed syllabic form? That may well be the case, and it was the case with me. So I was surprised to discover that there is much more to the cinquain than what I had previously known. We will discuss this variation shortly, but today I wish to go back further in time to the earliest known cinquains.
The most common cinquains in English have meter and rhythm and follow a rhyme scheme with two or three rhyming sounds. Sixteenth- and seventeenth-century poets such as Sir Philip Sidney, George Herbert, Edmund Waller, and John Donne frequently employed the form, creating numerous variations.
Food for Thought: I think perhaps the term cinquain is not a generic term for a five-line poem after all, but for a five-line rhyming poem. Other forms also have exactly five lines, such as the Japanese lanturne, tanka, and waka, but they are not cinquains. Are they not cinquains because they do not rhyme, or because they did not originate in Europe?
Until I learn further, let’s go with the following definition of a Standard Cinquain:
Standard Cinquain summary:
• any 5-line rhyming poem or stanza
• meter and line length may vary, but should be consistent
• rhyme scheme usually ababb, abaab, or abccb
“To Helen” by Edgar Allen Poe, which begins:
Helen, thy beauty is to me
Like those Nicean barks of yore,
That gently, o’er a perfumed sea,
The weary, way-worn wanderer bore
To his own native shore.
Write Your Own Standard Cinquain
Now it’s time for you to write your own standard cinquain.
- Choose your meter and rhythm. You may pattern it after Poe if you like, with tetrameter (4 strong beats) in the first four lines and trimeter (3 strong beats) in Line 5, or write in any meter and rhythm that tickles your fancy.
- Choose your rhyme scheme: ababb, abaab, or abccb
- Choose how many stanzas you wish to write; there is no maximum.
- Publish to your blog.
- Come back here and click the link to add your post to the linkup.
- Read other people’s cinquains and leave a comment.