Tuesday 18th January 2011, A. Palmer
“Forgive me, Father,” she said, “for I have skimmed.”
The full-fat tea completely missed the sink
and puddled the top, swelled and over-brimmed,
cascading down cupboards as if to chink
the reverend’s cool and tempt forth a splay
of Eastertime zest with the putrid stink
of God-awful tempers on Bad Friday,
but failed and snaked off towards the fridge.
“Forgive me, Father, you won’t be cross I pray?”
He assured the shop was just across the bridge ,
but her shrill didn’t dampen, rather it rose-
making at cake as if it were cartridge,
she clasped at her stomach through children’s clothes,
“Would you get an apple too? I can’t eat those.”
This is the third instalment of my experimentation with poetry forms (after the octain Of Course, Death and villanelle Weekend When the World Was Away). It is a ‘terza rima’, first used by the Italian poet Dante in his Divine Comedy.
A terza rima is a series of tercets using chain rhyme in the scheme a/b/a | b/c/b | c/d/c | d/e/d. There is no limit to the number of stanzas, but the terza rima is closed with a single line or couplet rhyming with the middle line of the final tercet (thus giving each and every line a rhyme). There is no set meter either, but for terza rimas written in English, lines of 10 syllables or iambic pentameter are generally preferred.
Geoffrey Chaucer first introduced the form into English literature in the fourteenth century with his Complaint to His Lady. Five centuries later, Byron, Milton and Shelley adopted the terza rima, with the latter’s Ode to the West Wind remaining a popular work. Thomas Hardy also employed terza rima’s cross-stanza rhyme scheme to inter-link the characters in his Friends Beyond.
More recently, Robert Frost and Sylvia Plath have written in the form, with the former’s Acquainted With the Night often quoted as an exemplary terza rima.