Terza Rima with Paint Chips

Last week I said we would be writing terza rima this week. Did anyone go look up what that is? Or maybe you already know and have even written one before. I once wrote a 26-stanza terza rima called My Zealous Adonai. I won’t be writing one that long for today. For those of you who didn’t look it up and don’t know what a terza rima is, here’s the definition from the T section of the poetry dictionary:

TERZA RIMA (tare’-tsuh ree’-muh; Italian, “third rhyme”) Tercets with an interwoven rhyme scheme, invented by Dante Alighieri for The Divine Comedy: aba bcb cdc ded efe fgf, etc. The poem (or individual section, called a canto by Dante) usually ends with a single line or a couplet, rhyming with the previous tercet’s middle line. But it may also end with a tercet, it’s middle line rhyming with the opening tercet’s first and third lines, making the form circular.

When Dante settled on this interlocking form for his religious epic, he had the Trinity in mind: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. A kind of Roman Catholic numerology pervades the poem, with its “three-fold” arrangement of Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso.

Geoffrey Chaucer introduced terza rima into English with sixteen lines embedded in section III of “A Complaint to His Lady,” most of which is written in other forms. Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Ode to the West Wind” is the best known English poem in terza rima, but he also used the form for “Prince Athanase” and “The Triumph of Life.” . . .

the poetry dictionary, pg 317.

The Challenge

Your challenge for this prompt is to write a terza rima of at least three stanzas. If you want to write an epic poem in this form, you will get a lifetime supply of bonus points, but it’s certainly not expected. (And some of you have so many bonus points by now that you don’t need more, especially since you may have realized you can’t do much with them.)

In keeping with the theme of three, I would like you to use at least three of these paint chip words and phrases: blank canvas, lavender, whirlpool, seedling, happily ever after, golden, and cliff’s edge.

I would also like you to use one of them as the title of your poem without actually using it in the poem itself.

Since the terza rima form doesn’t specify line length, you could write in short, terse lines, or long ambling ones.

My Poem

Blank Canvas

He painted a sea of purple lavender
A swath of beauty up to the cliff's edge
The locals called him the boy wonder

On another day it was chocolate sedge
Glowing softly in the golden sunset
From the vantage point of a window ledge

But his portrait of the lovely brunette
Surpassed every other by far
In her hair a rosebud barrette

He only glimpsed her from afar
His love a seedling barely sprouted
Happily ever after a distant star

Only in his mind her name he shouted
His next canvas returned to nature's splendor
And all dreams of her love he doubted

Your Turn

Now it’s your turn to try your hand at a terza rima. Will you make yours circular like I did mine? Or will you go epic? I can’t wait to find out. You know the drill. Share your poem in the comments, or post it on your website or blog and drop a link in the comments. Remember to share this prompt with your readers so others can come join the fun.

I am a Jesus Freak, and I don't care who knows it. I am a wife, mother, sister, aunt, daughter, and friend. My blood family is only part of the larger family of Christ that I belong to. I love to write, especially about my dear Savior.


20 Responses

  1. I wanted to share with you my terza rima, Linda, even if I don’t end up writing a post on my blog for it:

    A little life, from seed to seedling
    Grows, standing in whirlpools of wind,
    Which blow strongly, without succeeding

    In toppling the tree. Life is not binned,
    Even if happily ever after
    Is not found, nor exact purpose pinned.

    Relax, like with a tea of lavender.
    Golden is the dusk, when sun is setting.
    Slowly the sapling’s growing taller.

  2. I like how you expressed in your poem the painter’s secret love shown only in his paintings and ending with him doubting his dreams of her love.


    Blank Canvas

    The seedling blooms like lavender.
    The golden sunlight shines and we
    remember all, the way things were.

    Forgive, we do, each enemy.
    No secret shadows stand today.
    Forgive us, too, both you and me.

    Now every tear that turned life gray,
    that smeared our pasts into a blur,
    He’s wiped away, He’s wiped away.

      • I’ve always really enjoyed it though it’s so hard to follow. I use cheat sheets ..all kinds of commentaries..to understand the symbolism. Being Catholic I sort of get certain things. Besides that there are all sorts of references to his then current events, and historical and literary references I’ve always been so exceptionally smitten with~

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