Quatrain

Quatrain is a poetic structure consisting of 4-lined stanzas, usually consisting of an ABAB rhyme scheme.

Pre-19th Century ExampleElegy Written in a Country Churchyard by Thomas Gray (1751)

“The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
The lowing herd wind slowly o’er the lea,
The ploughman homeward plods his weary way,
And leaves the world to darkness and to me.
 
Now fades the glimmering landscape on the sight,
And all the air a solemn stillness holds,
Save where the beetle wheels his droning flight,
And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds;”
 
This poem has an ABAB rhyme and is separated into sets of 4 lines which means it’s written in Quatrain form
 
19th Century ExampleIn Memoriam A.H.H. by Lord Tennyson Alfred (1849)
 
“Strong Son of God, immortal Love,
Whom we, that have not seen thy face,
By faith, and faith alone, embrace,
Believing where we cannot prove;
 
Thine are these orbs of light and shade;
Thou madest Life in man and brute;
Thou madest Death; and lo, thy foot
Is on the skull which thou hast made.”
 
Despite having an ABBA rhyme, this poem is an example of quatrain due to each stanza being separated into 4 lines
 
Modern ExampleLeap Before You Look by W.H. Auden (1940)
 
“The sense of danger must not disappear:
The way is certainly both short and steep,
However gradual it looks from here;
Look if you like, but you will have to leap
 
Tough-minded men get mushy in their sleep
And break the by-laws any fool can keep;
It is not the convention but the fear
That has a tendency to disappear.”
 

This poem has various rhyme schemes throughout such as the first stanza having an ABAB rhyme and the second having an AABB but every stanza contained 4 lines therefore making it a quatrain poem.

Sources:

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/quatrain

http://www.thomasgray.org/cgi-bin/display.cgi?text=elcc

http://www.online-literature.com/donne/718/

http://poem-a-day.knopfdoubleday.com/2012/04/16/w-h-auden-leap-before-you-look/

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