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Writing

How to Write a Triolet Poem

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Jan 23, 2020 • 1 min read

An old French verse form, the triolet is a short poem that begins and ends with the same two lines.

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What Is a Triolet?

A triolet is an eight-line poem (or stanza) with a rhyme scheme of ABaAabAB: The first line is repeated in the fourth and seventh lines and the second line is also the last line (the capital letters indicate repeating lines). It’s similar to a rondeau, another French poetic form of repeated lines.

What Are the Origins of the Triolet?

The word triolet comes from the French word for “clover leaf.” This poetic form is thought to have originated in thirteenth-century France, but early print examples are rare. Early printed versions of the triolet poem include fourteenth-century poet Jean Froissart’s “Rondel” and the Benedictine monk Patrick Carey’s seventeenth-century devotionals. Robert Bridges is credited with popularizing the triolet among nineteenth-century English poets, the most well known of which is Thomas Hardy (“How Great My Grief”).

How to Write a Triolet

Since the triolet is an eight-line poem with only five original lines, this form hinges on having two great lines that are repeated throughout. Although the triolet may seem simple, the best versions are able to change the meaning of those repeating lines throughout the short form. If you’d like to try writing your own triolet, the basic outline is:

  1. The first line (A)
  2. The second line (B)
  3. The third line rhymes with the first (a)
  4. Repeat the first line (A)
  5. The fifth line rhymes with the first (a)
  6. The sixth line rhymes with the second line (b)
  7. Repeat the first line (A)
  8. Repeat the second line (B)
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