Sonnet studies

Iambic pentameter
Octave • Sestet
Quatrain • Couplet
Sonnet writers


Petrarchan sonnet
Spenserian sonnet
Shakespearean sonnet
Petrarch's and Shakespeare's sonnets


Caudate sonnet • Curtal sonnet
Demi-sonnet • Pushkin sonnet


Crown of sonnets • Sonnet cycle
Sonnet redoublé
Sonnet sequence

How to ...

Write a sonnet
Write a sonnet like Shakespeare

This box: view · talk · edit

A sestet is any six lines of poetry that form a stanza or a complete poem. Most sestets written in English are parts of longer poems.

Forms Edit

In The Book of Forms, Lewis Turco lists over a dozen six line poem or stanza forms. Examples include:[1]

  • Burns stanza or Standard Habbie. Rhyme scheme A-A-A-B-A-B. A lines are iambic tetrameter , B lines are iambic trimeter.
  • Sestet couplets. Rhyme scheme A-A-B-B-C-C. No specified meter.
  • English sestet. Rhyme scheme A-B-A-B-C-C. Originally no meter specified, later iambic pentameter .
  • Envelope couplet. Rhyme scheme A-A-B-B-A-A (continues A-A-C-C-A-A, etc.)
  • Italian sestet. Rhyme scheme A-B-C-A-B-C. Originally no meter specified, later iambic pentameter .
  • Rime couee. Rhyme scheme A-A-B-A-A-B. A lines are iambic tetrameter, B lines are iambic trimeter.
  • Short particular measure. Rhyme scheme A-A-B-A-A-B. A lines are iambic trimeter, B lines are iambic tetrameter.
  • Sicilian sestet. Rhyme scheme A-B-A-B-A-B. Originally no meter specified, later iambic pentameter .
  • Spanish sestet. Rhyme scheme A-A-B-C-C-B or A-B-B-A-C-C. Iambic tetrameter or 8 syllables.
  • Stave Stanza. Rhyme scheme A-A-B-B-C1-C2. In C1, last word repeats; in C2, entire line repeats. No meter or number of stanzas specified.
  • Wordsworth sestet. Rhyme scheme A-B-B-C-A-C. Iambic pentameter.
  • Wyatt sestet. Rhyme scheme A-B-B-A-B-B. No meter specified.

Sestet in sonnetEdit

A sestet is the name given to the second division of an Italian or Petrarchan sonnet , which must consist of an eight-line octave followed by a sestet. The first documented user of this poetical form was the Italian poet, Petrarch. In the usual course the rhymes are arranged A-B-C-A-B-C, as in an Italian sestet, but this is not necessary. Early Italian sonnets, and in particular those of Dante, often close with the rhyme-arrangement abc cba; but in languages where the sonority of syllables is not so great as it is in Italian, it is dangerous to leave a period of five lines between one rhyme and another. In the quatorzain, there is, properly speaking, no sestet, but a quatrain followed by a couplet, as in the case of English Sonnets. Another common form is the Sicilain sestet with only two rhymes, A-B-A-B-A-B; as is the case in Gray's famous sonnet On the Death of Richard West.

The sestet should mark the turn of emotion in the sonnet; as a rule it may be said, that the octave having been more or less objective, in the sestet reflection should make its appearance, with a tendency to the subjective manner. For example, in Matthew Arnold's The Better Part, the rough inquirer, who has had his own way in the octave, is replied to as soon as the sestet commences:

So answerest thou; but why not rather say:
"Hath man no second life? - Pitch this one high!
Sits there no judge in Heaven, our sin to see? -
More strictly, then, the inward judge obey!
Was Christ a man like us? Ah! let us try
If we then, too, can be such men as he!"

Wordsworth and Milton are both remarkable for the dignity with which they conduct the downward wave of the sestet in their sonnet. The French sonneteers of the 16th century, with Ronsard at their head, preferred the softer sound of the Spanish sestet, A-A-B-C-C-B. The German poets have usually wavered between the English and the Italian forms.

See alsoEdit


  1. "Sestets; Six line poetry forms ," The Poet's Garrett, Web, July 3, 2011.

External linksEdit