Quintain Rhyme Scheme: The Five-Line Form in Poetry

, Staff Writer
Updated July 16, 2021
quintain poem with 5 lines poetry
    quintain poem with 5 lines poetry
    Used under iStock license

A quintain, sometimes called a quintet, is a poem or stanza with five lines. It can follow any meter or line length. The limerick is the most well-known example of quintain poetry. Since there are many different types of poetry, it probably won't come as a surprise that even this branch of poetry has its variations. Let's take a look at the quintain rhyme scheme, in all its colors.

Quintain Examples

Poets can paint evocative scenes and prompt deep reflection in five-line poems. That said, those five lines can be woven together in several ways. That means that you can find several types of quintain poems. Check out a few of the most common ones.

Pentastich Quintain

Pentastich is the free verse or blank verse version of the quintain, and there is no meter. Check out the way this quintain works through the work of Ryter Roethicle's "Sempre Oscurita."

"The loss of a lover breaks your heart
Scattering your soul
Into the grey hole of Purgatory
No longer destined together to Heaven
And never deserving of Hell.

It scourges the body and flays the flesh
Til only the bones remain as a useless skeleton
That once was a vibrant loving being
Dashing through the waves
On the soft sandy beaches of love.

Now the tide has receded
And the sand is coated in bitter salt
From tears of loss and recrimination.
Time like the tide will wash away tears
But will never be able to fill the empty heart."

Cinquain Scheme

The cinquain is unique in its syllable count of each line. The first and last lines have two syllables. Additionally, the second line has four, the third has six and the fourth has eight. So, it is a 2-4-6-8-2 rhyme scheme as you can see through this untitled poem by Anonymous.

"There's two
And then there's four
And two plus four is six
Then two and two plus four is eight
We're done."

English Quintain

When you get to the English quintains, they have an ababb rhyme scheme. There is no set measure or foot (the number and type of syllables or feet).

Quintains work well in long poems like ballads. For example, check out this excerpt from Ode to a Skylark by Percy Bysshe Shelley.

"In the golden lightning
Of the sunken sun,
O'er which clouds are bright'ning,
Thou dost float and run;
Like an unbodied joy whose race is just begun."


Envelope Quintet

When it comes to an envelope quintet, the rhyme scheme is usually abbba or abcba. Like English quintains, there is no set measure or foot. See an example of an envelope quintet in action through "Opening My Toybox" by Ryter Roethicle.

"Opening my toybox after all this time
Those within saw my look and my shame,
They knew of my life, and was not to blame.
So I spoke with, Kanga and Wambi again,
Clearing memories covered in dust and grime"

Limerick Rhyme Scheme

When it comes to examples of limericks, they have an aabba rhyme scheme, and there is no set meter or syllables. The a-lines are iambic tetrameter and b-lines are iambic trimeter.

Many times, the third and fourth lines are shorter than the other three. In a famous limerick, "There was an Old Man with a Beard," by Edward Lear, you can see this scheme.

"There was an Old Man with a beard,
Who said, 'It is just as I feared!—
Two Owls and a Hen, four Larks and a Wren,
Have all built their nests in my beard.'"


Monchielle Stanza

A Monchielle stanza poem is usually six syllables, or iambic trimester, with a rhyme scheme of abcdc. You can see an example of how this rhyme scheme works through Jem Farmer's "Arcane Blue."

"I dream in arcane blue
as stars begin to shine,
in sleep, I feel your love
as heart entwines with grace,
I touch the night above.

I dream in arcane blue
of days that fled the moon,
in hopes that I will find,
the one who stands by me,
and walks the same long wynd.

I dream in arcane blue
then reach to clouds on high,
embrace the stars that shine,
within the pulse of night,
and know my heart is thine.

I dream in arcane blue,
oh, goddess, queen of all,
thy love has made me one,
a torch upon my path,
to life now free and done."

Sicilian Quintain

Sicilian quintains are a bit unique. Originally, these had no set meter or form; however, many now use iambic pentameter. The rhyme scheme is usually ababa. A good example of this is "Home is so Sad" by Philip Larkin.

"Home is so sad. It stays as it was left,
Shaped to the comfort of the last to go
As if to win them back. Instead, bereft
Of anyone to please, it withers so,
Having no heart to put aside the theft

And turn again to what it started as,
A joyous shot at how things ought to be,
Long fallen wide. You can see how it was:
Look at the pictures and the cutlery.
The music in the piano stool. That vase."


Spanish Quintain (Quintilla)

Spanish quintain lines are usually eight syllables or iambic tetrameter, and the rhyme scheme varies. However, there are never more than two consecutive lines that rhyme. Common rhyme schemes are aabba and abbaa. You can see an example of Spanish quintain by looking at Pat Bibbs's untitled poem.

"A flickering flame, on the wall
The sound of a, coyotes call
The desert winds, singing at night
Sandstorms dancing, in the moonlight
Embracing lovers, to befall"

Other Types of Stanzas in Poetry

As you can see, the list of quintain examples goes on and on. Poetry's complexity is one of the many reasons people enjoy a lifelong appreciation of this art form. In addition to the quintain, you can find several other types of stanzas used in poetry.

  • couplet - two-line stanza that rhymes
  • triplet - three-line stanza that rhymes
  • tercet - all three lines don't rhyme
  • quatrain - four-line stanza
  • sestet - six-line stanza
  • septet - seven-line stanza
  • octave - eight-line stanza
  • spenserian - nine-line stanza

Poetic Beauty

One could spend their entire life studying poetry and still make new discoveries. Its structure can vary, and it's almost always rich in symbolism. Once you have a solid grasp on quintains, you can check out examples of free verse. If that isn't your cup of tea, then you might enjoy examples of lyric poetry. And no one ever turned down a good onomatopoeia poem example.