What Is A Quintain In Poetry

A quintain is a type of verse commonly used in poetry. It consists of five lines and a rhyme scheme of abaab. Traditionally, the first, second, and fifth lines are alliterative, meaning they contain the same sound. Quintains are often used in ballads and other traditional forms of poetry.

Quintains were popularized in England during the 16th century, but they have also been used in other countries and cultures over the centuries. One of the most famous quintains is a poem written by John Donne called “Go, lovely Rose”. It reads:

Go, lovely rose!
Tell her that wastes her time and me,
That now she knows,
When I depart from thee
I cannot love eternally.

The form of a quintain is flexible, and poets often use them to create interesting and dynamic works. By combining alliteration with rhyme, poets can create rhythm and emphasis to emphasize certain words or ideas. For example, in the poem above, the words “time” and “me” both have the same sound and are used to emphasize their importance.

Quintains can also be used to portray strong emotions such as grief, despair, love, or joy. By combining alliteration, rhyme, and repetition, a poet can create powerful imagery and vivid descriptions. For example, the quintain “Grieve Not” by Thomas Moor captures sadness and grief in a way that is both powerful and beautiful:

Grieve not to-day, nor ever let despair
Thy gentle heart with sorrow overwhelm;
But cast thy sorrows on the God of Prayer,
Whose infinite compassion faileth not,
And He will soothe thy grief and make thee whole.


Quintains also have the ability to convey symbolism and metaphor. In a quintain, a poet can take an idea or image and shape it into something more powerful. By choosing carefully placed words, a poet can paint a vivid picture in just five lines. For example, in “Grieve Not”, the poet paints a picture of a sorrowful heart being comforted and healed by a god of prayer.


Quintains have a variety of functions in poetry and can be used for different purposes. For example, a poet may use a quintain to tell a story, as in the example above. Quintains can also be used to express feelings, such as sorrow and despair, or joy and love. Finally, they can be used to remind the reader of a moral lesson, as in the quintain “The Bear and the Hen” by John Dryden.

Purpose of Quintains in Poetry

The main purpose of quintains in poetry is to create a piece of art that conveys meaning and emotion. By choosing words with the same sound or emphasizing certain words or ideas, a poet can create powerful imagery that resonates with readers. Quintains also allow poets to tell stories, to express feelings, and to convey moral lessons. For these reasons, quintains remain popular in poetry today.

Examples of Famous Quintains

Since quintains are popular in poetry, there are many examples of famous quintains throughout history. One famous example is the quintain “The Wind and the Rain” by Thomas Moore. Other famous quintains include “The Pied Piper of Hamelin” by Robert Browning, “The Lament of Owen the Knight” by Robert Southwell, and “The Yellowhammer” by Thomas Heywood.

Construction of Quintain

Creating a quintain requires careful thought and planning. The poet must choose words that will convey the desired emotion or idea and make sure the rhyme scheme and alliteration are correct. Additionally, the poet should choose words with specific connotations to create a visual effect. With careful construction, a quintain can be a powerful piece of poetry that resonates with readers.

Variations of Quintain

In addition to the traditional quintain, poets often choose to vary the number of lines and the rhyme scheme of the poem. One popular variation is the quatrain, which consists of four lines and has a rhyme scheme of abab. Another variation is the sestet, which consists of six lines and has a rhyme scheme of abcabc. Both of these forms can be used in the same way as a quintain, but they offer more opportunities for variation.


In conclusion, a quintain is a type of verse commonly used in poetry. It consists of five lines and a rhyme scheme of abaab, and traditionally, the first, second, and fifth lines are alliterative. Quintains can be used to tell stories, to express emotions, or to convey moral lessons. Additionally, there are many variations of the quintain, such as the quatrain and the sestet, that offer more opportunities for variation. By carefully choosing words and following the correct rhyme scheme and alliteration, a quintain can be an effective and powerful piece of poetry.

Dannah Hannah is an established poet and author who loves to write about the beauty and power of poetry. She has published several collections of her own works, as well as articles and reviews on poets she admires. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English, with a specialization in poetics, from the University of Toronto. Hannah was also a panelist for the 2017 Futurepoem book Poetry + Social Justice, which aimed to bring attention to activism through poetry. She lives in Toronto, Canada, where she continues to write and explore the depths of poetry and its influence on our lives.

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