Spenserian stanza

Spenserian stanza

The Spenserian stanza is a fixed verse form invented by Edmund Spenser for his epic poem "The Faerie Queene". Spenser intended this poem to be many thousands of Spenserian stanzas, hence its 'epic' name, but he died before even 1/4 of his goal was completed. Each stanza contains nine lines in total: eight lines in iambic pentameter followed by a single 'Alexandrine' line in iambic hexameter. The rhyme scheme of these lines is "ababbcbcc."

Spenser's invention may have been influenced by the Italian form ottava rima, which consists of eight lines of iambic pentameter with the rhyme scheme "abababcc." This form was used by Spenser's Italian role models Ludovico Ariosto and Torquato Tasso. Another possible influence is rhyme royal, a traditional mediæval form used by Geoffrey Chaucer, among others, which has seven lines of iambic pentameter that rhyme "ababbcc."

Famously used by Robert Burns in his poem "The Cotter's Saturday Night" which shows his ability to use English forms while praising Scotland.

Spenser's verse form fell into disuse in the period after his death. However, it was revived in the 1800s by Lord Byron in "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage", by John Keats for "The Eve of St. Agnes", by Percy Bysshe Shelley for "The Revolt of Islam" and "Adonais" and by Sir Walter Scott for "The Vision of Don Roderick".


* Morton, Edward Payson. "The Spenserian Stanza before 1700". "Modern Philology", Volume 4, No. 4, April 1907. pp. 639-654

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