e a m harris

Roaming the byways of literature

Short poems – the triolet

How great my grief, my joys how few,
Since first it was my fate to know thee!
Have the slow years not brought to view
How great my grief, my joys how few,
Not memory shaped old times anew,
Nor loving-kindness helped to show thee
How great my grief, my joys how few,
Since first it was my fate to know thee?

The poem above is a triolet, written by Thomas Hardy who was one of the stars of melancholy. I don’t think the very subtle change of meaning in the repetition of the first line is essential, but it expands the poem.

The rules are simple: the first couplet is repeated at the end and the first line is also the fourth; there are only two rhymes. For more information on its history etc try poets.org.

I was first introduced to the form in a poem by Susan McLean in the May edition of Snakeskin Poetry, an online magazine with a wide ranging content of both modern and traditional styles. (To find her humorous poem Crushed use the link above then click on Snakeskin Archive and then on Snakeskin 250).

I thought it would make a change from writing haiku and tanka. I found it took a while to get into the flow of the style but it was fun to try.

grey day photo

Shortest day – peevish, groaning, grey –
don’t turn your back on my shivering smiles;
backwards is another dark-lit way.
The shortest day – peevish, groaning, grey –
shakes hands with twilight, makes the sunrise pay,
as at our sour assembly in these cold-lit miles.
This shortest day – peevish, groaning, grey –
don’t turn your back on my shivering smiles.

 

 

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