A page from the "Poetry through the Ages" exhibit...

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The tercet is a three-line stanza, often rhyming, that constitutes the core of a variety of poetic expressions, including terza rima, sonnets, odes, cantos, and villanelles.

The tercet gives poets plenty of fuel to write poems of varying lengths in three-line measures. From its genesis in medieval Italy, the tercet has also evolved to become an integral component of blank verse and free verse. Embedding the tercet into a longer work serves to add a simple but masterful musicality.

While credit for the tercet is the subject of debate, Dante was the progenitor of its first cousin, terza rima.
Rhyme: Varied, but usually aba, moving to further stanzas – aba-bcb-cdc, etc.
Structure: Three-line stanzas
Measure/Beat: Iambic tetrameter or iambic pentameter
Common Themes: Love, journey, loss, life issues
Other Notes:
  • Can be used to write any type of poem
  • Serves as structure of terza rima, sonnets, odes, cantos, blank verse and free verse. The rhyme scheme varies (or is deemed unnecessary) depending on the type of poem the tercet serves.
  • Not necessary to end sentences before breaking to a new stanza