Triplet in Poetry: Examples & Concept

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  • 0:01 What Is a Triplet?
  • 1:00 Examples
  • 3:20 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Angela Gentry
The triplet is a unique stanza form in poetry. Examine its several faces through examples in this lesson, and then track your new knowledge with a brief quiz.

What Is a Triplet in Poetry?

The triplet is a rather rare stanza form in poetry and is basically three lines that rhyme. It is a type of tercet, or three-lined stanza or poem. However, the triplet is more specifically bound by rhyme scheme and sometimes meter than the tercet. Occasionally, the terms triplet and tercet are used interchangeably, but for a finer distinction, think of the triplet as a kind of tercet that follows specific rules. We call this strictness of form bound verse because the form follows a set of pre-established patterns.

The triplet is more common in historical poetry, where poets relied more frequently on the constraints of form to create meaning. Contemporary poetry makes more use of free verse, broken rhymes, and slant rhymes to engineer relationships between images. If we look closely at the triplet, however, we'll see how poets use form to build crescendo in a piece and even use the form to break form.

Examples in Poetry

Lest we think 'boring' and 'crypt keeper' when we hear the words 'historical poetry,' let's take a look at the sensual 17th-century poem, 'Upon Julia's Clothes' by Robert Herrick:

'Whenas in silks my Julia goes,

Then, then, methinks, how sweetly flows

The liquefaction of her clothes.

Next, when I cast mine eyes, and see

That brave vibration, each way free,

O, how that glittering taketh met'

The perfect rhymes of 'goes,' 'flows,' and 'clothes' in the first triplet only reinforce the smooth electricity of the exchange. This perfect rhyme scheme is the heart of the triplet because it traditionally follows the bound form of a, a, a.

In the second triplet, 'see' and 'free' are also perfect rhymes. Herrick sets us up here for the third perfect rhyme, but when he breaks the triplet form with the stage-stopper, one syllable word of 'met,' we've climaxed to a dramatic conclusion.

In a separate witty example, 20th-century poet Hilaire Belloc uses the triplet to break form. Here's an excerpt from his work, 'Lord Lucky:'

'... It happened in the following way: -

The Real Duke went out one day

To shoot with several people, one

Of whom had never used a gun.

This gentleman (a Mr. Meyer

Of Rabley Abbey, Rutlandshire),

As he was scrambling through the brake,

Discharged his weapon by mistake,

And plugged about an ounce of lead

Piff-bang into his Grace's head -

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