Triplets are rather rare due to the fact that they require writers to use the same end sounds. Most poets want to maintain a different pattern, one that alternates between sounds (for example, ABA) or uses entirely different sounds (like ABC).
Explore the Triplet
Triplets are a three-line form of poetry that utilizes the same end sound at the end of all three lines. This sets them apart from tercets that use different end sounds.
Unlike tercets, which can follow any rhyme scheme, triplets use what is known as mono rhyme. This means that each line ends with the same rhyme sound. This could mean the same words or different words, depending on the poet. But, as long as they perfectly rhyme, it’s an example of a triplet.
Examples of Triplets in Poetry
Upon Julia’s Clothes by Robert Herrick
‘Upon Julia’s Clothes’ by Robert Herrick is a very famous Herrick poem that utilizes triplets. The poem is an example of cavalier poetry that was first published in Hesperides, Herrick’s 1648 collection. It was one of over 1,000 poems in that volume.
The poem is only six lines long and reads:
Whenas in silks my Julia goes,
Then, then (methinks) how sweetly flows
That liquefaction of her clothes.
Next, when I cast mine eyes, and see
That brave vibration each way free,
O how that glittering taketh me!
The first stanza uses the perfect end words, “goes,” “flows,” and “clothes,” while the second stanza uses “see,” “free,” and “me.”
Explore more Robert Herrick poems.
Lord Lucky by Hilaire Belloc
‘Lord Lucky’ is a lesser-known poem that also uses triplets. But, the poet does not use them consistently. It’s this style of writing that is far more common than the consistent use of triplets, as is seen in the Herrick poem above and the Tennyson poem below. The poet used a triplet, as is seen here:
Who stood with an astounded air
Bewildered by the whole affair
—And was the third remaining heir.
But the rest of the poem is made of couplets. For example, the four lines before these three read:
His right-hand Barrel only got
The second heir, Lord Poddleplot;
The while the left-hand charge (or choke)
Accounted for another bloke,
Read more Hilaire Belloc poems.
The Two Voices by Lord Alfred Tennyson
‘The Two Voices’ is another example of a triplet that shows off the form very well. For example, take a look at these lines:
A still small voice spake unto me,
“Thou art so full of misery,
Were it not better not to be?”
Then to the still small voice I said;
“Let me not cast in endless shade
What is so wonderfully made.”
The poet opens the poem with these two perfect examples of triplets. The first stanza uses the same “e” assonant sound at the end of all three lines with “me,” “misery,” and “be.” This is followed by another triplet in which “said,” “shade,” and “made” are used together. The only difference between these two is that the first word of stanza two is a half-rhyme rather than a full rhyme.
This is something that readers can expect to see in poems that are strictly structured (also known as bound verse). Sometimes, a poet wants to use a certain word and will utilize it in the pattern if it only partially rhymes. It’s also important to note that sometimes, these words rhyme depending on the accent one uses when reading the lines. Sometimes, adding a slight emphasis to one part of the word makes it rhyme.
Discover more Alfred Lord Tennyson poems.
How Do You Write a Triplet Poem?
Triplets are very simple. But that doesn’t mean they’re easy to write. If you’re very good at coming up with rhyming words, then it may be an easier task. But, if finding the same end sound that relates to your content is challenging, then it may be a harder form to utilize. For many poets, using the same rhyme sound over and over again takes away some of the creativity of writing poetry and therefore makes the triplet a less-desirable form to utilize.
Poets use triplets when they want to make use of a consistent mono-rhyme scheme or when they want to add extra emphasis to a certain part of the poem (when triplets aren’t used anywhere else in the text).
Triplets are three-line rhyming sets that are used in all styles of poetry. More often than not, they are used sparingly in among lines of couplets to add emphasis to specific phrases.
Tennyson’s stanzas in ‘The Two Voices’ is one of the best examples of a triplet. These lines are perfectly rhymed and consistent throughout the entire poem.
Related Literary Terms
- Ballad: a kind of verse, sometimes narrative in nature, often set to music and developed from 14th and 15th-century minstrelsy.
- Blank Verse: a kind of poetry that is written in unrhymed lines but with a regular metrical pattern.
- Canto: a subsection of a long narrative or epic poem. It is made up of at least five lines, but it is normally much longer.
- Dirge: a song or poem composed after someone’s death. These songs are usually shorter and more concise than elegies.
- Free Verse: these poems are unrhymed, and there are no consistent metrical patterns. But that doesn’t mean it is entirely without structure.
- Octastich: a stanza with eight lines. These lines might be written in free verse or conform to a specific rhyme scheme or metrical pattern.