What is a stanza?

In poetry, a stanza is a grouped set of lines within a poem, usually separated from other stanzas by an indent or blank line.

Poems can contain several stanzas with double spacing or different indentations.

Stanzas can be rhyming, but this is not always required.

The stanza in poetry is comparable with paragraphs in prose. Like a paragraph, they contain related information and introduce new thoughts or ideas in the next stanza.

In music, groups of lines are typically referred to as verses.

What is a stanza in a poem?

A stanza in a poem is a section consisting of two or more lines that typically follow a pattern of metrical lengths and a sequence of lines.

You will only find stanzas in the format of a poem. However, you can also get poems that don’t have stanzas. These are known as free verse poems. Free verse poems do not follow the rules like poems with stanzas and have no rhyme or rhythm.

Types of Stanzas


Stanzas with two lines that rhyme is known as couplets.

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.


Stanzas with three lines, which can be rhymes but are not required to, are known as tercets.

Japanese Haiku poetry is an example of tercets. The Haiku, In Kyoto by Basho, is a good example.

In Kyoto,

hearing the cuckoo,

I long for Kyoto.


Stanzas, with four lines that can be rhymes but are not required to, are known as quatrains.

Elizabethan sonnets from Shakespeare are examples of quatrains.

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:


Stanzas with five lines that do not rhyme are known as cinquains. Each bar is structured with a set number of syllables.

  • Line 1 – 2 syllables
  • Line 2 – 4 syllables
  • Line 3 – 6 syllables
  • Line 4 – 8 syllables
  • Line 5 – 2 syllables

An example of a cinquain is:


Grey, enormous

Walking, stomping, trumpeting,

Trunks are splashing, spraying


What is an example of a stanza in a poem?

Below are some famous examples of stanzas in poems:

Here is a stanza from The Tyger by William Blake:

Tyger Tyger burning bright,

In the forests of the night:

What immortal hand or eye,

Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

Below is a stanza from Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll:

Twas brillig, and the slithy toves

Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:

All mimsy were the borogoves,

And the mome raths outgrabe.

The Jabberwocky is known as a nonsense poem because it consists of made-up words. However, it still follows uniform rules through its rhythm and rhyme, making it a stanza.

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