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Sestina
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Sestinas are a fixed form of poetry in which endwords are repeated in a pattern through six stanzas of six lines each, and appear at or close to the middle and end of each of the three lines of the tercet which completes the poem. Those words may be used in variations, for example; end, ends, ending, ended. Each letter below refers to the designated word to end each line. Each word apears exactly once in each stanza, but never in the same position. The six words are repeated in the final tercet in the order indicated.

No special meter is required in a sestina, but some poets find the use of iambic pentameter natural to the form.

The end word scheme is as follows:

Stanza one: A, B, C, D, E, F

Stanza two: F, A, E, B, D, C

Stanza three: C, E, D, A, B, E

Stanza four: E, C, B, F, A, D

Stanza five: D, E, A, C, E, B

Stanza six: B, D, F, E, C, A

Tercet:

Line 1: A, B

Line 2: C, D

Line 3: E, F

Some writers find it convenient to make a grid and write the end words of all 39 lines in the appropriate places before they fill in the remaining portions of each line. Remember to include A, C, E in the final three lines.

Example:

Sestina, to the lover's rite
 
We stand at last upon this eventide, to give
to each our vow.  To the lover's rite abide.
Let that which does not end return,
and let no turning days divide us.
I confess I am afraid of what certain mystery
a seasonless sun reveals.
 
I fear more the solitary life revealed
in Autumn's long spell.  Then let it be this life I give
without caution.  And let the mystery
rest untouched where sea and land abide.
My soul recalls no still night felled between us.
It seems we were born together, and together return
 
anew to the whitening day.  To the turn
of the sovereign tide.  My hands laid bare reveal
another light.  And hand to my hand we make a country of us,
my companion of nightlong ways.  Let these common lands give
shape to sleeping wiles.  Let the bright and pebbled shore abide
the rushing sea.  "In country sleep" we'll toil our songstilled mystery.
 
And will we sing, in furthered seasons, the hearthstone mysteries
of time's greener passion?  Love again our tamer glories?  If so return
to the hallowed spire of youth.  In this gentle fate we'll abide,
for what is our hymn but a child's bedtime refrain?  What is revealed
in mystery but the coming breeze we long to breathe and give
to the new?  Its buried scent a memory which knows us
 
again.  Then by the sway of winter's solemn flame let us
firm this vow.   Though the prophet moon still steadies her mystery
before us, our last will be a greener gold, given
to the one sacrament.  And breath by breath return
again to our certain selves, our nightbound promise revealed.
Heart of this heart abide.
 
Soul of this soul abide.
We were born together,  and together let us
pass unknown through porticos of the half-light shadow, revealing
in turn the break of every lasted dawn, and each unsummoned mystery
inspired on a shifting sea.  It is the end days return.
The proffered gift we give.
 
Abide at last, and forever love, the mystery
of us.  Bound by time's lasting measure we'll return,
revealing with every breath our souls to give.
 
 
Copyright 2000 Dave Charlon

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