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,
Stanza six: B, D, F, E, C, A
Line 1: A, B
Line 2: C, D
Line 3: E, F
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.
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
I fear more the solitary life revealed
in Autumn's long spell. Then let it be this life I give
And let the mystery
rest untouched where sea and land abide.
My soul recalls no still night felled between us.
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
And hand to my hand we make a country of us,
my companion of nightlong ways. Let these common lands give
to sleeping wiles. Let the bright and pebbled shore abide
the rushing sea. "In country sleep" we'll toil our
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
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
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,
with every breath our souls to give.
Copyright © 2000 Dave Charlon