A four lined division of lines (for example, within a sonnet) or stanza which can be rhymed or unrhymed and is predominately the most common form of structuring a poem. Most quatrains include rhyming alternate lines, such as the rhyme scheme ab ab. Although there can be variants, typically the rhyming lines consist of a similar amount of syllables to ensure a regular rhythm. The most common form of quatrain is the narrative ballad quatrain. However poems can consist just one or multiple quatrains.


The word quatrain is a derivative of the French word quatre which means four (from the Latin quattor). The earliest use of the quatrain is evident in the poetry from ancient Greece, Rome and various other early civilisations, but it is a form which has endured into the modern poetic era.

Current Forms

  • Elegiac quatrain which uses the rhyme scheme of ab ab
  • Ballad quatrain
  • Heroic or decasyllabic quatrain


  • The Tyger  (1794) by William Blake (1857-1827) 
‘Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Would frame thy fearful symmetry     
Blake achieves impact by using trochaic tetrameter in rhyming couplets, rather than the more common iambic pentameter
  • Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard by Thomas Grey
Let not Ambition mock their useful toil,
Their homely joys, and destiny obscure;
Nor Grandeur hear with a disdainful smile,
The short and simple annals of the poor.

The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave,
Awaits alike the inevitable hour.
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.     
The steady iambic quatrains are both heroic (elevated in their diction, tone and theme) and elegiac (lamenting the passing of life), despite the simplicity of their form.
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