Quatrain Poems: 10 Examples for Your Next Essay

Quatrain poem examples show how effective this literary device conveys emotion through verse. Discover quatrain poems examples below.

A quatrain poem is a poem that follows a specific rhyme scheme. You may be asked to write an essay on the topic of a quatrain poem, so understanding the formatting is essential.

These poems use groups of four lines of verse to create their poetic form. The word comes from the French word quatre, which means four.

Poetry has four types of quatrain you can find in literature. These are:

  • Heroic stanza: This type of quatrain follows an ABAB or AABB rhyme pattern. It can be called the elegiac stanza.
  • Ruba’i: This quatrain comes from Persia. It follows an AABA rhyme scheme.
  • Ballad stanza: This type of poem also follows the ABAB rhyme scheme, but it switches between iambic tetrameter, or lines of eight syllables, and iambic trimeter, or lines of six syllables.
  • Envelope quatrain: This verse follows the ABBA rhyme scheme.
  • Memoriam stanza: This last type is written in iambic tetrameter but follows the envelope quatrain ABBA style.

Many famous poets contributed quatrain poem examples to English literature. Here is everything you need to know about quatrain poems and the top ten examples to reference in your next essay.

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1. “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost

Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost is a classic example of quatrain poetry. This poem starts with a group of four iambic lines that follow the AABA rhyme scheme, making it an example of the Ruba’i stanza.

In this famous poem, Frost explores the conflict between the attraction of nature (the woods) and the desire to fulfil the person’s responsibilities in regular life. LIterary analysts often wonder what the woods represent, as the poet does not directly state this in his writing.

“Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.”

Robert Frost

2. “She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways” by William Wordsworth

She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways” is a 12-line ballad William Wordsworth penned in 1798. It speaks of the speaker’s love for Lucy, a young woman who died in her prime. Though the speaker mourns her death, he indicates she was unknown in her life, which is part of the tragedy.

This poem follows the rhyme scheme of ABAB. Its graceful, simple language makes this poem an example of an elegiac poem.

“She dwelt among the untrodden ways
Beside the springs of Dove,
A Maid whom there were none to praise
And very few to love:”

William Wordsworth

3. “When You Are Old” by William Butler Yeats

Quatrain Poems: When You Are Old by William Butler Yeats
“When You Are Old” by William Butler Yeats, Image source: POETRY FOUNDATION

When You Are Old” by William Butler Yeats was part of his second poetry collection, which he published in 1893. Literary critics believe the poem is about his relationship with Maud Gonne, an Irish actress, and explores the complexity of love.

In the poem, Yeats invites the woman to read the poem when she is old and be reminded of his love, a love that is not returned while they are young. It has three quatrains that follow the ABBA rhyming pattern.

“When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;”

William Butler Yeats

4. “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” by Thomas Gray

Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” was written in 1750 by Thomas Gray. Though the title calls it an elegy, it is more of an ode and meditation about the subject of death. The speaker ponders the lives of the people buried in the church courtyard while narrating the poem.

This poem follows the heroic quatrain style with four-line stanzas following iambic pentameter and features the ABAB rhyme pattern. It has a total of 128 lines.

“The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
    The lowing herd wind slowly o’er the lea,
The ploughman homeward plods his weary way,
    And leaves the world to darkness and to me.”

Thomas Gray

5. “Rubaiyat” by Omar Khayyam

Omar Khayyam was a 12th-century Persian poet who wrote “Rubaiyat.” In 1959, Edward Fitzgerald translated the work into English, bringing Khayyam to the Western world. The word “rubaiyat” is the plural form of rubai, which means quatrains. The work is a collection of around 1,000 poems, some of which may not have been the original works of Khayyam, but all of which came from Persia.

This work is one of the earliest quatrain examples. Many of the works within the collection feature the AABB rhyme scheme.

“Wake! For the Sun, who scatter’d into flight
The Stars before him from the Field of Night,
Drives Night along with them from Heav’n, and strikes
The Sultan’s Turret with a Shaft of Light.”

Omar Khayyam

6. “In Memoriam” by Alfred Lord Tennyson

The memorial quatrain was named for Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem “In Memoriam,” which first introduced it. Tennyson wrote the poem in honour of his friend, Arthur Henry Hallam, who died unexpectedly at a very young age. Many literary analysts consider this poem the greatest of the 19th century.

It took Tennyson 17 years to write the poem and first published it without his name. It has 2,916 lines, all divided into four-line ABBA stanzas of iambic tetrameter. It also has one of the most famous lines in all literature from a stanza found in Canto 27.

“I hold it true, whate’er befall;
I feel it when I sorrow most;
‘Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.”

Lord Tennyson

7. “Because I Could Not Stop for Death” by Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson used many quatrains in her works. In “Because I Could Not Stop for Death,” she shows this typical pattern. This poem explores that, while most humans do not take the time to stop and die, death comes for all.

Dickinson’s famous poem is a loose version of a ballad, but it follows the ABAB rhyme pattern. However, she varies the meter within the stanza so it does not fall into one of the specific categories of quatrains.

“Because I could not stop for Death –
He kindly stopped for me –
The Carriage held but just Ourselves –
And immortality.”

Emily Dickinson

8. “First Fig” by Edna St. Vincent Millay

While many poems have multiple quatrains within their lines, “First Fig” is a self-contained poem of just one quatrain. Because it is so short, the quatrain poem is unclear what the candle represents, and many literary analysts have explored potential meanings.

“First Fig” follows the ABAB rhyming pattern. It does not have a specific meter pattern.

“My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends –
It gives a lovely light!”

Edna St. Vincent Millay

9. “The Wreck of the Hesperus” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The Wreck of the Hesperus” by Longfellow was written in 1839 after the infamous blizzard of the same year hit the North Shore for 12 full hours in December. The storm caused 20 ships to sink, with even more crashing but not sinking, and many lives lost. Longfellow found inspiration from the tragedy to write a poem.

This poem has dozens of quatrains that follow the ballad quatrain style with ABAB rhyme schemes and a set meter. It explores the catastrophe with engaging verse.

“It was the schooner Hesperus,
That sailed the wintry sea;
And the skipper had taken his little daughter,
To bear him company.”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

10. “The Chimney Sweeper” by William Blake

The Chimney Sweeper” explores the life of a chimney sweep. William Blake can explore just how hope-deprived this lifestyle was and shows how someone would become a chimney sweep despite the challenges of the job.

“The Chimney Sweeper” uses multiple quatrains to tell the story. TI follows the AABB rhyming scheme, also known as a double couplet.

“When my mother died I was very young,
And my father sold me while yet my tongue
Could scarcely cry, ‘weep! weep! weep! weep!’
So your chimneys I sweep & in soot I sleep.”

William Blake

If you are interested in learning more, check out our essay writing tips!

  • Bryan Collins is the owner of Become a Writer Today. He's an author from Ireland who helps writers build authority and earn a living from their creative work. He's also a former Forbes columnist and his work has appeared in publications like Lifehacker and Fast Company.