Dizain Poetry Form: Speak in Passionate Tones

Photo of author
Updated on

Here’s what the Dizain poetry form is:

Dizains are ten-line poems that usually retain ten syllables in every line, commonly in Iambic pentameter.

They feature a strict ABABBCCDCD rhyme scheme that informally divides the poem up into two separate sections.

The form got its start in France around roughly the 15th and 16th centuries.

So if you want to learn all about the Dizain poetry type, then you’ve come to the right place.

Let’s get right into it!

Dizain Poem Type (Simply Explained & Examples)

Forms of Poetry: The Dizain

Dizains, despite having similar features to many popular English forms, are fairly uncommon in terms of popular usage.

The word “dizain” comes from Old French and translates to “tenth part.”

As the name would imply, dizains are ten-line poems that usually consist of exactly ten syllables per line.

So you can remember them as a 10×10 stanza.

Dizains were mostly popular around the 15th-16th century, but the form is occasionally pulled up again by famous poets, with John Keats being one of the more noteworthy examples.

Interestingly, the poem lends itself well to Iambic pentameter and is based mostly on its rhyme scheme, making it a prime candidate for English poetry.

But it never seemed to really take off the way sonnets, ballads, and other rhyme-heavy forms did.

Basic Properties of a Dizain

Woman holding a book, lilies of the valley inserted in between pages.
Rhyme StructureStrict
MeterOften Iambic Pentameter
PopularityUncommon, perhaps due to lack of exposure

How Are Dizains Structured?

Female hands writing in open notebook and bouquet of roses on old wooden table.

In their original form, dizains would have been a French form with eight syllables per line instead of ten.

The number of lines has always been ten, though, for at least as long as the poem has been called a dizain.

The expected rhyme structure for a modern dizain is ABABBCCDCD.

This loosely divides the poem up into two groups, and some poets choose to style these as independent sections of the poem.

Dizains are often in Iambic pentameter, likely due to the influence of English poets, but they are not technically required to be in meter, so long as they consist of ten syllables per line.

While these are the central properties of a dizain, it is acceptable to go back to eight-syllable lines or to split up the ten-line stanza into two five-line stanzas that each utilize half of the rhyme scheme.

Double dizains, in which the form is repeated in a second ten-line stanza, are also an option.

The main focus of a dizain is on the unique rhyme scheme more than anything else, so try not to compromise on the end sounds if possible.

The internal rhyme schemes of each half of the poem mirror each other, creating a unique emphasis on the first and last lines of the dizain.

Examples of Dizain

Woman wearing colorful skirt, carrying a basket with flowers, book and wine bottle, walking barefoot on the beach.

Upon those Seas

On seas that shake a ship from bow to stern,
a sailor worth his salt will not be tossed.
His pay upon those seas will be well-earned,
so long as ship and crew are not both lost.
So listen well ye sailors to your boss.
Good captains do not yield upon such seas,
so diligent and stubborn proud are we.
Fear not each wave that licks our weary heels.
Obey the orders as they fall to thee.
Be swift of foot and sturdy, strong as steel.

Above is a basic dizain following the accepted modern standards.

Take note that every line features some form of caesura.

This does help to break up the poem into manageable chunks, so that each independent thought can lead to the next end sound of its own accord but is not a required feature so much as it is a unique feature of this poem.

The poem itself is written in Iambic pentameter, following the rhyme scheme fairly strictly, with the only slant rhymes coming from some stray -s sounds and the -ed suffix on “earned.”

Suffixes like these tend to feel silent in English, since we’re naturally desensitized to them, so they don’t detract from the rhythm.

Young woman in a cafe looking out of window

Within this Room

The air within this room is damp and cold
but not enough to leave me feeling dread
nor will this bed to which my body’s sold
be much too hard for me to rest my head
despite whatever tears I may have shed.

This week was just as long as weeks can be
and I confess its trials tested me
in ways that left me barely here and yet
I would survive again and still be free
or I have built my home and placed my bets.

The above dizain takes a different approach.

While breaking the poem up into two cinquains may seem to be out of spirit, take note that the rhyme scheme is still perfectly maintained.

Just be careful when breaking up a dizain, as it may invoke the ire of purists who demand that the dizain be written without breaking.

This example should also give you some idea of how you’d write a dizain if you want to cut down on punctuation, opting to mostly use enjambment.

Only the ends of the first and second section actually feature pauses, in the form of a hard stop at the end of each.

One advantage to looking at a dizain as two five-line stanzas is that it makes the division between the first and second sections of the rhyme scheme more apparent.

Dizains naturally feel like two-section poems so they actually lend themselves quite well to this approach.

Tips for Writing a Dizain

male hand with pen writing on notebook

As with all rhyming poems, make it a point to choose easy-to-use end sounds.

This is especially important for the rhymes that will be repeated three times instead of twice.

While repeating an end sound two or three times may not sound especially hard, it’s important to remember that you only really have each individual line to set up the next end sound, since there are no unrhymed lines in the poem.

As such, it helps to be thinking about the next line while you’re writing the one you’re currently on so that the rhymes appear to come organically from the syntax.

The mark of a strong rhymed poem is that it will sound mostly natural, with the rhymes coming off as a pleasant coincidence, even though they’re clearly intentional.

Make sure the first and last lines of the dizain are especially strong.

Having a strong hook and a clever ending is always preferred, but the dizain additionally only shares the end sounds from these lines once each.

As such the structure tends to draw attention to the beginning and end of the poem, to an extent.

New poets may find the center of the poem to be the most difficult, due to the immediacy of the rhymes.

It might help to think of this section as two rhymed couplets. Having a caesura (a pause, like a period or comma) at the end of the third line may make it easier to work with this central section, but it is by no means mandatory.

Poet’s Note

Pen lays on paper.

It’s honestly surprising that dizains haven’t had a better showing in English considering their similarity to other popular forms and their overall simplicity.

I suppose this is the difference between a poem form that gets celebrity attention and one that doesn’t.

Comprehensive Collection of Poetry Forms: Craft Words Into Art

Vintage poetry book on wooden platform

Dare to traverse the entire spectrum of poetic forms, from the commonplace to the extraordinary?

Venture from the quintessential Sonnet to the elusive Mistress Bradstreet stanza, right through to the daunting complexity of Cro Cumaisc Etir Casbairdni Ocus Lethrannaigecht.

For those with a zeal to encounter the full breadth of poetry’s forms, this invitation is yours.

Start exploring the vast universe of poetic ingenuity with our comprehensive array of poetry forms right now!