Patterns of Unpopular Forms – Day 2: The Rubaiyat

Many people have heard the name Robert Frost in regards to poetry. If I were to ask several people what their favorite Robert Frost poem, the response would yield two main poems, one of which is “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” (I’ll let you guess the other response). The poem itself is in a very simple form, one that you might never guess is Persian in origin. It is called a Rubaiyat. It is a simple, but powerful form that lends itself to meter and repeating rhyme.

“Popularized into English by Edward FitzGerald’s inventive translation of the stanzas of the Persian poet Omar Khayyám” (Miller 70) the Rubaiyat is made up of quatrains, normally iambic (sometimes tetrameter, but often pentameter), where lines 1, 2, and 4 are rhymed. Here is an example of the pattern:


 

U /  U /  U /  U / U / –  a

U /  U /  U /  U / U / –  a

U /  U /  U /  U / U / – x, or b

U /  U /  U /  U / U / – a


Robert Frost’s poem is a variation of the form called an interlocking rubaiyat. I will post his famous poem for you to enjoy. Try the form for yourself!


Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

By Robert Frost

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.

 

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

 

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

 

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

 

robert-frost
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One comment on “Patterns of Unpopular Forms – Day 2: The Rubaiyat

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