The triolet is a very brief, tightly rhymed poem that, like the pantoum, takes part of its structure from the repetition of entire lines. A triolet is eight lines, as follows:
1st line A
2nd line B
3rd line a (rhymes with A)
4th line A (entire 1st line repeated)
5th line a (rhymes with A)
6th line b (rhymes with B)
7th line A (entire 1st line repeated)
8th line B (entire 2nd line repeated)
Each line is usually iambic tetrameter, but modern poets have varied the line length and often make subtle changes in the repeated lines, whose meanings evolve as a reader moves through the poem.
Triolets were originally written in the French of the Middle Ages. The first triolets in English were prayers written by Patrick Carey, a Benedictine monk of the 17th century. Robert Bridges, an English poet and critic who later was named Poet Laureate and saw to the publication of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poems, reintroduced the triolet into English at the end of the 19th century. Since its brief vogue back then, only a few poets have written triolets—most contemporary poets shy away from its extreme repetition and limited rhymes.