Sestina(redirected from Retrograde cross)
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a fixed verse form consisting of six six-line stanzas, usually unrhymed. The end words of the first stanza recur as end words of the second through fifth stanzas, but in a rotating order: each new stanza repeats the final words of the preceding stanza in the sequence 6–1–5–2–4–3. A three-line envoi is sometimes added which includes all six of the repeated words, one to each hemistich.
Developed by the troubadours, the sestina was introduced into Italian poetry by Petrarch. It was then transmitted to other Renaissance literatures but was never widely used. In Russian, the sestina was employed by L. A. Mei (“Again, again it sounds in my doleful soul”), L. N. Trefolev, V. la. Briusov (“Renunciation”), and M. A. Kuzmin (“I don’t believe the setting sun”). The term “sestina” is sometimes applied to any six-line stanza, in which case the form is called sestina grande.
M. L. GASPAROV