Sestet is the term for a section of a sonnet that is six lines in length. It is from the Italian "sestetto," or "sixth."
Sonnets are poems with 14 lines, and Italian sonnets have a specific pattern that has an octave, a section with 8 lines, and a sestet, the other six lines. The rhyme scheme of an Italian sonnet is ABBAABBA and CDCDCD or CDEEDE. So, the rhyme scheme of the sestet in an Italian sonnet is CDECDE.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning's "How do I Love Thee" is an example of an Italian sonnet, with a sestet. The rhyme scheme of the sestet is CDCECE.
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
Emma Lazarus' "The New Colossus" also is an example of an Italian sonnet, with a sestet. The rhyme scheme is CDCDCD.
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
Literary Terms Examples