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a line of twelve syllables; the standard metre of French poetry. The equivalent in
English verse is the iambic hexameter.
That like/ a wound/ed snake/ drags its/ slow length/ along/

a metrical foot consisting of two unstressed syllables and one stressed, indicated
~ ~ /
~ ~ /
~ ~ /
I am mon/arch of all/ I survey/

fundamentally a song that tells a story. The folk ballad is traditionally an
anonymous poem that has been passed on through oral tradition (spoken aloud
or sung) from generation to generation or by travelling entertainers like bards or
minstrels. A literary ballad is one that is not anonymous, but is written down by a
poet as it is composed, and is not necessarily meant to be sung.
Most ballads tend to follow these elements: the beginning is often abrupt; the
language is usually simple; the story is told through dialogue and action; the
theme is often tragic; and there is often a refrain, or chorus.
ballad stanza
a quatrain in alternately four- and three-stress iambic lines, with the rhyme
scheme abcb or, less frequently, abab. When the same stanza occurs in hymns,
it is called common measure or English hymnal.
blank verse
Lines of iambic pentameter which are unrhymed (hence "blank"). Not to be
confused with free verse. See also heroic couplet
a break or pause within a line of poetry, dictated by the natural rhythm of the
language and usually (but not always) indicated by a punctuation mark. If near
the beginning of the line, the break is called an initial caesura; if near the middle,
medial; if near the end, terminal.
omission of the last syllable or syllables in a regular metrical line; most often
done in trochaic or dactylic verse to avoid monotony (see this example).
a four line stanza of two couplets, witty, deft and epigrammatic. Thus:
Cecil B. de Mille
Rather against his will
Was persuaded to leave Moses
Out of the Wars of the Roses

closed couplet
two metrical lines whose sense and grammatical structure conclude at the end of
the second line. See also open couplet.
a metrical foot consisting of one stressed syllable followed by two unstressed:
~ ~
~ ~
/ ~ ~
Mournfully, / lift her up/ tenderly/

dramatic monologue

a kind of lyric poem in which a single fictional or historical character other than
the poet speaks to a silent audience of one or more persons. Such poems
reveal not the poets own thoughts but the mind of the impersonated character,
whose personality is revealed unwittingly: this distinguishes a dramatic
monologue from a lyric, while the implied presence of an auditor distinguishes it
from a soliloquy.
There are many major examples of this form in English, including Brownings My
Last Duchess, T. S. Eliots The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, and Carol Ann
Duffys The Captain of the 1964 Top of the Form team and Havisham.
end-stopped lines
those where the sense and the metre come together in a slight pause at the end
of the line, allowing a moment for assimilation
occurs when the sense of a line of verse runs on into the next line without a
grammatical break. Such a line is known as a run-on line
epic poem
usually very long (of several thousand lines). It relates the story of a hero and his
struggle against impossible odds.
This is one of the oldest forms of poetry, and was usually recited orally by
professional storytellers or singers over several nights, often at a court or
feasting table.
Common features of the epic poem include: a central figure of heroic calibre;
perilous journeys; various misadventures; a strong element of the supernatural;
fairly long passages of narrative or dialogue; elaborate greetings; epic similes
and a lofty tone
feminine ending
an extra unstressed syllable at the end of a line of verse. Common in blank
feminine rhyme
rhyme consisting of words of two syllables a stressed syllable followed by an
unstressed syllable. For example,
follow / hollow; mending / sending; river / sliver

The unit of metre in verse. A foot is the combination of a strong stress and the
associated weak stress or stresses which make up the recurrent metric unit of a
The commonest feet in English prosody are: iamb, trochee, dactyl and anapaest,
in that order.
There are four feet in Journeys/ end in/ lovers/ meetings
free verse or vers libre
has no regular metre, line length or rhyme, and often depends on natural speech
Not to be confused with blank verse , which has a definite structure.

a Japanese verse form, consisting of seventeen syllables in three lines of five,

seven and five syllables respectively. Such a poem expresses a single idea,
image or feeling. The Japanese poet BASH (1644-94) was an especially gifted
user of the form.
heroic couplet
rhymed decasyllables, nearly always in iambic pentameters rhymed in pairs: one
of the commonest metrical forms in English poetry but of uncertain origin.
Chaucer was the first poet to make extensive and successful use of this verse
form. The 15th century poets used the couplet occasionally, but it did not become
firmly established until the 16th and 17th century. See open couplet, closed
a line of six verse feet. (an alexandrine is a line of six iambic feet.)
a metrical foot consisting of one unstressed syllable and one stressed one:
/ ~
/ ~
As market days are wearing late.

iambic pentameter
a line of five iambic feet :

The cur/few tolls/ the knell/ of part/ing day/

a particular kind of poem, usually not longer than 50 or 60 lines, and often only
between a dozen and thirty lines. It usually expresses the feelings and thoughts
of a single speaker (not necessarily the poet himself) in a personal and
subjective fashion. The range and variety of lyric verse is immense, and lyric
poetry, which is to be found in all literatures, comprises the bulk of all poetry.
masculine rhyme
rhyme consisting of single stressed syllables For example,
Core / bore / store; Heat / seat / feet

the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables in verse. In English verse, metre
is based upon stresses, rather than the number of syllables. The unit of metre is
the foot.
narrative verse
a narrative poem tells a story. The three main kinds are ballad, metrical
romance and epic, but there are very many narrative poems which cannot be
easily classified.
a lyric poem, usually of some length. The main features are an elaborate stanzastructure, a marked formality and stateliness in tone and style, and lofty

sentiments and thoughts. Two basic kinds can be distinguished: the public or
Pindaric ode, used for ceremonial occasions like funerals, birthdays and state
events, and the private or Horatian ode, which celebrates intense, personal
occasions and is inclined to be reflective.
open couplet
a couplet in which the sense is not completed in the second line, but which is
carried forward into the third or fourth line, or (rarely) several.
the repetition of the final consonant sound but without the correspondence of the
final vowel sound.
a line of five verse feet:
Great gifts/ are guiles/ and look/ for gifts/ again

the assumed identity or fictional I ... assumed by a writer in a literary work; thus
the speaker in a lyric poem, or the narrator in a fictional narrative. In a dramatic
monologue, the speaker is evidently not the real author but an invented or
historical character. Many modern critics, though, insist further that the speaker
in any poem should be referred to as the persona to avoid the unreliable
assumption that we are listening to the true voice of the poet. One reason for this
is that a given poet may write different poems in which the voices are of distinct
kinds; another is that the identification of the speaking voice with that of the real
poet would confuse imaginative composition with autobiography.
Petrarchan sonnet
This, the most common type of sonnet, consists of an octave (eight lines)
rhyming abbaabba and a sestet (six lines) rhyming cdecde or cdcdcd, or in any
combination except a rhyming couplet. This octave develops a thought, and the
sestet is a comment on it, a completion of it, or a volta ('turn') on the idea.
This form is also called the Italian sonnet.
poetic diction
usually refers to that rather particular kind of language and artificial arrangement
employed by many poets in the 18th C, who were guided by the theory and
practice of neoclassicism.
a stanza of four lines, rhymed or unrhymed. The commonest of all stanzaic forms
in European poetry. Most rhyming quatrains fall into the following patterns: abab
, xbyb, aabb, abba or aaxa
Having each succeeding unit in a poetic structure longer than the preceding one.
Applied to a line, it means that each successive word is a syllable longer that its
predecessor. Applied to a stanza, each successive line is longer by either a
syllable or a metrical foot. Rhopalic verse is also called wedge verse.

To our home.
run-on line
see enjambment
the identity, in rhyming words, of the last stressed vowel and of all the speech
sounds following that vowel: late / fate ; follow / ho llow
See also rhyme scheme.
Shakespearean sonnet
a fourteen line poem in iambic pentameters (with subtle variations on the iambic
pattern) consisting of three quatrains (four lines each), each quatrain with a
different idea building upon the one before it, and a couplet (two lines), with the
conclusion. The rhyme scheme is normally abab cdcd efef gg or abab cddc
effe gg.
This type of sonnet is so named because Shakespeare was its most prolific
practitioner. It is also referred to as the English sonnet.
a lyric poem of fourteen lines in iambic pentameter.
The sonnet, in its Petrarchan form, came into the English language via Sir
Thomas Wyatt and the Earl of Surrey early in the 16th century. Surrey established
the English rhyming scheme abab cdcd efef gg that was the most used form of
the sonnet in England until the later 16thC.
(of a narrative poem) corresponds to the narrator of a prose passage.
Spenserian sonnet
A variant of the English sonnet, developed by and named after Edmund Spenser;
in which each quatrain is linked to the next by a continuous rhyme: abab bcbc
cdcd ee
a group of lines of verse. It may be of any number but more than twelve is
uncommon; four is the commonest. A stanza pattern is determined by the
number of lines, the number of feet in each line, and the metrical and rhyming
See also verse paragraph and verset.
stichic poetry
(pronounced "stikik); a form of poetry where an indefinite number of lines follow
on continuously without being broken into stanzas; often used for long narrative
one of two or more metrically corresponding series of lines forming divisions of a
lyric poem. Hence occasionally used with reference to modern poetry as
equivalent to stanza.
strophic poetry
poetry where the lines are arranged into stanzas. Don't use this term in your
analysis, because it really isn't helpful!

a line of four verse feet.

a metrical foot consisting of one stressed syllable followed by an unstressed
/ ~
Fare thee /well! and /if for /ever

Most trochaic lines lack the final syllable the technical term for this is
catalectic thus:
/ ~
/ ~
/ ~
Tiger! /Tiger!/burning /bright
/ ~
/ ~
/ ~
In the /forest/of the /night

properly, a composition written in metre - in other words, poetry.
It is also the name given to a group of lines of a hymn, and is popularly misused
for stanza .
verse paragraph
a group of lines (often in blank verse ) which forms a unit. Milton was good at
several long lines forming a group or "paragraph", being characterised by a
strong rhythm and many figurative and rhetorical devices. Found in the poetry of
T S Eliot, D H Lawrence and Walt Whitman, among others.
the standard form is five three-lined stanzas (tercets) and a final quatrain; the first
and third lines of the first tercet recur alternately in the following stanzas as a
refrain and form a final couplet. For example, 'Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good
Night' by Dylan Thomas.