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A brief narrative in prose or verse that illustrates a moral or teaches a lesson, usually in which animals or inanimate objects are personified with human feelings and motivations.
Sidelight: Fables in which animals speak and act as humans are sometimes called beast fables. Beast Epics are longer narratives, often satirical, written in mock-epic form.
(Compare Allegory, Aphorism, Apologue, Didactic Poetry, Epigram, Gnome, Proverb)

FABLIAU (FAB-lee-oh)
A ribald and often cynical tale in verse, especially popular in the Middle Ages. Boccaccio's Decameron, Balzac's Droll Stories, and Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, contain examples of fabliaux.

(See Jongleur, Trouvere)

FACETIAE (fuh-SEE-shee-uh)
Witty or humorous writings or remarks.

See Hamartia

An extra unaccented syllable at the end of an iambic or anapestic line of poetry, often used in blank verse, for example:

To be | or not | to be, | that is | the ques | tion

(Compare Anacrusis)

A rhyme occurring on an unaccented final syllable, as in dining and shining or motion and ocean. Feminine rhymes are double or disyllabic rhymes and are common in the heroic couplet, as in the opening lines of Goldsmith's "Retaliation: A Poem":
Of old, when Scarron his companions invited
Each guest brought his dish, and the feast was united,
(Contrast Masculine Rhyme)

A type of Latin occasional poem, much of it personal invective with a lack of moral or sexual restraints, commonly extemporized at rustic weddings in Fescennia, Rome, and other ancient Italian cities.

(See also Epithalamium, Prothalamium)

The use of words, phrases, symbols, and ideas in such as way as to evoke mental images and sense impressions. Figurative language is often characterized by the use of figures of speech, elaborate expressions, sound devices, and syntactic departures from the usual order of literal language.

See Alliteration, Assonance, Consonance, Euphony, Resonance, Sound Devices

A mode of expression in which words are used out of their literal meaning or out of their ordinary use in order to add beauty or emotional intensity or to transfer the poet's sense impressions by comparing or identifying one thing with another that has a meaning familiar to the reader. Some important figures of speech are: simile, metaphor, personification, hyperbole, and symbol.
Sidelight: Some rhetoricians have classified over 200 separate figures of speech, but many are so similar that differences of interpretation often make their classification an arbitrary judgment. How they are classified, or "labeled," however, is secondary to the importance of construing their effect correctly.
Sidelight: Figures of speech are also a means of concentration; they enable the poet to convey an image with the connotative power of a few words, where a great many would otherwise be required.
(See also Trope)

An archaic term for the division of a poem, i.e., a stanza or canto.

See Form

A unit of rhythm or meter; the division in verse of a group of
syllables, one of which is long or accented. For example, the line,
"The boy | stood on | the burn | ing deck," has four iambic metrical feet. The fundamental components of the foot are the arsis and the thesis. The most common poetic feet used in English verse are the iamb, anapest, trochee, dactyl, and spondee, while in classical verse there are twenty-eight different feet.

The other metrical feet are the amphibrach, antibacchius, antispast, bacchius, choriamb, cretic, diiamb, dispondee, dochmius, molossus, proceleusmatic, pyrrhic, and tribrach, plus two variations of the ionic, four variations of the epitrite, and four variations of the paeon. The structure of a poetic foot does not necessarily correspond to word divisions, but is determined in context by the feet which surround it.

Sidelight: A line of verse may or may not be written in identical feet; variations within a line are common. Consequently, the classification of verse as iambic, anapestic, trochaic, etc., is determined by the foot which is dominant in the line.
Sidelight: To help his young son remember them, Coleridge wrote the poem, "Metrical Feet."
(See Dipody)
(See also Scan, Scansion)

The arrangement or method used to convey the content, such as free verse, ballad, haiku, etc. In other words, the "way-it-is-said." A variably interpreted term, however, it sometimes applies to details within the composition of a text, but is probably used most often in reference to the structural characteristics of a work as it compares to (or differs from) established modes of conventionalized arrangements.
Sidelight: The form of a poem which follows a set pattern of rhyme scheme, stanza form, and refrain (if there is one), is called a fixed form, examples of which include: ballade, limerick, pantoum, rondeau, sestina, sonnet, triolet, and villanelle. Used in this sense, form is closely related to genre.
Sidelight: While familiarity and practice with established forms is essential to learning the craft, a poet needn't be slavishly bound by them; a great poet masters techniques, experiments, and extends his or her imaginative creativity to new boundaries.
(Compare Diction, Motif, Persona, Style, Texture, Tone)

A poem created from prose found in a non-poetic context, such as advertising copy, brochures, newspapers, product labels, etc. The lines are arbitrarily rearranged into a form patterned on the rhythm and appearance of poetry.

An iambic line of fourteen syllables, or seven feet, widely used in English poetry in the middle of the 16th century.
Sidelight: If two fourteeners are split into hemistichs to form a quatrain of alternating tetrameter and trimeter lines with a rhyme scheme of xbyb, they become ballad meter.
(See Heptameter, Poulter's Measure, Septenarius)

A fluid form which conforms to no set rules of traditional versification. The free in free verse refers to the freedom from fixed patterns of meter and rhyme, but writers of free verse employ familiar poetic devices such as assonance, alliteration, imagery, caesura, figures of speech etc., and their rhythmic effects are dependent on the syllabic cadences emerging from the context. The term is often used in its French language form, vers libre. Walt Whitman's "By the Bivouac's Fitful Flame," is an example of a poem written in free verse.
Sidelight: Although as ancient as Anglo-Saxon verse, free verse was first employed "officially" by French poets of the Symbolist movement and became the prevailing poetic form at the climax of Romanticism. In the 20th century it was the chosen medium of the Imagists and was widely adopted by American and English poets.
Sidelight: One of the characteristics that distinguish free verse from rhythmical prose is that free verse has line breaks which divide the content into uneven rhythmical units. The liberation from metrical regularity allows the poet to select line breaks appropriate to the intended sense of the text, as well as to shape the white space on the page for visual effect.
Sidelight: Free verse enjoys a greater potential for visual arrangement than is possible in metrical verse. Free verse poets can structure the relationships between white space and textual elements to indicate pause, distance, silence, emotion, and other effects.
Sidelight: Poorly written free verse can be viewed simply as prose with arbitrary line breaks. Well-written free verse can approach a proximity to the representation of living experience.
(See also Polyphonic Prose, Polyrhythmic Verse)

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Glossary Home Previous Letter Next Letter Bob's Byway Home

As children gath'ring pebbles on the shore,
Or if I would delight my private hours
With music or with poem, where so soon
As in our native language can I find
That solace?

---John Milton

Will change the pebbles of our puddly thought
To orient pearls.

---Divine Weekes and Workes, Du Bartas