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In modern usage, a hymn of praise, joy, or triumph.

(See also Panegyric)

In classical poetry, a metrical foot consisting of four syllables, one long and three short. The position of the long syllable can be varied in four ways, thus the foot can be called a primus, secundus, tertius or quartus paeon.

(Contrast Epitrite)

A word, verse, or sentence in which the sequence of letters is the same forward and backward, as the word, madam, or the sentence, "A man, a plan, a canal: Panama." A variation in which the sequence of words is the same forward and backward is called a word-order palindrome.
Sidelight: The invention of the palindrome has been attributed to Sotades, a 3rd century Greek writer of lascivious verse, thus the term sotadic is used in reference to palindromes and/or poetry of a scurrilous nature.
PALINODE (PAL-uh-node) or PALINODY (PAL-uh-no-dee)
A poem in which the poet contradicts or retracts something written in an earlier poem.

PANEGYRIC (pan-uh-JEER-ik)
A speech or poem of elaborate praise for some distinguished person, object, or event -- similar to, but more formal than an encomium.

(Compare Epinicion, Eulogy)
(See also Hymn, Paean)

A poem in a fixed form, consisting of a varying number of four-line stanzas with lines rhyming alternately; the second and fourth lines of each stanza are repeated to form the first and third lines of the succeeding stanza, with the first and third lines of the first stanza forming the second and fourth of the last stanza, but in reverse order, so that the opening and closing lines of the poem are identical.
Sidelight: The pantoum is derived from the Malayan pantun, which follows the same rhyme and line patterns but differs in some other respects. In the pantun, which is traditionally improvised, the theme or meaning is conveyed in the second two lines of each quatrain, while the first two lines present an image or allusion which may or may not have an obvious connection with the theme.
A statement which contains seemingly contradictory elements or appears contrary to common sense, yet can be seen as perhaps, or indeed, true when viewed from another angle, such as Alexander Pope's statement, in An Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot, that a literary critic could "damn with faint praise."
Sidelight: A paradox can be in a situation as well as a statement. The effectiveness of a paradox lies in the startling impact of its apparent absurdity on the reader, which serves to highlight the truth of the statement. An oxymoron is similar to a paradox, but more compact.
Sidelight: Sometimes an entire poem centers on a paradoxical situation or statement, as in Richard Lovelace's "To Lucasta, Going to the Wars."
(See also Catachresis, Enallage, Malapropism, Mixed Metaphor, Synesthesia)
(Compare Hudibrastic Verse, Satire)

The repetition of syntactical similarities in passages closely connected for rhetorical effect, as in Pope's An Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot:
Happy my studies, when by these approved!
Happier their author, when by these beloved!
The repetitive structure, which is commonly used in elevated prose as well as poetry, lends wit or emphasis to the meanings of the separate clauses, thus being particularly effective in antithesis.
Sidelight: Sometimes the use of parallel structures is extended throughout an entire poem.
(Compare Anadiplosis, Anaphora, Echo, Epistrophe, Epizeuxis,
                 Incremental Repetition, Polysyndeton, Refrain, Stornello Verses

Of or related to poetry, after Parnassus, a mountain in Greece with two summits; one summit was consecrated to Bacchus, the other to Apollo and the Muses, thus Parnassus was regarded as the seat of poetry and music.

(See also Afflatus, Helicon, Numen, Pierian)

A ludicrous imitation, usually intended for comic effect but often for ridicule, of both the style and content of another work. The humor depends upon the reader's familiarity with the original.
Sidelight: Sir John Suckling's poem, "A Ballad upon a Wedding," is a parody of an epithalamium.
(See also Allusion, Antiphrasis, Burlesque, Hudibrastic Verse,
                 Irony, Lampoon, Mock-Epic, Pasquinade, Satire
(Compare Cento, Pastiche)

A play on words in which the same word is used in different senses or words with slight differences in sound are used in opposition to each other for a rhetorical contrast; a pun.

(Compare Antanaclasis, Syllepsis)

A word derived from or related to another word; also, the form in one language for a word in another, as in the English canal for the Latin canalis.
Sidelight: In 1877, the Italian astronomer, Schiaparelli, charted a number of linear surface features he observed on the planet Mars. He thought them to be natural waterways formed by erosion due the action of a flowing liquid and termed them canali, Italian for "channels." Mistakenly translated into English as "canals," this led to a popular conception of artificial irrigation canals constructed by Martian inhabitants to carry water from the polar caps to the rest of the planet, an idea which persisted until finally disproved by the Mariner spacecraft flights in the 1970's.
(Compare Antonym, Homonym, Synonym)

A lampoon or satirical writing.
Sidelight: The term is named for Pasquino, a 15th century Italian tradesman known for his caustic wit. It was once customary to affix satiric notices to a mutilated statue found near his shop. At the other end of Rome was an ancient statue called Marforio to which replies to the pasquinades were posted.
(See also Burlesque, Hudibrastic Verse, Parody )

An artistic effort that imitates or caricatures the work of another artist.
Sidelight: In a pastiche, the imitation of another work is an end in itself. Imitation with the intent to mock the original is a parody.
(Compare Cento)

See under Elegy

Poetry idealizing the lives of shepherds and country folk, although the term is often used loosely to include any poem featuring a rural aspect.
Sidelight: "Pastor" is the Latin word for shepherd. In classical poetry, the pastoral conventions featured a shepherd's meditations on themes such as nature or romance. From another recurrent theme, the expression of grief over the death of a fellow shepherd, emerged the long-enduring conventions of the pastoral elegy.
(See also Arcadia, Bucolic, Eclogue, Georgic, Idyll, Madrigal)

A form of pastoral poetry associated chiefly with French writers of the 12th and 13th centuries. Typically, the narrator, identified as a knight, recounts his love affair with a shepherdess.

The ascribing of human traits or feelings to inanimate nature for eloquent effect, especially feelings in sympathy with those expressed or experienced by the writer, as a "cruel wind," a "pitiless storm," or the lines from Shelley's Adonais:
        Pale Ocean in unquiet slumber lay,
        And the Wild Winds flew round, sobbing in their dismay.
Sidelight: The term was coined in 1856 by John Ruskin, an English painter, art critic and essayist. While his intent was derogatory, the term is now applied in a neutral sense as a less formal type of personification.
A scene or passage in a work evoking pity, sorrow, or compassion in the audience or reader, such as the poignant summation of the old man's grief in Wordsworth's Michael:
          Many and many a day he thither went,
          And never lifted up a single stone.
Sidelight: The use of understatement (meiosis) is often an effective way of achieving pathos.
(Compare Bathos)

Poetry in which the letters, words, and lines are configured in such a way that the poem's printed appearance on the page forms a recognizable outline related to the subject, thus conveying or extending the meaning of the words.
Sidelight: Also referred to as altar poems, carmina figurata, and shaped verse, pattern poems are of ancient origin, dating back as far as the 3rd century BC. In the 16th and 17th centuries they were popularly known as emblem poems, an example of which is George Herbert's "Easter Wings."
Sidelight: Pattern poetry differs from concrete poetry mainly in that it
retains its meaning when read aloud, apart from its typography.
(Compare Occasional Poem, Visual Poetry)

See Caesura and Metrical Pause

PENTAMETER (pen-TAM-uh-tur)
A line of verse consisting of five metrical feet.

(See Meter)

Also called true rhyme or exact rhyme, a rhyme which meets the following requirements: (1) an exact correspondence in the vowel sound and, in words ending in consonants, the sound of the final consonant, (2) a difference in the consonant sounds preceding the vowel, and (3) a similarity of accent on the rhyming syllable(s).
Sidelight: A rhyme in which the perfect correspondence of sound is extended to include the consonant preceding the vowel, thus resulting in an identical pronunciation, but with different meaning and spelling, as in bear and bare, is said to be enriched and is called rich rhyme or rime riche (reem REESH). If the sound and spelling are the same, but the sense differs, as in blow (air movement) and blow (a sudden shock), it is called equivocal rhyme or rime equivoque (reem eh-kwee-VOHK). Both of these are types of identical rhymes. However, the terms rich rhyme, equivocal rhyme, and identical rhyme are misleading because, in a poetic sense, they are not considered to be legitimate rhymes.
(See also End Rhyme, Feminine Rhyme, Internal Rhyme, Masculine Rhyme )

PERIPHRASIS (puh-RIF-ruh-sis)
The substitution of an elaborate phrase in place of a simple word or expression, as "fragrant beverage drawn from China's herb" for tea. Other examples include James Thomson's "the bleating kind," for sheep, in The Seasons, and Milton's "he who walked the waves," for Jesus in Lycidas.
Sidelight: A periphrasis may be used as a euphemism as well as an embellishment. It can also be used for humorous effect.
(Compare Epithet, Kenning)

PERSONA (pur-SOH-nuh)
The speaker or voice of a literary work, i.e., who is doing the talking. Thus persona is the "I" of a narrative or the implied speaker of a lyric poem.
Sidelight: Sometimes the author of a poem identifies a created character as the speaker-- but in the absence of a specific attribution the term persona is applied in a neutral sense, since it should not be automatically assumed that a creative work directly reflects the personal experiences or views of the poet. The use of an identified persona precludes a potential ambiguity and enables poets to give expression to things they would prefer not to have attributed to their own person.
Sidelight: In Robert Browning's "My Last Duchess," the persona is the Duke of Ferrara. In John Keats' "Ode to a Nightingale," the persona is not identified, so it is up to the reader to infer whether it is the author himself or a speaker conceived by the poet for a particular effect.
Sidelight: The term, voice, while often used synonymously with speaker or persona, can also refer to a pervasive presence behind the fictitious voices that speak in a work, or to Aristotle's "ethos," the element in a work that creates a perception by the audience or reader of the moral qualities of the speaker or a character.
(Compare Content, Diction, Form, Motif, Style, Texture, Tone)

A type of metaphor in which distinctive human characteristics, e.g., honesty, emotion, volition, etc., are attributed to an animal, object, or idea, as "the haughty lion surveyed his realm" or "my car was happy to be washed" or "'Fate frowned on his endeavors." Personification is commonly used in allegory.
Sidelight: "The Cloud" is personified in Shelley's magnificent poem.
(Compare Apostrophe, Pathetic Fallacy, Prosopopeia)

An Italian sonnet form perfected by Petrarch (1304-1374), characterized by an octave with a rhyme scheme of abbaabba and a sestet rhyming variously, but usually cdecde or cdccdc. The octave typically introduces the theme or problem, with the sestet providing the resolution.
Sidelight: Longfellow's "Divina Commedia" and Wyatt's "My Galley" are examples of Petrarchan sonnets.
(See Volta)

Sound suggestiveness; the association of particular word-sounds with common areas of meaning so that other words of similar sounds come to be associated with those meanings. Also called sound symbolism, it is utilized by poets to achieve sounds appropriate to their significance.
Sidelight: An example of word sounds in English with a common area of meaning is a group beginning with gl, all having reference to light, which include: gleam, glare, glitter, glimmer, glint, glisten, glossy and glow.
(See also Mimesis, Onomatopoeia, Sound Devices)

The term applied to literature dealing sympathetically with the adventures of clever and amusing rogues.

PIERIAN (py-EAR-ee-un)
Of or relating to learning or poetry, after the region of Pieria in ancient Macedonia which once worshipped the Muses.

(See also Parnassian)

In Greek literature, a poem designed for song, of various meters and of lofty style, patterned after the odes of the classical Greek poet, Pindar. Though metrically complex, and varying from one ode to another, Pindaric verse, also called Dorian or choric odes, regularly consists of a similarly-structured strophe and an antistrophe, followed by an epode of different length and structure, as in Jonson's " To the Immortal Memory and Friendship. . . . "
Sidelight: Since the only examples of Pindar's writing which survived intact were epinicions, his name is enduringly associated with that genre of poetry.
(See also Horatian Ode, Melic Verse, Sapphic Verse)

The frequency of sound waves which the listener perceives as higher or lower. Along with intensity and length (duration), it is one of the three tonal qualities of sound.

(See also Accent)

See Paronomasia, Pun

Named after the open cluster in the constellation Taurus, a group of 16th century French poets who sought to restore the level of French poetry from its decline in the Middle Ages to classical standards, as well as to enhance the richness of the French language.

Redundancy; the use of more words than necessary to express the sense of a thing, but which often stress or enrich the thought, such as, "I touched it with my own hands" or "a tiny little acorn."

(Compare Tautology)

PLOCE (PLOH-see or PLAW-see)
The general term for a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is repeated in close proximity within a clause or line, usually for emphasis or for extended significance, as "a wife who was a wife indeed" or "there are medicines and medicines."
Sidelight: Closely related figures include epanalepsis: the repetition of a word after intervening words, epizeuxis: the repetition of a word with no other words intervening, antanaclasis: the repetition of a word with a shift in the meaning, and polyptoton: the repetition of a word with a change in its grammatical form.
A rhythmic expression of feelings or ideas, often using metaphor, meter and rhyme.

(See also Poet, Poetry)

Poetry created by adherents of the Dadaistic movement, composed by writing down, without alteration, an illogical chance association of words, free of the limitations of rational and artistic thought processes.

POESY or POESIE (PO-uh-see)
A poem or a group of poems, i.e., poetry. The term also refers to the art of writing poems, often used in the sense of trite or sentimentalized poetic writing.

A writer of poetry; one who learns and creatively practices the art of versification, to transfer words and meaning into the heightened expression of poetry, using selective arrangements of syntax, sound, forms, rhythm, and imagery.
Sidelight: The successful poet must be a diligent student of language -- sensitive to sounds and rhythms -- and a student of technique, through the knowledge of what forms of expression have worked effectively for other poets, past and present, in order to develop, master, and expand his or her art.
Sidelight: In "The Philosophy of Composition," Poe wrote, "The fact is, that originality (unless in minds of very unusual force) is by no means a matter, as some believe, of impulse or intuition. In general, to be found, it must be elaborately sought. . . . "
Sidelight: The poet does not have to be the speaker of a poem, but can create a persona which is perceived to be distinct from the writer.
(See also Bard, Metrist, Poetaster, Sonneteer, Versifier, Wordsmith)

POETASTER (POH-it-aster)
An inadequate writer of verses; an inferior poet.

(See also Doggerel, Poeticule, Rhymester, Versifier)

See under Diction

While most often used to describe the poet's liberty to depart from prosaic diction and standard syntactical structures to achieve a desired effect, poetic license also includes the freedom for creative deviations from historical fact in the subject matter, such as the use of anachronisms.
Sidelight: The ultimate measure of poetic license is determined by its effectiveness.
Literary study or criticism on the nature and laws of poetic theory and practice; also, a treatise on poetry or aesthetics.

(See also Prosody)

A dabbler in poetry; a poetaster.

(See also Doggerel, Rhymester, Versifier)

A poet honored for his artistic achievement or selected as most representative of his country or area; in England, a court official appointed by the sovereign, whose original duties included the composition of odes in honor of the sovereign's birthday and in celebration of State occasions of importance.
Sidelight: The term comes from an old custom of presenting laurel wreaths to university graduates in rhetoric and poetry. In France, distinguished writers are crowned with a wreath when honored by election to the Académie française.
(See Occasional Poem)

A heightened literary expression cast in lines, rather than sentences, in which language is used in a concentrated blend of sound, meaning, and imagery to create an emotional response; essentially rhythmic, it is usually metrical and frequently structured in stanzas.
Sidelight: Since concepts of the nature of poetry differ widely, no definition can adequately distinguish between what is poetry and what is not.
Sidelight: Although the potential readership for poetry has always been limited, the composition of poetry is recognized as a difficult achievement and eminent poets are universally esteemed.
A portion of the South Transept of Westminster Abbey which contains the remains of many famous literary figures, including Chaucer and Spenser, and also displays memorials to others who are buried elsewhere.
Sidelight: In 1400, Geoffrey Chaucer was the first to be buried there. At that time it was not designated for literary figures and Chaucer was so honored because he had been Clerk of Works to the palace of Westminster.
Sidelight: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was the first American poet to have a memorial bust placed in the Poets' Corner.
A type of free verse using characteristic devices of verse such as alliteration and assonance, but presented in a form resembling prose.

(Compare Sprung Rhythm)

POLYPTOTON (puh-LIP-tuh-tahn)
A figure of speech in which a word is repeated in a different form of the same root or stem, as Shakespeare's "then thou, whose shadow shadows doth make bright," or repeated with its word class changed into a different part of speech, as Tennyson's "my own heart's heart, and my ownest own, farewell."
The juxtaposition of common roots with different endings in a polyptoton produces a rhyme-like effect -- although not a true rhyme, it is sometimes referred to as a grammatical rhyme.
Sidelight: Similar to the polyptoton, but without involving repetition, is the anthimeria, frequently used by Shakespeare, which turns a word from one part of speech into another, usually in the making of verbs out of nouns, as in, "I'll unhair my head." Cummings boldly turned a verb and an adjective into nouns in the line, "they sowed their isn't they reaped their same."
(See also Antanaclasis, Epanalepsis, Epizeuxis, Ploce)

A type of free verse characterized by a variety of rhythms, often non-integrated or contrasting.

A word consisting of several syllables. It is most often applied to words of more than three syllables.

(See also Disyllable, Monosyllable, Trisyllable)

POLYSYNDETON (pah-lee-SIN-duh-tahn)
The repetition of a number of conjunctions in close succession, as in, "we have men and arms and planes and tanks."

(Compare Anadiplosis, Anaphora, Echo, Epistrophe, Epizeuxis,
                 Incremental Repetition, Parallelism, Refrain, Stornello Verses
(Contrast Asyndeton)

An artificial word made up of parts of others, so called because of two meanings combined in one word, as in Lewis Carroll's, "Jabberwocky," in which he combined lithe and slimy into slithy, or the word smog, formed from smoke and fog.

(Compare Neologism, Nonce Word, Ricochet Words)

A meter consisting of alternate Alexandrines and fourteeners, i.e., twelve-syllable and fourteen-syllable lines, a common measure in Elizabethan times.
The name derives from the former practice of dealers in poultry products, then called poulters, of sometimes giving one or two extra eggs to the dozen.
(See also Heptameter, Septenarius)

In classical poetry, a metrical foot consisting of four short syllables.
Sidelight: The proceleusmatic foot is sometimes called a tetrabrach.
PROCEPHALIC (pro-see-FAL-ik)
In classical prosody, having an excess of one syllable in the first foot of a line of verse.

(See also Anacrusis)
(Contrast Hypercatalectic)

PROLEPSIS (proh-LEP-sus)
The application of an adjective to a noun in anticipation of the action of the verb, as in, "while plows turn the furrowed field."

(Compare Syllepsis)

Ordinary language people use in speaking or writing, as distinguished from the heightened language of poetry. In prose, the line is not treated as a formal unit, nor does it employ the repetitive patterns of rhythm or meter associated with many forms of poetic expression.
Sidelight: The cadence of artistic or rhythmical prose is not pre-established, but emerges from the rhythm of thought.
A genre in the poetic spectrum between free verse and prose. It is distinguished by the poetic characteristics of rhythmic, aural, and syntactic repetition, compression of thought, sustained intensity, and patterned structure, but is set on the page in a continuous sequence of sentences as in prose, without line breaks.

PROSODY (PRAH-suh-dee)
The systematic study of versification -- of the art through which ordinary language is modified, extended, concentrated, and intensified into the heightened literary expression of poetry. Syntax, forms, meters, rhyme, rhythms, sound devices, figures of speech, repetitive devices, and all other artistic materials available to the poet fall within the scope of the prosodic domain.

PROSOPOPEIA (pruh-soh-puh-PEE-uh)
A figure of speech in which an imaginary or absent person is represented as speaking.

(Compare Apostrophe, Personification)

A song or poem in honor of a bride and bridegroom before their wedding, such as Spenser's Prothalamion.

(Compare Epithalamium)
(See also Encomium, Fescennine Verses)

A brief, pithy, popular saying or epigram embodying some familiar truth, practical interpretation of experience, or useful thought.

(Compare Allegory, Aphorism, Apologue, Didactic Poetry, Fable, Gnome)

A word play suggesting, with humorous intent, the different meanings of one word or the use of two or more words similar in sound but different in meaning, as in Mark A. Neville's:
Eve was nigh Adam
Adam was naive.
Sidelight: Clench is an obsolete word for pun. John Dryden (1631-1700), in "An Essay on Dramatic Poesy," wrote (referring to Shakespeare): "He is many times flat, insipid; his comic wit degenerating into clenches, his serious swelling into bombast."
(See also Ambiguity, Denotation, Equivoke, Paronomasia)
(Compare Antanaclasis, Syllepsis)

A term used to describe a passage or section which is in marked contrast to the context and style of the rest of the work, by the obvious heightening of language, diction, and figures of speech.

(See also Anticlimax)
(Compare Burlesque)

Common in classic Greek poetry, a metrical foot consisting of two short or unaccented syllables, as in the third foot of:

The SLINGS | and AR | -rows of | out-RA | -geous FOR | -tune

Another name for the pyrrhic is dibrach.


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As sweet and musical
As bright Apollo's lute, strung with his hair,
And when Love speaks, the voice of all the gods
Makes heaven drowsy with the harmony.

---Love's Labour's Lost, Shakespeare

Poetry is the ability to make us see an ordinary object as though we had never seen it before

-- Author unknown