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After the odes of the Greek lyric poet, Sappho, a poem with lines of eleven syllables in five feet, of which the first, fourth and fifth feet are trochees, the second a spondee, and the third a dactyl. The Sapphic strophe consists of three Sapphic lines followed by an Adonic.
Sidelight: For an example of Sapphic verse in English poetry, see Isaac Watts' "The Day of Judgment."
(See also Horatian Ode, Ode, Pindaric Verse)

A literary work which exposes and ridicules human vices or folly. Historically perceived as tending toward didacticism, it is usually intended as a moral criticism directed against the injustice or social wrongs. It may be written with witty jocularity or with anger and bitterness.
Sidelight: Satiric poets often utilize irony, hyperbole, understatement, and paradox, as in Pope's An Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot .
Sidelight: Satire is direct when the author is clearly expressing his own opinion, as in Pope's example above, and indirect when embodied in a hypocritical character such as the Pardoner in Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales.
(See also Burlesque, Goliardic Poetry, Hudibrastic Verse, Lampoon, Mock Epic, Parody, Pasquinade)
(Compare Antiphrasis)

To mark off lines of poetry into rhythmic units, or feet, to provide a visual representation of their metrical structure, as illustrated with the following lines from "Verses Supposed to be Written by Alexander Selkirk," by William Cowper (written in anapestic trimeter):
I am mon | arch of all | I survey,
    My right | there is none | to dispute;
From the cen | ter all round | to the sea
    I am lord | of the fowl | and the brute.
(See also Dipodic Verse, Meter, Rhythm)

The analysis and graphic display of a line's rhythm performed by scanning the line to determine its metrical categorization, e.g., iambic trimeter, trochaic octameter, etc., as a way of describing the rhythmical pattern of a poem. Scansion will also show the variations in the meter and the deviations from it, if there are any.
Sidelight: Scansion accounts for syllabic accents and slacks, but does not always differentiate between the relative "weights" of stress, one of the means by which a skillful poet modulates the rhythm for effect.
Sidelight: The scanning process employs symbols on and above the lines to identify the foot divisions, their arsis and thesis, and any internal caesuras the line may contain. Unfortunately, the symbols for the arsis and thesis cannot be shown in this example:
One shade / the more, || one ray / the less,
Had half / impair'd / the name / less grace
Sidelight: By definition, scansion entails the scanning of one line at a time. Roving over, a term suggested for the scanning of Hopkins' sprung rhythm, is a process in which scansion is continued from one line to the next without interruption.
Sidelight: Individual judgments often play a part in the scansion process, since the divisions between feet may be subject to differences of interpretation.
An Old English poet or a poet troubadour of early Teutonic poetry.

(See also Gleeman)

SENRYU (SEN-ree-yoo)
A 3-line unrhymed Japanese poetic form structurally similar to the haiku, but dealing with human rather than physical nature, usually in an ironic or satiric vein.

(See also Tanka)

See Caesura

SEPTENARIUS (sep-tuh-NAR-ee-us)
A verse consisting of seven feet.

(See also Fourteener, Heptameter, Poulter's Measure)

A stanza of seven lines.

(See also Rhyme Royal)

A lover's song or poem of the evening.

(Compare Aubade)

Verses ending with the same word with which they begin.
Sidelight: The term alludes to the old representation of snakes with their
tails in their mouths, which was symbolic of eternity, without beginning or end.
(Compare Abecedarian Poem, Acrostic Poem)

A term used for the last six lines of an Italian or Petrarchan sonnet to distinguish them from the preceding octave, or any six-line group that has reason to be similarly distinguished from its setting.

(Compare Sexain)

A fixed form consisting of six 6-line (usually unrhymed) stanzas in which the end words of the first stanza recur as end words of the following five stanzas in a successively rotating order and as the middle and end words of each of the lines of a concluding envoi in the form of a tercet. The usual ending word order for a sestina is as follows:
First stanza, 1- 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6
Second stanza, 6 - 1 - 5 - 2 - 4 - 3
Third stanza, 3 - 6 - 4 - 1 - 2 - 5
Fourth stanza, 5 - 3 - 2 - 6 - 1 - 4
Fifth stanza, 4 - 5 - 1 - 3 - 6 - 2
Sixth stanza, 2 - 4 - 6 - 5 - 3 - 1
Concluding tercet:
middle of first line - 2, end of first line - 5
middle of second line - 4, end of second line - 3
middle if third line - 6, end of third line - 1
The poem, "Will's Place," is an example of a sestina.

A stanza of six lines, as in some fixed forms such as a sestina, or in Wordsworth's "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud".

(Compare Sestet)

See Pattern Poetry

Words which are similar in spelling but different in pronunciation, like mow and how or height and weight. Some words that are sight rhymes today did have a correspondence of sound in earlier stages of the language.
Sidelight: Since the definition of an exact rhyme requires identity of sound, sight rhyme is so named only in the broader sense of the word.
Sidelight: Sight rhymes may occasionally be used for their contribution to the visual aspect of poetry.
(Contrast Homonym)

The intentional repetition of words with sibilant speech sounds closely spaced in a line of poetry, as in:

She sells sea-shells by the sea shore

(See Alliteration)

A short Korean poetic form consisting of three lines, each line having a total of fourteen to sixteen syllables in four groups ranging from two to seven (but usually three or four) syllables, with a natural pause at the end of the second group and a major pause after the fourth group. The third line often introduces a resolution, a touch of humor, or a turn of thought. Though there are no restrictions on the subject matter, favored ones include nature, virtue and rural life. The unique texture of the sijo derives from the blend of sound, rhythm and meaning. Western sijos are sometimes divided at the pauses and presented in six lines.

A figure of speech in which an explicit comparison is made between two essentially unlike things, usually using like, as or than, as in Burns' "O, my luve's like A Red, Red Rose" or Shelley's "as still as a brooding dove," in "The Cloud."
Sidelight: Similes in which the parallel is developed and extended beyond the initial comparison, often being sustained through several lines, are called epic or Homeric similes, since they occur frequently in epic poetry, both for ornamentation and to heighten the heroic aspect.
(Compare Analogy, Metaphor, Symbol, Synecdoche)

An ancient Scandinavian poet or bard.

(See also Edda, Rune)

Named for their inventor, John Skelton, short verses of irregular meter with two or three stresses, sometimes in falling and sometimes in rising rhythm and usually with rhymed couplets.

A syllable which is not accented.

See Near Rhyme

A short lyrical poem written in an urbane manner, or crisp, animated and typically ironic light verse dealing with contemporaneous topics.
Sidelight: This term is often used in its French language form, vers de societe.
(Compare Canzone, Ghazal, Melic Verse, Ode, Romance)

SOLECISM (SAH-luh-sizm)
An impropriety of speech or a violation of the established rules of syntax.

(Compare Catachresis, Enallage, Malapropism)
(Contrast King's English)

A talking to oneself; the discourse of a person speaking to himself, whether alone or in the presence of others. It gives the illusion of being unspoken reflections.
(See also Dramatic Monologue, Interior Monologue)

A fixed form consisting of fourteen lines of 5-foot iambic verse. In the English or Shakespearean sonnet, the lines are grouped in three quatrains (with six alternating rhymes) followed by a detached rhymed couplet which is usually epigrammatic. In the original Italian form, such as Longfellow's " Divina Commedia," the fourteen lines are divided into an octave of two rhyme-sounds arranged abba abba and a sestet of two additional rhyme sounds which may be variously arranged. This latter form tends to divide the thought into two opposing or complementary phases of the same idea.
Sidelight: A variant of the Shakespearean form is the Spenserian sonnet which links the quatrains with a chain or interlocked rhyme scheme, abab bcbc cdcd ee.
Sidelight: The English language contains fewer rhyming possibilities than Italian, so the Shakespearean adaptation relieved English poets from the greater difficulty of rhyming in the Italian sonnet format.
Sidelight: A sonnet sequence is a series of sonnets in which there is a discernable unifying theme, while each one retains its own structural independence. All of Shakespeare's sonnets, for example, were part of a sequence,
(See Quatorzain, Volta)
(See also Anthology, Canon, Companion Poem, Cycle, Lyric Sequence)

A composer of sonnets; also, the term is sometimes applied to a minor or insignificant poet.

(See also Bard, Metrist, Poet, Versifier, Wordsmith)
(Compare Minstrel, Troubadour)

See Palindrome

Resources used by writers of verse to convey and reinforce the meaning or experience of poetry through the skillful use of sound.
Sidelight: Sound devices are often combined, as in Coleridge's effective use of alliteration, assonance, and consonance in the opening line of "Kubla Khan." Other devices that contribute to the sound are rhyme, onomatopoeia, cacophony, caesura, phonetic symbolism, rhythm, and meter.
(See also Mimesis)

See Phonetic Symbolism

See Persona

See under Sonnet

A stanza devised by Spenser for The Faerie Queene, founded on the Italian ottava rima. It is a stanza of nine iambic lines, all of ten syllables except the last, which is an Alexandrine. There are only three rhymes in a stanza, arranged in an ababbcbcc rhyme scheme.
Sidelight: The longer length of the Alexandrines in the last lines provides emphasis and a sense of closure to the stanzas.

See Hemistich

See Broken Rhyme

A metrical foot with two long or equally accented syllables together, as in BREAD BOX or SHOE-SHINE.
Two unaccented syllables (a pyrrhic foot) often precede or follow a spondee.
Sidelight: Verses entirely composed of spondees are rare; their principal use is as variations in iambic lines in which the successive accented syllables of a spondee are effective for the suggestion of gravity or emphasis, as in Christina Georgina Rossetti's "Song:"

Be the | GREEN GRASS | a-BOVE | me
A poetic rhythm characterized by feet varying from one to four syllables which are equal in time length but different in the number of syllables. It has only one stress per foot, falling on the first syllable, or on the only syllable if there is but one, which produces the frequent juxtaposition of single accented syllables.
Sidelight: As the name suggests, sprung rhythm springs loose from the regularly alternating accents associated with metrical verse.
Sidelight: Sprung rhythm is associated in modern poetry chiefly with the work of Gerard Manley Hopkins, as in his poem, "The Windhover." According to Robert Bridges, in his notes to the 1918 edition of Hopkins' Poems, sprung rhythm is the natural rhythm of English speech and written prose; it appeared in English verse up to the Elizabethan era as well as having been used in Greek and Latin verse.
(See also Cadence, Ictus, Modulation)
(Compare Polyphonic Prose)

A division of a poem made by arranging the lines into units separated by a space, usually of a corresponding number of lines and a recurrent pattern of meter and rhyme. A poem with such divisions is described as having a stanzaic form, but not all verse is divided in stanzas.
Sidelight: A stanza having lines of the same length and meter, as is the case in most stanzaic poems, is said to be isometric. The exceptions, such as the stanzas in tail rhyme and Sapphic verse, in which the lines are not all of the same length and meter, are said to be anisometric or heterometric.
Sidelight: The regularity of stanza patterns conveys an impression of order and the expectation of closure.
Sidelight: A poem in which the lines follow each other without a formal pattern of stanzaic units is described as having a continuous form, in which there may be no line groupings at all or only irregular line groupings, dictated by meaning, as in paragraphs of prose.
(See also Fit, Stave, Strophe)
(Compare Canto, Couplet, Envoi)

The names given to describe the number of lines in a stanzaic unit, such as: couplet (2), tercet (3), quatrain (4), quintet (5), sestet (6), septet (7), and octave (8). Some stanzas follow a set rhyme scheme and meter in addition to the number of lines and are given specific names to describe them, such as, ballad meter, ottava rima, rhyme royal, terza rima, and Spenserian stanza.
Sidelight: Stanza forms are also a factor in the categorization of whole poems described as following a fixed form.
A verse, stanza, or a metrical portion of a poem.

STICH (stik)
A line or verse of poetry.

(Compare Distich, Monostich, Hemistich, Stichomythia)

STICHOMYTHIA (stik-uh-MITH-ee-uh) or STICHOMYTHY (stik-AH-muh-thee)
A dramatic dialogue of lively repartee in alternate verse lines. When half-lines instead of whole lines are used for this technique, it is called hemistichomythia.

Verses which include the repetition of certain words in changing order and varied placement.

(Compare Anadiplosis, Anaphora, Echo, Epistrophe, Epizeuxis,
                 Incremental Repetition, Parallelism, Polysyndeton, Refrain

A passage or piece of poetry; a flow of eloquence, style, or spirit in expression.

See Interior Monologue

From a linguistics standpoint, the intensity of muscular effort required for the articulation of syllables, but for prosodic purposes, the term is commonly and correctly used as a synonym for accent.

(See also Cadence, Ictus, Modulation, Rhythm, Sprung Rhythm)
(Compare Caesura)

In modern poetry, a stanza or rhythmic system of two or more lines arranged as a unit. In classical poetry, a strophe is the first division in the triadic structure of Pindaric verse, corresponding metrically to the antistrophe which follows it; also, the stanza preceding or alternating with the antistrophe in ancient lyric poetry.
Sidelight: A poem consisting of just one stanza is monostrophic; a poem with the repetition of metrically identical stanzas is homostrophic; a poem not divided into strophic units or that is arranged in irregular stanzas is astrophic.
(See also Epode)

The poet's individual creative process, as determined by choices involving diction, figurative language, rhetorical devices, sounds, and rhythmic patterns.

(Compare Content, Form, Motif, Persona, Texture, Tone)

A type of verse distinguished primarily by the syllable count, i.e., the number of syllables in each line, rather than by the rhythmical arrangement of accents or time quantities.
Sidelight: The cinquain and haiku are examples of strictly syllabic verse, but most modern English poetry is a combination of accentual and syllabic versification.
(Compare Accentual Verse, Quantitive Verse)

A word or part of a word representing a sound produced as a unit by a single impulse of the voice, consisting of either a vowel sound alone as in oh or a vowel with attendant consonants, as in throne.
Sidelight: In modern English, word syllables are characterized as either accented or unaccented; in non-accentual languages such as classical Greek and Latin, syllables are classified as either long or short, depending on the quantity of time it takes to pronounce them due to varying vowel lengths and consonant groupings. Thus, the distinction between accented and long syllables on the one hand, and unaccented and short syllables on the other, represents the difference between accentual verse and quantitive verse. The basis for syllabic verse is the count of syllables in a line.
A type of zeugma in which a single word, usually a verb or adjective, agrees grammatically with two or more other words, but semantically with only one, thereby effecting a shift in sense with the other, as in "colder than ice and a usurer's heart," or Pope's:

Or stain her Honour, or her new Brocade.
Sidelight: Because of the shift in sense, the syllepsis is related to the pun or paronomasia.
(Compare Hendiadys, Prolepsis)

An image transferred by something that stands for or represents something else, like flag for country, or autumn for maturity. Symbols can transfer the ideas embodied in the image without stating them, as in Robert Frost's "Acquainted With the Night," in which night is symbolic of death or depression, or Sara Teasdale's "The Long Hill," in which the climb up the hill symbolizes life and the brambles are symbolic of life's adversities.
Sidelight: Symbols can be subject to a diversity of connotations, so both the poet and the reader must exercise sensible discretion to avoid misinterpretation.
(See also Allusion, Analogy)
(Compare Allegory, Metaphor, Simile, Synecdoche)

A late 19th century movement reacting against realism. Influenced by the connections between music and poetry, it sought to achieve the effects of images and metaphors to symbolize the basic idea or emotion of each poem.

(Compare Classicism, Idealism, Imagism, Impressionism,
                 Metaphysical, Objectivism, Romanticism

SYMPLOCE (sim-PLOH-see or sim-PLAW-see)
The repetition of a word or expression at the beginnings plus the repetition of a word or expression at the ends of successive phrases, i.e., a combination of both anaphora and epistrophe.

A type of elision in which two contiguous vowels within a word which are normally pronounced as two syllables, as in seest, are pronounced as one syllable instead.

(See also Aphaeresis, Apocope, Syncope, Synaloepha)

A type of elision in which a vowel at the end of one word is coalesced with one beginning the next word, as "th' embattled plain."

(See also Aphaeresis, Apocope, Synaeresis, Syncope)

SYNCOPATION (sin-koh-PAY-shun)
In the quantitive verse of classical poetry, the suppression of one syllable in a metrical pattern, with its time value either replaced by a pause (like a musician's "rest") or by the additional lengthening of an adjoining long syllable.

SYNCOPE (SIN-koh-pee)
A type of elision in which a word is contracted by removing one or more letters or syllables from the middle, as ne'er for never, or fo'c'sle for forecastle.

(Compare Aphaeresis, Apocope, Synaeresis, Synaloepha)

SYNECDOCHE (suh-NEK-duh-kee)
A figure of speech in which a part of something stands for the whole or the whole for a part, as wheels for automobile or society for high society.
Sidelight: Synecdoche is so similar in meaning to metonymy that the latter term is often used for both.
(Compare Metaphor, Simile, Symbol)

The perception or description of one kind of sense impression in words normally used to describe a different sense, like a "loud aroma" or a "velvety smile." It can be very effective for creating vivid imagery.

(See also Catachresis, Enallage, Malapropism, Mixed Metaphor, Oxymoron, Paradox)

A metaphor that suggests a similarity between experiences in different senses, as "a gourmet of country music."

(See also Conceit, Kenning, Mixed Metaphor)

One of two or more words that have the same or nearly identical meanings.

(Compare Antonym, Homonym, Paronym)

The way in which linguistic elements (words and phrases) are arranged to form grammatical structure.
Sidelight: Poetic syntax often departs from conventional use, employing devices such as hyperbatons and ploces, among others.


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Glossary Home Previous Letter Next Letter Bob's Byway Home

True ease in writing comes from art, not chance,
As those move easiest who have learn'd to dance,
'T is not enough no harshness gives offence,--
The sound must seem an echo to the sense.

---Alexander Pope

You write with ease to show your breeding,
But easy writing's curst hard reading.

---Richard Brinsley Sheridan