Bob's Byway

GLOSSARY OF POETIC TERMS


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A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T UV W XYZ
A
ABECEDARIAN POEM (ay-bee-see-DARE-ee-un)
An alphabetic acrostic poem; a poem having verses beginning with the successive letters of the alphabet.
Sidelight: Although now often considered a learning exercise for children, abecedarii were associated with divinity in ancient cultures.
(Compare Serpentine Verses)

AB OVO (ab OH-voh)
See under In Medias Res

ACADÉMIE FRANÇAISE (a-ka-day-MEE frwah-SEHZ)
See under Poet Laureate

ACATALECTIC
A term describing a line of verse which is metrically complete, i.e., not shortened by the omission of the ending syllable of the final foot. Acatalexis is the opposite of catalexis.

(Compare Hypercatalectic)

ACCENT
The rhythmically significant stress in the articulation of words, giving some syllables more relative prominence than others. In words of two or more syllables, one syllable is almost invariably stressed more strongly than the other syllables. In words of one syllable, the degree of stress normally depends on their grammatical function; nouns, verbs, and adjectives are usually given more stress than articles or prepositions. The words in a line of poetry are usually arranged so the accents occur at regular intervals, with the meter defined by the placement of the accents within the foot. Accent should not be construed as emphasis.
Sidelight: Two degrees of accent are natural to many multi-syllabic English words, designated as primary and secondary.
Sidelight: When a syllable is accented, it tends to be raised in pitch and lengthened. Any or a combination of stress/pitch/length can be a metrical accent.
Sidelight: A semantic shift in accent can alter meaning. In the statement, "give me the book," for example, the meaning can be altered depending on whether the word "me" or the word "book," receives the more prominent stress. In metrical verse, the meter might help determine the poet's intent, but not always.
Sidelight: In English, when the full accent falls on a vowel, as in PO-tion, that vowel is called a long vowel; when it falls on an articulation or consonant, as in POR-tion, the preceding vowel is a short vowel. In the classical Greek and Latin quantitive verse, however, long and short vowels referred to duration, i.e., how long they were held in utterance.
(See also Cadence, Ictus, Modulation, Rhythm, Sprung Rhythm, Wrenched Accent)
(Compare Caesura, Slack)

ACCENTUAL VERSE
Verse in which the metrical system is based on the count or pattern of accented syllables, which establish the rhythm. The accents must be normal speech stresses rather than those suggested by the metrical pattern. The total number of syllables may vary.
Sidelight: Most modern English poetry is a combination of accentual and syllabic verse.
(Contrast Quantitive Verse)

ACEPHALY (ay-SEF-uh-lee)
The omission of a syllable at the beginning of a line of verse. Such a line is described as acephalous.
Sidelight: An acephalous line might be an intentional variance by the poet or a matter of the scanning interpretation.
(Compare Catalectic)
(Contrast Anacrusis)

ACROSTIC POEM
A poem in which certain letters of the lines, usually the first letters, form a word or message relating to the subject. Of ancient origin, examples of acrostic poems date back as far as the 4th century.
Sidelight: Strictly speaking, an acrostic uses the initial letters of the lines to form the word or message, as in the argument to Jonson's Volpone. If the medial letters are used, it is a mesostich; if the final letters, a telestich. The term acrostic, however, is commonly used for all three. When both the initial and final letters are used, it is called a double acrostic.
(Compare Abecedarian Poem, Serpentine Verses)

ADONIC
A verse consisting of a dactyl followed by a spondee or trochee. It is believed to be so named because of its use in songs during the Adonia, an ancient festival in honor of Adonis.
Sidelight: The festival of Adonia was celebrated by women, who spent two days alternating between lamentations and feasting.
(See also Sapphic Verse)

ADYNATON (uh-DYE-nuh-tahn)
A type of hyperbole in which the exaggeration is magnified so greatly that it refers to an impossibility, e.g., "I'd walk a million miles for one of your smiles."
Sidelight: An adynaton can also be expressed negatively: "Not all the water in Lake Superior could satisfy his thirst."

AEOLIC ODE
See Horatian Ode

AFFLATUS (uh-FLAY-tus)
A creative inspiration, as that of a poet; a divine imparting of knowledge, thus it is often called divine afflatus.

(See also Helicon, Muse, Numen)

ALBA
See Aubade

ALCAIC VERSE
A Greek lyrical meter, said to be invented by Alcaeus, a lyric poet from about 600 BC. Written in tetrameter, the greater Alcaic consists of a spondee or iamb followed by an iamb plus a long syllable and two dactyls. The lesser Alcaic, also in tetrameter, consists of two dactylic feet followed by two iambic feet.
Sidelight: Though seldom appearing in English poetry, Alcaic verse was used by Tennyson in his ode, Milton.
ALEXANDRINE
The standard line in French poetry, consisting of twelve syllables with a caesura after the sixth syllable. There are accents on the sixth and last syllables of the line, and usually a secondary stress within each half-line (hemistich). The English Alexandrine is written in iambic hexameter, thus containing twelve syllables in six metrical feet.
Sidelight: The Alexandrine probably received its name from an old French romance, Alexandre le Grand, written about 1180, in which the measure was first used.
Sidelight: The last line of the Spenserian stanza is an Alexandrine.
(See Poulter's Measure)

ALLEGORY
A figurative illustration of truths or generalizations about human conduct or experience in a narrative or description by the use of symbolic fictional figures and actions which the reader can interpret as a resemblance to the subject's properties and circumstances.
Sidelight: Though similar to both a series of symbols and an extended metaphor, the meaning of an allegory is more direct and less subject to ambiguity than a symbol; it is distinguishable from an extended metaphor in that the literal equivalent of an allegory's figurative comparison is not usually expressed.
Sidelight: The term, allegoresis, means the interpretation of a work on the part of a reader; since, by definition, the interpretation of an allegory is an essential factor, the two terms function together in a complementary fashion.
Sidelight: Probably the best-known allegory in English literature is Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene.
(Compare Aphorism, Apologue, Didactic Poetry, Epigram, Fable, Gnome, Proverb)
(See also Allusion, Metaphor, Personification)

ALLITERATION
Also called head rhyme or initial rhyme, the repetition of the initial sounds (usually consonants) of stressed syllables in neighboring words or at short intervals within a line or passage, usually at word beginnings, as in "wild and woolly," or the line from Shelley's "The Cloud":

I bear light shade for the leaves when laid
Sidelight: Alliteration has a gratifying effect on the sound, gives a reinforcement to stresses, and can also serve as a subtle connection or emphasis of key words in the line, but alliterated words should not "call attention" to themselves by strained usage.
(See also Euphony, Modulation, Resonance)
(Compare Assonance, Consonance, Rhyme, Sigmatism)

ALLITERATIVE VERSE
Poetry in which alliteration is a formal structural element in place of rhyme; it was prevalent in a number of old literatures prior to the 14th century, including Anglo-Saxon. In alliterative verse, the first half-line (hemistich) is united with the second half by alliterating stressed syllables; in the first half-line generally two (but sometimes three) syllables alliterate, while in the second half usually only one. Sometimes one alliterating sound is carried through successive lines:
In a somer seson, whan softe was the sonne,
I shoop me into shroudes as I a sheep were,
In habite as an heremite unholy of werkes,
Wente wide in this world wondres to here.


        --The Vision of Piers Plowman, by William Langland, 1330?-1400?
Sidelight: To facilitate maintaining the alliterative pattern, poets made frequent use of a specialized vocabulary, consisting of many synonymous words seldom encountered outside of alliterative verse.
Sidelight: By the 14th century, rhyme and meter displaced alliteration as a formal element, although alliterative verse continued to be written into the 16th century and alliteration retains an important function as one of a poet's sound devices.
ALLUSION
An implied or indirect reference to something assumed to be known, such as a historical event or personage, a well-known quotation from literature, or a famous work of art, such as Keats' allusion to Titian's painting of Bacchus in "Ode to a Nightingale."
Sidelight: An allusion can be used by the poet as a means of imagery, since, like a symbol, it can suggest ideas by connotation. Like allegories and parodies, its effectiveness depends upon the reader's acquaintance with the reference alluded to.

ALTAR POEM
See Pattern Poetry

ALTERNATE RHYME
See Cross Rhyme

AMBIGUITY
Applied to words and expressions, the state of being doubtful or indistinct in meaning or capable of being understood in more than one way, in the context in which it is used.
Sidelight: Ambiguity can result from careless or evasive choice of words which bewilder the reader, but its deliberate use is often intended to unify the different interpretations into an expanded enrichment of the meaning of the original expression.

(See also Denotation, Paronomasia, Pun)
(Compare Connotation)

AMPHIBRACH (AM-fuh-brak)
In classical poetry, a metrical foot consisting of a long or accented syllable between two short or unaccented syllables, as con-DI-tion or in-FECT-ed.

AMPHIGOURI
A verse composition which, while apparently coherent, contains no sense or meaning, as in Nephelidia, a poem written by A. C. Swinburne as a parody of his own alliterative-predominant style, which begins:
From the depth of the dreamy decline of the dawn through a notable nimbus of nebulous noonshine,
Pallid and pink as the palm of the flag-flower that flickers with fear of the flies as they float,
(See also Macaronic Verse, Nonsense Poetry)

AMPHIMACER (am-FIM-uh-suhr)
See Cretic

ANACHRONISM (uh-NAK-ruh-nizm)
The placement of an event, person, or thing out of its proper chronological relationship, sometimes unintentional, but often deliberate as an exercise of poetic license.
Sidelight: Anachronisms most frequently appear in imaginative portrayals with historical settings, such as a clock in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, and a reference to billiards in Antony and Cleopatra.

(Compare Hysteron Proteron, In Medias Res)

ANACLASIS
In classical poetry, the exchange of place between short and long syllables in Ionic feet to alter the rhythm.

ANACREONTIC (uh-nah-kree-AHN-tik)
A term describing odes written in the style of the Greek poet, Anacreon, convivial in tone or theme, relating to the praise of love and wine, as in Abraham Cowley's Anacreontiques.
Sidelight: Francis Scott Key's 1814 poem, "The Star-Spangled Banner," was set to the tune of a popular song of the day, "To Anacreon in Heaven," composed by John Stafford Smith as a drinking song for London's Anacreontic Society. In 1931 it was officially adopted by the U.S. Congress as the national anthem.
ANACRUSIS (an-a-KROO-sis)
One or more unaccented syllables at the beginning of a line of verse that are regarded as preliminary to and not part of the metrical pattern.

(See also Procephalic)
(Compare Feminine Ending, Hypercatalectic)
(Contrast Acephaly)

ANADIPLOSIS (an-uh-duh-PLOH-sus)
Also called epanadiplosis, the repetition of a prominent (usually the final) word of a phrase, clause, line, or stanza at the beginning of the next, often with extended or altered meaning, as in: "his hands were folded -- folded in prayer," or Keats' repetition of the word, "forlorn," linking the seventh and eighth stanzas of "Ode to a Nightingale."

(Compare Anaphora, Chain Rhyme, Echo, Epistrophe, Epizeuxis,
                 Incremental Repetition, Parallelism, Polysyndeton, Refrain, Stornello Verses
)

ANAGOGE or ANAGOGY (AN-uh-go-jee)
The spiritual or mystical interpretation of a word or passage beyond the literal, allegorical, or moral sense.

ANALECTS or ANALECTA
Miscellaneous extracts collected from the works of authors.

ANALOGY
An agreement or similarity in some particulars between things otherwise different; sleep and death, for example, are analogous in that they both share a lack of animation and a recumbent posture.
Sidelight: Prevalent in literature, the use of an analogy carries the inference that if things agree in some respects, it's likely that they will agree in others.
(Compare Simile, Symbol)

ANAPEST, ANAPESTIC
A metrical foot with two short or unaccented syllables followed by a long or accented syllable, as in inter-VENE or for a WHILE. William Cowper's "Verses Supposed to be Written by Alexander Selkirk," is a poem in which anapestic feet are predominately used, as in the opening line:
I am MON | -arch of ALL | I sur-VEY,

Sidelight: In English poetry, with the exception of limericks, anapestic verse is seldom used for whole poems, but can often be highly effective as a variation.
(See also Meter, Rhythm)

ANAPHORA (uh-NAF-or-uh)
Also called epanaphora, the repetition of the same word or expression at the beginning of successive phrases, clauses, sentences, or lines for rhetorical or poetic effect, as in Lincoln's "we cannot dedicate- we cannot consecrate-we cannot hallow this ground" or from Fitzgerald's The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám:

Sans Wine, sans Song, sans Singer, and--sans End!

(See also Epistrophe, Symploce)
(Compare Anadiplosis, Echo, Epizeuxis, Incremental Repetition,
                 Parallelism, Polysyndeton, Refrain, Stornello Verses
)

ANASTROPHE (uh-NAS-truh-fee)
A type of hyperbaton involving the inversion of the natural or usual syntactical order of a pair of words for rhetorical or poetic effect, as "hillocks green" for "green hillocks," or "high triumphs hold" for "hold high triumphs" in Milton's "L'Allegro," or from the same poem:
Meadows trim, with daisies pied,
Shallow brooks, and rivers wide;
(Compare Antistrophe, Chiasmus, Hypallage)

ANISOMETRIC
See under Stanza

ANTANACLASIS ( an-tuh-NAK-luh-sis)
A figure of speech in which the same word is repeated in a different sense within a clause or line, e.g., "while we live, let us live."
Sidelight: Since the play on senses can be used to create homonymous puns, antanaclasis is related to paronomasia.
(See also Epanalepsis, Epizeuxis, Ploce, Polyptoton)

ANTHIMERIA (AN-thih-MEER-ee-uh)
See under Polyptoton

ANTHOLOGY
A collection of selected literary, artistic, or musical works or parts of works.

(See also Canon, Companion Poem, Cycle, Lyric Sequence, Sonnet Sequence)

ANTIBACCHIUS (AN-ti-ba-KEE-us)
In classical poetry, a metrical foot consisting of two long syllables followed by a short syllable.

ANTICLIMAX
The intentional use of elevated language to describe the trivial or commonplace, or a sudden transition from a significant thought to a trivial one in order to achieve a humorous or satiric effect, as in Pope's The Rape of the Lock:
Here thou, great Anna! whom three realms obey,
Dost sometimes counsel take -- and sometimes tea.
An anticlimax also occurs in a series in which the ideas or events ascend toward a climactic conclusion but terminate instead in a thought of lesser importance. Bathos is an anticlimax which is unintentional.

(See also Purple Patch)

ANTIMETABOLE (an-tye-muh-TAB-uh-lee)
See Chiasmus

ANTIPHRASIS (an-TIF-ruh-sus)
The ironic or humorous use of words in a sense not in accord with their literal meaning, as "a giant of three feet four inches."

(Compare Burlesque, Hudibrastic Verse, Oxymoron, Parody, Satire)

ANTISPAST (AN-ti-spast)
In classical poetry, a metrical foot consisting of two long syllables between two short syllables.

ANTISTROPHE (an-TIS-troh-fee)
The second division in the triadic structure of Pindaric verse, corresponding metrically to the strophe; also, the stanza following or alternating with and responding to the strophe in ancient lyric poetry; also, in rhetoric, the reversal of terms mutually dependent on each other, as from "the captain of the crew" to "the crew of the captain."

(See also Epode)
(Compare Anastrophe)

ANTITHESIS
A figure of speech in which a thought is balanced with a contrasting thought in parallel arrangements of words and phrases, such as, "he promised wealth and provided poverty," or "it was the best of times, it was the worst of times, " or from Pope's An Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot:
Willing to wound, and yet afraid to strike,
Also, an antithesis is the second of two contrasting or opposing constituents, following the thesis.

(Compare Oxymoron)

ANTONOMASIA (an-tuh-no-MAY-zhuh)
The use of a name, epithet, or title in place of a proper name, as Bard for Shakespeare.

(Compare Cataphora, Metonymy)

ANTONYM
One of two or more words that have opposite meanings.

(Compare Homonym, Paronym, Synonym)

APHAERESIS or APHERESIS (uh-FEHR-uh-sus)
A type of elision in which a letter or syllable is omitted at the beginning of a word, as 'twas for it was.

(Compare Apocope, Syncope, Synaeresis, Synaloepha)
(See also Aphesis)

APHESIS (AFF-uh-sus)
A form of aphaeresis in which the syllable omitted is short and unaccented, as in 'round for around.

APHORISM
A brief statement containing an important truth or fundamental principle.

(Compare Allegory, Apologue, Didactic Poetry, Epigram, Fable, Gnome, Proverb)

APOCOPE (uh-PAH-kuh-pee)
A type of elision in which a letter or syllable is omitted at the end of a word, as in morn for morning.

(Compare Aphaeresis, Syncope, Synaeresis, Synaloepha)

APOLOGUE
An allegorical narrative such as a fable, usually intended to convey a moral or a useful truth.

(Compare Allegory, Aphorism, Didactic Poetry, Epigram, Gnome, Proverb)

APOSIOPESIS (ap-uh-sy-uh-PEE-sis)
Stopping short of a complete thought for effect, thus calling attention to it, usually by a sudden breaking off, as "he acted like--but I pretended not to notice," leaving the unsaid portion to the reader's imagination.

(See Ellipsis)

APOSTROPHE (uh-PAHS-truh-fee)
A figure of speech in which an address is made to an absent or deceased person or a personified thing rhetorically, as in William Cowper's "Verses Supposed to be Written by Alexander Selkirk":
O solitude! Where are the charms
That sages have seen in thy face?
An apostrophe is also a punctuation mark used to indicate the omission of letter(s) in an elision.
Sidelight: When the poet addresses a muse or a god for inspiration, it is called an invocation.
(Compare Prosopopeia)

APPROXIMATE RHYME
See Near Rhyme

ARCADIA
A region or scene characterized by idyllic quiet and simplicity, often chosen as a setting for pastoral poetry, from Arcadia, a picturesque region in ancient Greece.

(See also Bucolic, Eclogue, Idyll, Madrigal)

ARCHAISM (AHR-kee-izm)
The intentional use of a word or expression no longer in general use, for example, thou mayst is an archaism meaning you may. Archaisms can evoke the sense of a bygone era.
Sidelight: Spenser's The Faerie Queene contains a number of archaisms. Syntactic inversions such as the hyperbaton can also also provide an archaic effect.
ARGUMENT
The subject matter or central theme of a work of literature or a summary of the work, often used as a prologue to a drama, epic, or narrative, as in Jonson's Volpone.

ARS POETICA
A treatise by the Roman poet, Horace (65BC-8BC), setting forth principles of poetic composition. The term is also applied to other authoritative works dealing with the art of poetry.

ARSIS
The accented part of a poetic foot; the point where an ictus is put.
Sidelight: In musical terminology, the arsis is the upbeat, the unaccented part of a measure; due to an early confusion which was later recognized but never reversed, the meaning of the term is the opposite when used in reference to the poetic foot.
(Contrast Thesis)

ASSONANCE
The relatively close juxtaposition of the same or similar vowel sounds, but with different end consonants in a line or passage, thus a vowel rhyme, as in the words, date and fade.
Sidelight: The effective use of internal assonantal sounds is displayed throughout Byron's "She Walks in Beauty."
(See also Euphony, Near Rhyme, Resonance, Sound Devices)
(Compare Alliteration, Consonance, Modulation, Rhyme)

ASYNDETON (uh-SIN-duh-tahn)
The omission of conjunctions that ordinarily join coordinate words and phrases, as in "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil."

(Contrast Polysyndeton)

AUBADE (OH-bahd)
A song or poem with a motif of greeting the dawn, often involving the parting of lovers, or a call for a beloved to arise, as in Shakespeare's "Song," from Cymbeline.
Sidelight: The dawn song is also known as an alba (Provençal), aube (Old French), and tagalied (German).
(Compare Serenade)

AUBE
See Aubade

AVANT-GARDE
The innovating artists or writers who promote the use of new or experimental concepts or techniques.

(See Imagism, Impressionism, Objectivism, Realism, Symbolism)

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T UV W XYZ

A poet without love were a physical and metaphysical impossibility.

---Thomas Carlyle


Look, then, into thine heart, and write!

---Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

B

BACCHIUS ( ba-KEE-us)
In classical poetry, a metrical foot consisting of a short syllable followed by two long syllables.

BALLAD
A short narrative poem with stanzas of two or four lines and usually a refrain. The story of a ballad can originate from a wide range of subject matter but frequently deals with folk-lore or popular legends. The plot is the dominant element, dealing with a single crucial episode, narrated impersonally, with frequent use of repetition. They are written in straight-forward verse, seldom with detail, but always with graphic simplicity and force. Most ballads are suitable for singing and, while sometimes varied in practice, are generally written in ballad meter, i.e., alternating lines of iambic tetrameter and iambic trimeter, with the last words of the second and fourth lines rhyming, an xbyb rhyme scheme.
Sidelight: Many old-time ballads were written and performed by minstrels attached to noblemen's courts. Folk ballads are of unknown origin and are usually lacking in artistic finish. Meant to be sung, but often studied as poetry, the texts are independent of the melodies, which are often used for a number of different ballads. Because they are handed down by oral tradition, folk ballads are subject to variations and continual change. Other types of ballads include those transferred from rural to urban settings, and literary ballads, combining the natures of epic and lyric poetry, which are written by known authors, often in the style and form of the folk ballad, such as Keats' "La Belle Dame sans Merci" or Scott's "Jock o' Hazeldean."
(See also Broadside Ballad, Lay, Tragedy)
(Compare Chanson de Geste, Common Measure, Epopee, Epos, Heroic Quatrain)

BALLADE (ba-LAHD)
Frequently represented in French poetry, a fixed form consisting of three seven or eight-line stanzas using no more than three recurrent rhymes, with an identical refrain after each stanza and a closing envoi repeating the rhymes of the last four lines of the stanza. A variation containing six stanzas is called a double ballade.
Sidelight: The ballade was prominent in French literature from the 14th to the 16th century and was favored by many poets, including Francois Villon, for example, in poems such as "Des Dames du Temps Jadis." In the nineteenth century it was popular with poets like Verlaine and Baudelaire. In English literature, Chaucer wrote ballades and some late-nineteenth century English poets also used the form.
(Compare Chant Royale)

BALLAD METER
See Ballad

BARD
An ancient composer, singer or declaimer of epic verse, celebrating the deeds of gods and heroes.
Sidelight: Today the term is popularly applied to poets of significant repute as a title of honor, with William Shakespeare being known as "The Bard of Avon" and Robert Burns as "The Bard of Ayrshire."
(See also Metrist, Poet, Sonneteer, Versifier, Wordsmith)
(Compare Minstrel, Troubadour)

BAROQUE (buh-ROHK)
An elaborate, extravagantly complex, sometimes grotesque, style of artistic expression prevalent in the late 16th to early 18th centuries. The baroque influence on poetry was expressed by Euphuism in England, Marinism in Italy, and Gongorism in Spain.

BATHOS
An unintentional shift from the sublime to the ridiculous which can result from the use of overly elevated language to describe trivial subject matter, or from an exaggerated attempt at pathos which misfires to the point of being ludicrous. Bathos can be viewed as an unintentional anticlimax.

BEAST FABLE or BEAST EPIC
See under Fable

BINARY METER
A meter which has two syllables per foot, as in iambic, trochaic, pyrrhic, and spondaic meters. Binary meters are sometimes referred to as duple or double meters.

(Compare Ternary Meter)

BLANK VERSE
Poetry written without rhymes, but which retains a set metrical pattern, usually iambic pentameter (five iambic feet per line) in English verse. Since it is a very flexible form, the writer not being hampered in the expression of thought or syntactic structure by the need to rhyme, it is used extensively in narrative and dramatic poetry. In lyric poetry, blank verse is adaptable to lengthy descriptive and meditative poems. An example of blank verse is found in the well-known lines from Act 4, Scene 1 of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice:
The qua | lity | of mer | cy is | not strain'd,
It drop | peth as | the gen | tle rain | from heaven
Upon | the place | beneath; | it is | twice blest:
It bles | seth him | that gives | and him | that takes;
Sidelight: Blank verse and free verse are often misunderstood or confused. A good way to remember the difference is to think of the word blank as meaning that the ends of the lines where rhymes would normally appear are "blank," i.e., devoid of rhyme; the free in free verse refers to the freedom from fixed patterns of traditional versification.
(See also Verse Paragraph)

BOUTS-RIMES (boo-REEM)
An 18th century parlor game in which a list of rhyming words was drawn up and handed to the players, who had to make a poem from the list keeping the rhymes in their original order.

(See also Crambo)

BRETON LAY
See Lay

BROADSIDE BALLAD
A ballad written in doggerel, printed on a single sheet of paper and sold for a penny or two on English street corners in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. The name of the tune to which they were to be sung was indicated on the sheet. The subject matter of broadside ballads covered a wide range of current, historical, or simply curious events and also extended to moral exhortations and religious propaganda.
Sidelight: The rogue, Autolycus, in Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale, is a peddler whose wares include broadside ballads.
BROKEN RHYME
Also called split rhyme, a rhyme produced by dividing a word at the line break to make a rhyme with the end word of another line. In Hopkins' "The Windhover," for example, he divided kingdom at the end of the first line to rhyme with the word wing ending the fourth line.

BUCOLIC
Derived from the Greek word for herdsman, an ancient term for a poem dealing with a pastoral subject.

(See also Arcadia, Eclogue, Idyll, Madrigal)

BURDEN
The central topic or principle idea, often repeated in a refrain.

(See also Motif, Theme)

BURLESQUE
A work which is intended to ridicule by the use of grotesque exaggeration or by the treatment of a trifling subject with the gravity due a matter of great importance.

(See also Hudibrastic Verse, Lampoon, Mock Epic, Parody, Pasquinade, Satire)
(Compare Antiphrasis, Irony, Purple Patch)

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T UV W XYZ

'T is the heart's current lends the cup its glow,
Whate'er the fountain whence the draught may flow.

---Oliver Wendell Holmes


Great thoughts come from the heart.

---Marquis of Vauvenargues

C
CACOPHONY (cack-AH-fuh-nee or cack-AW-fuh-nee)
Discordant sounds in the jarring juxtaposition of harsh letters or syllables which are grating to the ear, usually inadvertent, but sometimes deliberately used in poetry for effect.
Sidelight: Sound devices are important to poetry. To create sounds appropriate to the content, the poet may sometimes prefer to achieve a cacophonous effect instead of the more commonly sought-for euphony. The use of words with the consonants b, k and p, to cite one example, produce harsher sounds than the soft f and v or the liquid l, m and n.
(See also Dissonance)
(Contrast Euphony)

CADENCE
The progressive rhythmical pattern in lines of verse; also, the natural tone or modulation of the voice determined by the alternation of accented or unaccented syllables.
Sidelight: Cadence differs from meter in that it is not necessarily regular, but rather a more flexible concept of rhythm such as is characteristic of free verse and prose poetry.
(See also Accent, Ictus, Sprung Rhythm, Stress)
(Compare Caesura)

CAESURA (siz-YUR-uh)
A rhythmic break or pause in the flow of sound which is commonly introduced in about the middle of a line of verse, but may be varied for different effects. Usually placed between syllables rhythmically connected in order to aid the recital as well as to convey the meaning more clearly, it is a pause dictated by the sense of the content or by natural speech patterns, rather than by metrics. It may coincide with conventional punctuation marks, but not necessarily. A caesura within a line is indicated in scansion by the parallel symbol (||), as in the first line of Emily Dickinson's "I'm Nobody! Who Are You?":

I'm no | body! || Who are | you?
Sidelight: As a grammatical, rhythmic, and dramatic device, as well as an effective means of avoiding monotony, the caesura is a subtle but effective weapon in the skilled poet's arsenal.
Sidelight: Since caesura and pause are often used interchangeably, it is better to use metrical pause for the type of "rest" which compensates for the omission of a syllable.
Sidelight: A caesura occurring at the end of a line is not marked in the scanning process.
Sidelight: The classical caesura was a break caused by the ending of a word within a foot.
(See Diaeresis)
(See also Alexandrine, Hemistich)
(Compare Accent, Cadence, Rhythm)

CANON
In a literary sense, the authoritative works of a particular writer; also, an accepted list of works perceived to represent a cultural, ideological, historical, or biblical grouping.
Sidelight: Other literary groupings or collections include sonnet sequences, lyric sequences, cycles, companion poems, and anthologies.
CANTO
A major division of an extended narrative poem, such as an epic, as distinguished from shorter divisions like stanzas.

CANZONE (kan-ZO-nee)
An Italian lyric poem of varying stanzaic length, usually written in a mixture of hendecasyllables and heptasyllables with a concluding short stanza or envoi.
Sidelight: The word "canzone" is derived from the Latin cantio (a song) and normally embraced subjects like love, heroic courage, or moral virtue. Milton's pastoral elegy, Lycidas, is an example in English poetry of a structure similar to the canzone.
(Compare Ghazal, Melic Verse, Ode, Romance, Society Verse)

CARMINA FIGURATA (KAHR-muh-nuh fig-yuh-RAY-tuh) or CARMEN FIGURATUM
See Pattern Poetry

CARPE DIEM (KAHR-peh DEE-em)
Latin for "seize the day," a common motif in lyric verse throughout the history of poetry, with the emphasis on making the most of current pleasures because life is short and time is flying, as in Robert Herrick's, "To the Virgins" or Edward Fitzgerald's The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám.

CATACHRESIS (kata-KREE-sis)
Misuse or abuse of words; the use of the wrong word for the context, as atone for repent, ingenuous for ingenious, or a forced trope in which a word is used too far removed from its true meaning, as "melancholy table" or Milton's "blind mouth" in Lycidas.

(See also Enallage, Malapropism, Mixed Metaphor, Oxymoron, Paradox, Solecism, Synesthesia)

CATALECTIC, CATALEXIS
A term applied to a line of verse which is metrically incomplete due to the omission of one or two of the ending unaccented syllables of the final foot.
Sidelight: In versification, poets sometimes use catalexis in lines of trochaic and dactylic verse to achieve a final accented syllable for a strong close or a rhyme, as did William Blake in the poem, "Tyger! Tyger!"
(Compare Acatalectic, Acephaly, Hypercatalectic)

CATALOG VERSE
A poem comprised of a list of persons, places, things, or abstract ideas which share a common denominator. An ancient form, it was originally a type of didactic poetry.

CATAPHORA
The use of a grammatical substitute (like a pronoun) which has the same reference as the next word or phrase, as "before him, John saw a sea of smiling faces."

(Compare Antonomasia, Metonymy)

CAUDATE RHYME
See Tail Rhyme

CENTO
Poetry made up of lines borrowed from a combination of established authors, usually resulting in a change in meaning and a humorous effect.

(Compare Parody, Pastiche)

CHAIN RHYME
Also called interlocking rhyme, a rhyme scheme in which a rhyme in a line of one stanza is used as a link to a rhyme in the next stanza, as in the aba bcb cdc, etc. of terza rima or the aaab cccb of "La Tour Eiffel."
Sidelight: Another type of chain rhyme, which is usually referred as rime enchainée, links consecutive lines, with the last word of one line rhyming with the first word of the following line.
(Compare Anadiplosis, Envelope Rhyme)

CHAIN VERSE
Similar to chain rhyme, but links words, phrases, or lines (instead of rhyme) by repeating them in succeeding stanzas, as in the pantoum, but there are many variations.

(Compare Envelope, Rondeau)

CHANSON DE GESTE (shan-SAWN duh ZHEST))
Literally, a song of heroic deeds, it refers to a class of Old French epic poems of the Middle Ages, such as the Chanson de Roland, believed to have been written by the Norman poet, Turold.

(See Jongleur, Trouvere)
(See also Epic, Epopee, Epos, Heroic Quatrain)
(Compare Ballad, Narrative, Tragedy)

CHANT ROYALE
An elaborate fixed form of ballade in Old French poetry, consisting of five stanzas of eleven lines with a refrain at the end of each stanza, rhyming ababccddedE and an envoi of five lines rhyming ddedE.
Sidelight: The chant royale was originally used by 12th century troubadours and trouveres. Its 60-line length provided increased range for elaboration of the subject matter, which often dealt with satirical observations as well as elevated topics.
CHAPBOOK
A small book or pamphlet containing ballads, poems, popular tales or tracts, etc.

CHAUCERIAN STANZA
See Rhyme Royal

CHIASMUS (kye-AZ-mus)
An inverted parallelism; the reversal of the order of corresponding words or phrases (with or without exact repetition) in successive clauses which are usually parallel in syntax, as in Pope's "a fop their passion, but their prize a sot," or Goldsmith's "to stop too fearful, and too faint to go."
Sidelight: While the term, chiasmus, is usually used in reference to syntax and word order, it also includes the repetition in reverse of any element of a poem, including sound patterns.
Sidelight: An antimetabole (an-tye-muh-TAB-uh-lee) is a type of chiasmus in which the words reversed involve a repetition of the same words, as "do not live to eat, but eat to live," or Shakespeare's "Remember March, the ides of March remember." The distinction is not generally observed, however.
(See also Anastrophe, Hypallage)
(Compare Envelope, Palindrome)

CHOREE (koh-REE)
A rare form of trochee, also written as choreus.

CHORIAMB
In classical poetry, a metrical foot consisting of four syllables, the first two forming a trochee and the second two an iambus, as in BOT-tom- | less PIT or RO-ses | are RED.

CHORIC ODE
See Pindaric Verse

CINQUAIN (sing-KANE)
A five-line stanza of syllabic verse, the successive lines containing two, four, six, eight and two syllables. The cinquain, based on the Japanese haiku, was an innovation of the American poet, Adelaide Crapsey.

(See also Quintet)

CLASSICISM
The adherence to the traditional standards that are universally valid and enduring.

(Compare Idealism, Imagism, Impressionism, Metaphysical,
                 Objectivism, Realism, Romanticism, Symbolism
)

CLENCH
See Pun

CLERIHEW (KLEHR-ih-hyew)
A comic light verse, two couplets in length, rhyming aabb, usually dealing with a person mentioned in the initial rhyme. It was named for its originator, Edmund Clerihew Bentley, an English writer, who wrote the following example at age sixteen:

Sir Humphrey Davy
Detested gravy.
He lived in the odium
Of having discovered sodium.

CLIMAX
Rhetorically, a series of words, phrases, or sentences arranged in a continuously ascending order of intensity. If the ascending order is not maintained, an anticlimax or bathos results.
Sidelight: The term is usually applied to the point of supreme interest in a series of thoughts or events, often the turning point of a play or narrative.
CLOSED COUPLET
A couplet in which the sense and syntax is self-contained within its two lines, as opposed to an open couplet.

(See also Distich, Heroic Couplet)

CLOSE RHYME
A rhyme of two contiguous or close words, such as in the idiomatic expressions, "true blue" or "fair and square."
Sidelight: Close rhymes are a distinguishing characteristic of echo verse.
(Compare Ricochet Words)

CLOSET DRAMA
A literary work written in the form of a drama, but intended by the author only for reading, not for performance in the theater.

CLOSURE
The effect of finality, balance, and completeness, which leaves the reader with a sense of fulfilled expectations. Though the term is sometimes employed to describe the effects of individual repetitive elements, such as rhyme, metrical patterns, parallelism, refrains, and stanzas, its most significant application is in reference to the concluding portion of the entire poem.

COMMON MEASURE
A meter consisting chiefly of seven iambic feet arranged in rhymed pairs, thus a line with four accents followed by a line with three accents, usually in a 4-line stanza. It is also called common meter.
Sidelight: A meter of 4-line stanzas of tetrameter verse is called a long meter (L.M.). A meter of 4-line stanzas in which the first, second, and fourth lines are trimeter and the third tetrameter is called a short meter (S.M.). The meter of 8-line stanzas of which the first four lines are tetrameter and the last four are trimeter is called hallelujah meter (H.M.).
Sidelight: While essentially the same as ballad meter, common measure is more regularly iambic.
COMPANION POEM
A poem that is associated with another poem, which it complements.

(See also Anthology, Canon, Cycle, Lyric Sequence, Sonnet Sequence)

CONCEIT
An elaborate metaphor, artificially strained or far-fetched, in which the subject is compared with a simpler analogue usually chosen from nature or a familiar context. Especially associated with intense emotional or spiritual feelings, they sometimes extend through the entire length of a poem. An example of a conceit is Sir Thomas Wyatt's "My Galley," an adaptation of Petrarch's Sonnet 159.
Sidelight: The term is derived from concetto, Italian for "concept." Most modern conceits are written in a more condensed form.
(See also Euphuism, Gongorism, Marinism, Melic Verse, Metaphysical)

CONCRETE POETRY
Poetry which forms a structurally original visual shape, preferably abstract, through the use of reduced language, fragmented letters, symbols, and other typographical variations to create an extreme graphic impact on the reader's attention. The essence of concrete poetry lies in its appearance on the page rather than in the written text; it is intended to be perceived as a visual whole and often cannot be effective when read aloud.

(Compare Pattern Poetry, Visual Poetry)

CONNOTATION
The suggestion of a meaning by a word beyond what it explicitly denotes or describes. The word, home, for example, means the place where one lives, but by connotation, also suggests security, family, love and comfort.
Sidelight: Sometimes one of the connotations of a word gains enough widespread acceptance to become a denotation.
(See also Allusion, Symbol)

CONSONANCE
The close repetition of the same end consonants of stressed syllables with differing vowel sounds, such as boat and night, or the words drunk and milk in the final line of Coleridge's "Kubla Khan."
Sidelight: Consonance most often occurs within a line. When used at line ends in place of rhyme, as in the words, cool and soul, in the third stanza of Emily Dickinson's "He Fumbles at your Spirit," it is sometimes referred to as consonantal rhyme to differentiate it from perfect rhyme and other types of near rhyme.
Sidelight: In a more general sense, consonance also refers to a pleasing combination of sounds; sounds in agreement with tone.
(See also Euphony, Modulation, Resonance, Sound Devices)
(Compare Alliteration, Assonance, Rhyme)

CONTENT
The substance of a poem; the impressions, facts and ideas it contains--the "what-is-being-said."

(Compare Diction, Form, Motif, Persona, Style, Texture, Tone)

CONTINUOUS FORM
See Stanza

CONVENTIONS
In a literary sense, established "codes" of basic principles and procedures for types of works that are recurrent in literature. The prevailing conventions of their time strongly influence writers to select content, forms, style, diction, etc., which are acceptable to the cultural expectations of the public.
Sidelight: A knowledge of conventions, particularly from a historical aspect, aids the reader in the understanding, interpretation, and appreciation of literary works, particularly poems following the classical pastoral and epic conventions.
Sidelight: Conventions can change over time. Their very existence fosters the emergence of originality and serves as a comparative measure and contrast to new concepts.
CONVERSATION POEM
A poem whose light, colloquial treatment of a serious subject is intended to resemble informal conversation. Similar to the dramatic monologue, the term originates from Coleridge's subtitle for his poem, "The Nightingale."

COUPLET
Two successive lines of poetry, usually of equal length and rhythmic correspondence, with end-words that rhyme. The couplet, for practical purposes, is the shortest stanza form, but is frequently joined with other couplets to form a poem with no stanzaic divisions, as in Robert Browning's "My Last Duchess."
Sidelight: If the couplet is written in iambic pentameter, it is called a heroic couplet.
(See also Closed Couplet. Open Couplet, Distich, Elegiac)

COURTLY LOVE
A late medieval idealized convention establishing a code for the conduct of amorous affairs of ladies and their lovers. Expressed and spread by the minnesingers and troubadours, it became associated with the literary concept of love until the 19th century.

CRAMBO
A game in which one player gives a word or line of verse to be matched in rhyme by the other players.

(See also Bouts-Rimes)

CRETIC
Used in classical poetry, a metrical foot consisting of a short syllable between two long syllables, as in THIR-ty-NINE.
Sidelight: Another name for the cretic foot is amphimacer.
CRITICASTER
An inferior or petty critic.

CROSS RHYME
The rhyme scheme of abab, also called alternate rhyme, in which the end words of alternating lines rhyme with each other, i.e., the rhymes cross intervening lines.
Sidelight: Cross rhyming derives from long-line verse such as hexameter in which two lines have caesural words rhymed together and end words rhymed together, as in Swinburne's:
Fate is a sea without shore, and the soul is a rock that abides;
But her ears are vexed with the roar and her face with the foam of the tides.
As written above, the rhyme pattern what the French call rime brisée; if the two long lines were to be split after the caesuras into four short lines, the rhyme pattern would become a cross rhyme.

(Compare Envelope Rhyme)

CURTAL QUATRAIN
See under Quatrain

CYCLE
The aggregate of accumulated literature, plays or musical works treating the same theme. In poetry, the term is typically applied to epic or narrative poems about a mythical or heroic event or character, such as the Siege of Troy or the Nibelungs of medieval times.
Sidelight: After the death of Homer, a certain group of epic poets, between 800 and 550 BC, wrote continuations and additions on the subject of the Trojan War; chief among them were Agias, Arctinos, Eugamon, Lesches and Strasinos. Since their writing was confined to that single subject, they were referred to as cyclic poets.
(See also Anthology, Canon, Companion Poem, Lyric Sequence, Sonnet Sequence)

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T UV W XYZ

He who would not be frustrate of his hope to write well hereafter in laudable things
ought himself to be a true poem.

---John Milton


For a good poet's made as well as born.

---Ben Jonson

D

DACTYL, DACTYLIC
A metrical foot of three syllables, the first of which is long or accented and the next two short or unaccented, as in MER-rily or LOV-er boy, or from Byron's "The Bride of Abydos":

KNOW ye the | LAND where the | CY-press and | MYR-tle
Sidelight: Except for their use in humorous light verse, dactylic lines are now infrequent in English poetry.
(See also Double Dactyl, Meter, Rhythm)

DADAISM
A short-lived WWI European movement in arts and literature based on deliberate irrationality and the negation of traditional artistic values.

(See Poems of Chance)

DECAMETER (dek-AM-uh-tur)
A line of verse consisting of ten metrical feet.

DECASYLLABLE
A metrical line of ten syllables or a poem composed of ten-syllable lines.

(See also Dodecasyllable, Hendecasyllable, Heptasyllable, Octosyllable)

DENOTATION
The literal dictionary meaning(s) of a word as distinct from an associated idea or connotation.
Sidelight: Many words have more than one denotation, such as the multiple meanings of fair or spring. In ordinary language, we strive for a single precise meaning of words to avoid ambiguity, but poets often take advantage of words with more than one meaning to suggest more than one idea with the same word. A pun also utilizes multiple meanings as a play on words.
DIACOPE (di-ACK-o-pee)
See Epizeuxis

DIAERESIS or DIERESIS (dy-EHR-uh-sus)
The pronunciation of two adjacent vowels within a word as separate sounds rather than as a diphthong, as in coordinate; also, the mark indicating the separate pronunciation, as in naïve.
Sidelight: In classical prosody, the diaeresis was a break or pause in a line of verse occurring when the end of a foot coincides with the end of a word.
(Compare Caesura)

DIBRACH (DYE-brak)
See Pyrrhic

DICTION
The choice of words, phrases, sentence structures, and figurative language in a literary work; the manner or mode of verbal expression, particularly with regard to clarity and accuracy. The diction of a poem can range from colloquial to formal, from literal to figurative, or from concrete to abstract.
Sidelight: Poetic diction refers to words, phrasing, and figures not usually used in ordinary speech and often utilizes archaisms, neologisms, epithets, kennings, periphrases, connotations, and hyperbaton.
Sidelight: Poets often adapt diction to the form or genre of a poem, for example, elevated for odes, or folksy for ballads.
(Compare Content, Form, Motif, Persona, Style, Texture, Tone)

DIDACTIC POETRY
Poetry which is clearly intended for the purpose of instruction -- to impart theoretical, moral, or practical knowledge, or to explain the principles of some art or science, as Virgil's Georgics, or Pope's An Essay on Criticism.
Sidelight: Didactic poetry can assume the manner and attributes of imaginative works by incorporating the knowledge in a variety of forms, such as dramatic poetry, satire, and parody, among others. Allegories, aphorisms, apologues, fables, gnomes, and proverbs are so closely related to didactic poetry that they can be considered specific types of that genre.
Sidelight: Although the instructional purpose is its primary aim, didactic poetry often contains vivid descriptive passages, digressions, and thoughtful reflections bearing on the subject matter.
(See also Georgic)
(Compare Catalog Verse, Epigram)

DIIAMB or DIAMB (dye-EYE-am, DYE-am)
In classical poetry, a metrical foot consisting of four syllables, with the first and third short and the second and fourth long, i.e., two iambs considered as a single foot.

DIMETER (DYE-muh-tur)
A line of verse consisting of two metrical feet, or of two dipodies.

(See Meter)

DIPODY, DIPODIC VERSE (DIP-uh-dee, dih-PAH-dik)
A double foot; a unit of two feet.
Sidelight: Sometimes heavy and light stresses alternate in the accented syllables of verse. When such alternations are frequent enough to establish a discernable pattern, the meter is scanned in units of two feet instead of one and termed dipodic verse.
DIRGE
A poem of grief or lamentation, especially one intended to accompany funeral or memorial rites.
Sidelight: In contrast to an elegy, the principle aim of the dirge is to lament the dead, rather than to console survivors.
(See also Epitaph, Monody)

DISPONDEE (dye-SPAHN-dee)
In classical poetry, a metrical foot consisting of four long syllables, equivalent to a double spondee.

DISSONANCE
A mingling or union of harsh, inharmonious sounds, often deliberately used for effect, as in the lines from Whitman's "The Dalliance of Eagles:"

      The clinching interlocking claws, a living, fierce, gyrating wheel,
      Four beating wings, two beaks, a swirling mass tight grappling,
      In tumbling turning clustering loops, straight downward falling,
Sidelight: The term, dissonance, can also refer to any elements of a poem which are discordant in the context of their use.
Sidelight: Although often considered synonymous with cacophony, the term dissonance more strongly implies a deliberate choice.
(Contrast Euphony)

DISTICH (DIS-tik)
A strophic unit of two lines; a pair of poetic lines or verses which together comprise a complete sense.
Sidelight: If the end words of a distich rhyme, it is called a couplet.
(See also Closed Couplet, Open Couplet, Heroic Couplet)
(Compare Monostich, Hemistich)

DISYLLABLE
A word of two syllables.

(See also Monosyllable, Polysyllable, Trisyllable)

DISYLLABIC RHYME
A rhyme in which two final syllables of words have the same sound, as in fender and bender or beguile and revile.
Sidelight: In the above examples of disyllabic rhymes, fender and bender are also a feminine rhyme, while beguile and revile are also a masculine rhyme.
(See also Mosaic Rhyme, Triple Rhyme)

DITHYRAMB (DITH-eye-ram)
In classical poetry, a type of melic verse associated with drunken revelry and performed to honor Dionysus (Bacchus), the Greek god of wine. In modern usage, the term has come to mean a poem of impassioned frenzy and irregular character.
Sidelight: John Dryden's "Alexander's Feast," bears a resemblance to the dithyrambic form.
DITTY
A simple little poem meant to be sung.
Sidelight: Long ago, the word "ditty" served as a verb, meaning to sing a song or set words to music, but its use as such became obsolete by the 16th century.
(Compare Versicle)

DIVINE AFFLATUS
See Afflatus

DOCHMIUS (DAHK-mee-us) pl. DOCHMII (DAHK-mee-eye)
In classical prosody, a metrical foot consisting of five syllables, the first and fourth being short and the second, third, and fifth long.

DODECASYLLABLE (DOH-decka-SIL-uh- bul)
A metrical line of twelve syllables.

(See also Decasyllable, Hendecasyllable, Heptasyllable, Octosyllable)

DOGGEREL
Originally applied to poetry of loose irregular measure, it now is used to describe crudely written poetry which lacks artistry in form or meaning. It is sometimes deliberately used, however, for comic or satirical effect.

(See Broadside Ballad)
(See also Poetaster, Poeticule, Rhymester, Versifier)

DORIAN ODE
See Pindaric Verse

DOUBLE BALLADE
See Ballade

DOUBLE DACTYL
A word with two dactyls, such as COUNT-er-in-TEL-li-gence or PAR-lia-men-TAR-i-an; also, a modern form of light verse consisting of two quatrains with two dactyls per line. The first line is a hyphenated nonsense word, often "higgledy-piggledy," the second line is a proper name, and the sixth line is a single double dactyl word. The fourth and eighth lines are truncated, lacking the final two unaccented syllables, and rhyme with each other, as in the following example:
Higgledy-piggledy
Doctor D. Livingstone
Scottish explorer of
Note, but of whom

Chiefly we know by the
Anticlimactical
Greeting by Stanley, who
said, "I presume."

                         -- rgs

DOUBLE RHYME
See Disyllabic Rhyme

DRAMATIC MONOLOGUE
A literary work which consists of a revealing one-way conversation by a character or persona, usually directed to a second person or to an imaginary audience. It typically involves a critical moment of a specific situation, with the speaker's words unintentionally providing a revelation of his character, as in Robert Browning's "My Last Duchess."

(See also Conversation Poem, Interior Monologue, Soliloquy)
(Compare Prosopopeia)

DRAMATIC POEM
A composition in verse portraying a story of life or character, usually involving conflict and emotions, in a plot evolving through action and dialogue.
Sidelight: Dramatic, lyric, and narrative are the three main groups of poetry. It is possible, however, for a poem to combine the characteristics of all three.
DUPLE METER
See Binary Meter

DYSPHEMISM (DIS-fuh-mizm)
The substitution of a disagreeable, offensive or disparaging expression to replace an agreeable or inoffensive one.

(Contrast Euphemism)

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T UV W XYZ

Of all the arts in which the wise excel,
Nature's chief masterpiece is writing well.

---Sheffield, Duke of Buckinghamshire


Though an angel should write, still 't is devils must print.

---Thomas Moore

E
ECHO
The repetition of particular sounds, syllables, words or lines in poetry.

(See also Anadiplosis, Anaphora, Epistrophe, Epizeuxis, Incremental Repetition,
                 Parallelism, Polysyndeton, Refrain, Rhyme, Stornello Verses
)

ECHO VERSE
A form of poem in which a word or two at the end of a line appears as an echo constituting the entire following line. The echo, either the same word or syllable or a homophone, often changes the meaning in a flippant, cynical or punning response, as in Jonathan Swift's lines from, "A Gentle Echo on Woman:"
Shepherd.  What most moves women when we them address?
Echo.                                         A dress.
Shepherd.  Say, what can keep her chaste whom I adore?
Echo.                                         A door.
Shepherd.  If music softens rocks, love tunes my lyre.
Echo.                                         Liar.
Shepherd.  Then teach me, Echo, how shall I come by her?
Echo.                                         Buy her.
(See also Close Rhyme)

ECLOGUE (EHK-lawg or EHK-lahg)
A pastoral poem, usually containing dialogue between shepherds.

(See also Arcadia, Bucolic, Idyll, Madrigal)

EDDA
Either of two collections of mythological, heroic and aphoristic Icelandic poetry from the 12th and 13th centuries.
Sidelight: The first collection contains the mythology of the people; the second, selections from the poetry of the Skalds.
(See also Rune)

EIDILLION or EIDYLLION
See Idyll

EKPHRASIS or ECPHRASIS (EHK-fra-sis)
In modern usage, the vivid literary description of a specific work of art, which may be actual or imaginary, such as a painting, sculpture, tapestry, church, and the like. Originally, the term more broadly applied to a description in words of any experience, person, or thing,
Sidelight: The general term for the effective quality of sense impressions or mental images and the resulting arousal of emotion is enargia (en-AR-jee-uh).
(See also Imagery, Mimesis)

ELEGIAC (el-uh-JY-uk)
In classical prosody, verses written in elegiac meter, i.e., dactylic hexameter couplets, with the second line of each couplet having only an unaccented syllable in the third and sixth feet; also, of or relating to the period in which elegies written in such couplets flourished, about the 7th century BC; also, relating to an elegy.

ELEGIAC STANZA
See Heroic Quatrain

ELEGY
A poem of lament, praise, and consolation, usually formal and sustained, over the death of a particular person; also, a meditative poem in plaintive or sorrowful mood, such as, "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard," by Thomas Gray.
Sidelight: The pastoral elegy became conventional in the Renaissance and continued into the 19th century. Traditionally, pastoral elegies included an invocation, a lament in which all nature joined, praise, sympathy, and a closing consolation, as in John Milton's Lycidas.
(See also Dirge, Epitaph, Monody)

ELISION
The omission of a letter or syllable as a means of contraction, generally to achieve a uniform metrical pattern, but sometimes to smooth the pronunciation; most such omissions are marked with an apostrophe. Specific types of elision include aphaeresis, apocope, syncope, synaeresis and synaloepha, most of which can be found in Thomas Gray's "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard."
Sidelight: The opposite of elision is hiatus: the slight break in articulation caused by the occurrence of contiguous vowels, either within a word as "naive" or in the final and beginning vowels of successive words, as "the umbrella."
ELLIPSIS (ih-LIP-suss), pl. ELLIPSES (ih-LIP-seez)
The omission of a word or words necessary to complete a grammatical construction, but which is easily understood by the reader, such as "the virtues I esteem" for "the virtues which I esteem." Also, the marks (. . .) or (--) denoting an omission or pause.
Sidelight: Other terms involving omissions in grammatical construction include: asyndeton, which omits conjunctions; zeugma and syllepsis, which use one word to serve for two; and aposiopesis, which omits a word or phrase at the end of a clause or sentence for effect.
EMBLEM POEMS
See under Pattern Poetry

EMPATHY
The feeling or capacity for awareness, understanding, and sensitivity one experiences when hearing or reading of some event or activity of others, thus imagining the same sensations as that of those actually experiencing them.

EMPHASIS
A deliberate stress of articulation on a word or phrase so as to give an impression of particular significance to it by the more marked pronunciation. In writing, emphasis is indicated by the use of italics or underlining.

(Compare Accent)
(See also under Spondee)

ENALLAGE (en-AL-uh-jee)
The effective use of a grammatically incorrect part of speech in place of the correct form, e.g., present tense in place of past tense, plural for singular, etc., as in Punch magazine's "you pays your money, and you takes your choice."

(See also Catachresis, Malapropism, Mixed Metaphor, Oxymoron, Paradox, Solecism, Synesthesia)
(Compare Hypallage)

ENARGIA
See under Ekphrasis

ENCOMIUM (en-KOH-mee-um)
A speech or composition in high praise of a person, object, or event.
Sidelight: Other terms for works involving praise and commendation include the panegyric, a more formal and elaborate type of encomium, and the eulogy, which applies to praise of the character and accomplishments of a person only; the epinicion is a celebration of victory in an ode, both the hymn and the paean embrace praise addressed to gods, while the epithalamium and prothalamium honor a bride and bridegroom.
END RHYME
A rhyme occurring in the terminating word or syllable of one line of poetry with that of another line, as opposed to internal rhyme.

(See also Feminine Rhyme, Masculine Rhyme, Perfect Rhyme)

END-STOPPED
Denoting a line of verse in which a logical or rhetorical pause occurs at the end of the line, usually marked with a period, comma, or semicolon.
Sidelight: While correctly used to refer to a single line, the term is most frequently used in reference to the couplet, especially the closed or heroic couplet.
(Contrast Enjambment, Open Couplet, Run-On Lines)

ENJAMBMENT
The continuation of the sense and therefore the grammatical construction beyond the end of a line of verse or the end of a couplet.
Sidelight: This run-on device, contrasted with end-stopped, can be very effective in creating a sense of forward motion, fine-tuning the rhythm, and reinforcing the mood, as well as a variation to avoid monotony, but should not be used as a mere mannerism.
(See also Open Couplet)

ENVELOPE
A poetic device in which a line, phrase, or stanza is repeated so as to enclose other material, as in Dryden's:
 
      What passion cannot Music raise and quell!
              When Jubal struck the corded shell,
          His listening brethren stood around,
          And, wondering, on their faces fell
          To worship that celestial sound.
      Less than a god they thought there could not dwell
              Within the hollow of that shell
              That spoke so sweetly and so well.
      What passion cannot Music raise and quell!
Sidelight: The term can apply to rhyme as well. The rhyme scheme abba in a quatrain is termed an envelope rhyme since the rhymes of the first and last lines enclose the other lines.
(Compare Chain Verse, Chiasmus, Rondeau)

ENVOI or ENVOY
A short final stanza of a poem, especially a ballade or sestina, serving as a concise summary, as in Villon's "Des Dames du Temps Jadis."
Sidelight: The Occitan troubadours' term for an envoi was tornada (return). They used tornadas in chant royales as well as ballades.

EPANADIPLOSIS ( ehp-an-uh-duh-PLOH-sus)
See Anadiplosis

EPANALEPSIS (ehp-uh-nuh-LEP-sis)
A figure of speech in which a word or phrase is repeated after intervening matter, as "Weep no more, woeful shepherds, weep no more," from Milton's Lycidas. More specifically, the repetition, placed at the end of a sentence, line, clause, or phrase, of the word or words at the beginning of the same sentence, line, clause or phrase.

(See also Antanaclasis, Epizeuxis, Ploce, Polyptoton)

EPANAPHORA (ehp-uh-NAF-or-uh)
See Anaphora

EPIC
An extended narrative poem, usually simple in construction, but grand in scope, exalted in style, and heroic in theme, often giving expression to the ideals of a nation or race.
Sidelight: Homer, the author of The Iliad and The Odyssey, is sometimes referred to as the "Father of Epic Poetry." Based on the conventions he established, classical epics began with an argument and an invocation to a guiding spirit, then started the narrative in medias res. In modern use, the term, "epic," is generally applied to all lengthy works on matters of great importance.
(See also Chanson de Geste, Cycle, Epopee, Epos, Heroic Quatrain)
(Compare Ballad, Narrative, Tragedy)
(Contrast Mock-Epic)

EPIC SIMILE
See under Simile

EPIGRAM
A pithy, sometimes satiric, couplet or quatrain which was popular in classic Latin literature and in European and English literature of the Renaissance and the neo-Classical era. Epigrams comprise a single thought or event and are often aphoristic with a witty or humorous turn of thought. Coleridge wrote the following definition:
What is an epigram? A dwarfish whole,
Its body brevity, and wit its soul.
(See also Monostich, Heroic Couplet)
(Compare Allegory, Apologue, Didactic Poetry, Fable, Gnome, Proverb)

EPIGRAPH
A quotation, or a sentence composed for the purpose, placed at the beginning of a literary work or one of its separate divisions, usually suggestive of the theme.

EPINICION (ehp-uh-NISS-ee-ahn) also EPINICIAN, EPINIKION
A song in celebration of triumph; an ode in praise of a victory in the Greek games or in war.

(See also Encomium, Pindaric Verse)

EPIPHORA (ehp-ih-FOH-ruh)
See Epistrophe

EPISTROPHE (ehp-ISS-truh-fee)
Also called epiphora, the repetition of a word or expression at the end of successive phrases or verses, as in Lincoln's "of the people, by the people, for the people."

(See also Anaphora, Symploce)
(Compare Anadiplosis, Echo , Epizeuxis, Incremental Repetition,
                 Parallelism, Polysyndeton, Refrain, Stornello Verses
)

EPITAPH
A brief poem or statement in memory of someone who is deceased, used as, or suitable for, a tombstone inscription; a commemorative lamentation.

(See also Dirge, Elegy, Monody)

EPITHALAMIUM (eh-puh-thuh-LAH-mee-im) or EPITHALAMION
A nuptial song or poem in honor of the bride and bridegroom.
Sidelight: Spenser's Epithalamion, is widely regarded as a treasure of English literature.
Sidelight: Sir John Suckling's "A Ballad upon a Wedding," is a parody of an epithalamium.
(Compare Prothalamium)
(See also Encomium, Fescennine Verses)

EPITHET
An adjective or adjectival phrase, usually attached to the name of a person or thing, such as "Richard the Lion-Hearted," Milton's "ivy-crowned Bacchus" in "L'Allegro," or Homer's "rosy-fingered dawn."
Sidelight: With epithets, poets can compress the imaginative power of many words into a single compound phrase.
Sidelight: An epithet may be either positive or negative in connotation or allusion and sometimes may be freshly coined, like a nonce word, for a particular circumstance or occasion.
(Compare Antonomasia, Kenning, Periphrasis)

EPITRITE (EP-ih-trite)
In classical poetry, a metrical foot consisting of three long syllables and one short syllable, and denominated first, second, third, or fourth according to the position of the short syllable.

(Contrast Paeon)

EPIZEUXIS (eh-puh-ZOOK-sis)
A rhetorical device consisting of the immediate repetition of a word or phrase for emphasis, as in Milton's:

O dark, dark, dark, amid the blaze of noon.
Sidelight: The placement of a word before a repetition in an epizeuxis is called a diacope, as in Shakespeare's:

Words, words, more words, no matter from the heart.
(See also Antanaclasis, Epanalepsis, Ploce, Polyptoton)
(Compare Anadiplosis, Anaphora, Echo,Incremental Repetition,
                 Parallelism, Polysyndeton, Refrain, Stornello Verses
)

EPODE (EHP-ode)
A type of lyric poem in which a long verse is followed by a shorter one, or the third and last part of an ode, or the third part of a triadic Greek poem or Pindaric verse following the strophe and the antistrophe.

EPOPEE (eh-puh-PEE) or EPOPOEIA (eh-puh-PEE-uh)
An epic poem, or the history, action, or legend which is the subject of an epic poem.

(See also Chanson de Geste, Epos, Heroic Quatrain)
(Compare Ballad, Narrative, Tragedy)

EPOS (EH-pahs)
An epic poem; also a number of poems of an epic theme but which are not formally united.

(See also Chanson de Geste, Epopee, Heroic Quatrain)
(Compare Ballad, Narrative, Tragedy)

EPYLLION (eh-PILL-yuhn), pl. EPYLLIA
A brief narrative work in classic poetry written in dactylic hexameter. It commonly dealt with mythological themes, often with a romantic interest, and was characterized by vivid description, scholarly allusion , and an elevated tone.

EQUIVOCAL RHYME
See under Perfect Rhyme

EQUIVOKE or EQUIVOQUE
An ambiguous word or phrase capable more than one interpretation, thus susceptible to use for puns.

ETHOS (EE-thahs)
See under Persona

EULOGY (YOO-luh-jee)
A speech or writing in praise of the character or accomplishments of a person.

(See also Encomium)

EUPHEMISM (YOO-fuh-mizm)
The substitution of an agreeable or inoffensive expression to replace one that might offend or suggest something unpleasant, for example, "he is at rest" is a euphemism for "he is dead."

(Contrast Dysphemism)

EUPHONY (YOO-fuh-nee)
Harmony or beauty of sound which provides a pleasing effect to the ear, usually sought-for in poetry for effect. It is achieved not only by the selection of individual word-sounds, but also by their arrangement in the repetition, proximity, and flow of sound patterns.
Sidelight: The consonants considered most pleasing in sound are l, m, n, r, v, and w. The harsher consonants in euphonious texts become less jarring when in the proximity of softer sounds. Vowel sounds are generally more euphonious than the consonants, so a line with a higher ratio of vowel sounds will produce a more agreeable effect; also, the long vowels in words like moon and fate are more melodious than the short vowels in cat and bed. But the most important measure of euphonic strategies is their appropriateness to the subject.
(See also Alliteration, Assonance, Consonance, Modulation, Sound Devices)
(Compare Resonance)
(Contrast Cacophony, Dissonance)

EUPHUISM (YOO-fyuh-wizm)
An ornate Elizabethan style of writing marked by the excessive use of alliteration, antithesis and mythological similes. The term derives from the elaborate and affected style of John Lyly's 16th century romance, Euphues.

(See also Baroque, Conceit, Gongorism, Marinism, Melic Verse)

EXACT RHYME
See Perfect Rhyme

EXTENDED METAPHOR
A metaphor which is drawn-out beyond the usual word or phrase to extend throughout a stanza or an entire poem, usually by using multiple comparisons between the unlike objects or ideas.
Sidelight: Tennyson's "Crossing the Bar," demonstrates the effectiveness of this device: metaphorically, he compares a sandbar in the Thames River over which ships cannot pass until high tide, with the natural time for completion of his own life's journey from birth to death.
(See also Conceit)

EYE RHYME
See Sight Rhyme
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T UV W XYZ

Whoever can endure unmixed delight, whoever can tolerate music and painting and
poetry all in one, whoever wishes to be rid of thought and to let the busy anvils of the
brain be silent for a time, let him read the "Faery Queen."

---James Russell Lowell


Read Homer once, and you can read no more;
For all books else appear so mean, so poor,
Verse will seem prose, but still persist to read,
And Homer will be all the books you need.

---Sheffield, Duke of Buckinghamshire

F

FABLE
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.

FATAL FLAW
See Hamartia

FEMININE ENDING
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)

FEMININE RHYME
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)

FESCENNINE VERSES (FEH-suh-neen)
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)

FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE
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.

FIGURE OF SOUND
See Alliteration, Assonance, Consonance, Euphony, Resonance, Sound Devices

FIGURE OF SPEECH
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)

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

FIXED FORM
See Form

FOOT
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)

FORM
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)

FOUND POEM
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.

FOURTEENER
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)

FREE VERSE
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)
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T UV W XYZ

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

G
GALLIAMBUS
In classical poetry, a lyric meter consisting of four iambic dipodies, the last of which is catalectic, dropping the final accent, or a line of four lesser Ionic feet catalectic, varied by anaclasis.

GENRE (ZHAHN-ruh)
A category of artistic, musical or literary composition characterized by a particular form, style or content. Poetry, for example, is a literary genre and lyric verse is a poetic genre.
Sidelight: The term, genre, is frequently used interchangeably with "type" and "kind."
GEORGIC (JAWR-jik)
A poem dealing with a rural or agricultural topic, but differing from pastoral poetry in that the primary intention of a georgic is didactic. Virgil's Georgics exemplifies the form.
Sidelight: The poet, James Thomson, was called the "English Virgil" after his writing of The Seasons, which is similar in content and form to Virgil's Georgics.
GHAZAL (ga-ZAL)
A short monorhymed Middle Eastern lyric poem in which the first two lines rhyme with a corresponding rhyme in the second line of each succeeding couplet, thus a rhyme scheme of aa, ba, ca, etc. The ghazal usually deals with themes of love in a melancholy mood.

(See also Canzone, Ode, Melic Verse, Romance, Society Verse)

GLEEMAN
An old English minstrel. Gleemen sometimes composed their own verse, but often recited poetry written by a scop.

GNOME
An aphorism, a short statement of proverbial truth. Composers of such verse are known as gnomic poets.

(Compare Allegory, Apologue, Didactic Poetry, Epigram, Fable, Proverb)

GOLIARDIC POETRY
Satiric verse which flourished in the 12th and 13th centuries, usually consisting of a stanza of four 13-syllable lines in feminine rhyme, sometimes with a concluding hexameter. The satire was characteristically a defiance of authority, most particularly directed against the Church.
Sidelight: The unprincipled traits of Geoffrey Chaucer's Friar and the Pardoner in The Canterbury Tales were probably influenced by the Goliardic poet, Jean De Meun, in his portion of the 13th century extended allegorical poem, Roman de la Rose, in which the friar Faus-Semblant reveals his hypocrisy though his own words.
GONGORISM (GAHN-guh-rizm)
Named for the 17th century Spanish poet, Luis de Gongora y Argote, a literary style characterized by stilted obscurity and the use of affected devices of embellishment.

(See also Baroque, Conceit, Euphuism, Marinism, Melic Verse)

GRAMMATICAL RHYME
See under Polyptoton

GRAVE (grayv or grahv)
In poetry, a mark ( ` ) indicating that the e in the English ending ed is to be pronounced for the sake of meter.
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T UV W XYZ

We hold that the most wonderful and splendid
proof of genius is a great poem produced in a civilized age.

---On Milton, Thomas B. Macauley


Well, write poetry, for God's sake, it's the only thing that matters.

---Edward Estlin Cummings
H
HAIKU (HIGH-koo)
A Japanese form of poetry consisting of three unrhymed lines of five, seven, and five syllables. The elusive flavor of the form, however, lies more in its touch and tone than in its syllabic structure. Deeply imbedded in Japanese culture and strongly influenced by Zen Buddhism, haiku are very brief descriptions of nature that convey some implicit insight or essence of a moment. Traditionally, they contain either a direct or oblique reference to a season:
A field of tulips--
convulsions of vivid hues
bouncing on the breeze

                              -- rgs

Sidelight: Haiku derived from the hokku, which was the opening part of the renga, a lengthy Japanese poem usually composed by several poets writing alternating stanzas.
Sidelight: After World War II, haiku attracted an increasing interest among American poets and is now written in many other languages as well, often with experimental changes in the form. The original Japanese haiku was written in a one-line format
(See also Senryu, Tanka, Cinquain)

HALF RHYME
A near rhyme; also, an apocopated rhyme in which the rhyme occurs only on the first syllable of the rhyming word, as in blue and truly or sum and trumpet.

HAMARTIA (hah-mahr-TEE-uh)
In literature, the tragic hero's error of judgment or inherent defect of character, usually less literally translated as a "fatal flaw." This, combined with essential elements of chance and other external forces, brings about a catastrophe. Often the error or flaw results from nothing more than personal traits like probity, pride, and overconfidence, but can arise from any failure of the protagonist's action or knowledge ranging from a simple unwitting act to a moral deficiency.
Sidelight: The tragic hero is usually of high estate and neither entirely virtuous nor bad. Hamartia, rather than villainy, is the significant factor leading to his suffering. He evokes our pity because, not being an evil person, his misfortune is a greater tragedy than he deserves and is disproportionate to the "flaw." We are also moved to fear, as we recognize the possibilities of similar errors or defects in ourselves.
HEAD RHYME
See Alliteration

HELICON
A part of the Parnassus, a mountain range in Greece, which was the home of the Muses. The name is used as an allusion to poetic inspiration.

(See also Afflatus, Numen, Parnassian)

HEMISTICH (HEM-ih-stik)
The approximate half of a line of poetic verse. In dramatic poetry, where the hemistichs are split into two short lines, it is used whenever characters exchange short bursts of dialogue rapidly, heightening the effect of quarrelsome disagreement; in classical poetry such a series is called hemistichomythia. Other types of poetry may use an occasional hemistich to give the effect of emotionally disturbed thought or action.
Sidelight: Alliterative verse was composed with two hemistichs on a single line, divided by a caesura.
(Compare Stich, Monostich, Distich, Stichomythia)

HENDECASYLLABLE (HEN-decka-SIL-uh-bul)
A metrical line of eleven syllables.

(See also Decasyllable, Dodecasyllable, Heptasyllable, Octosyllable)

HENDIADYS (hen-DYE-a-dis)
The use of a pair of independent words joined by and, where one of the words achieves the effect of a modifier, to express a single expanded idea, as nice and warm (nicely warm) or Tennyson's:

waving to him white hands and courtesy (courteous white hands)
Sidelight: Shakespeare's works contain many examples of hendiadys, such as "sound and fury" (furious sound) in Macbeth, and "heat and flame" (hot flame) in Hamlet.
(Compare Prolepsis, Syllepsis. Zeugma)

HEPTAMETER (hep-TAM-uh-tur)
A line of verse consisting of seven metrical feet. It is also called a septenarius, especially in Latin prosody.
Sidelight: A heptameter is called a fourteener when it is iambic.
(See Meter)
(See also Poulter's Measure)

HEPTASYLLABLE (HEP-tuh-SIL-uh-bul)
A metrical line of seven syllables.

(See also Decasyllable, Dodecasyllable, Hendecasyllable, Octosyllable)

HEROIC COUPLET
Two successive lines of rhymed poetry in iambic pentameter, so called for its use in the composition of epic poetry in the 17th and 18th centuries. In neo-classical usage the two lines were required to express a complete thought, thus a closed couplet, with a subordinate pause at the end of the first line. Heroic couplets, which are well-suited to antithesis and parallelism, are also often used for epigrams, such as Pope's:
        You beat your pate, and fancy wit will come.
        Knock as you please--there's nobody at home.
Sidelight: Poems written in heroic couplets, such as Pope's The Rape of the Lock, are especially subject to the danger of metrical monotony, which poets avoid by variations in their placement of caesuras.
(See also Couplet, Distich, Open Couplet)

HEROIC QUATRAIN or HEROIC VERSE
So named because it is the form in which epic poetry of heroic exploits is generally written, its rhyme scheme is abab, composed in iambic pentameter verse in English, hexameter in Greek and Latin, ottava rima in Italian.
Sidelight: The English form of the heroic quatrain is also called the elegiac stanza for its frequent use in elegiac verse, as in Gray's "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard." The form has also been used by other poets without elegiac intent, as in Shakespeare's sonnets.
(See also Chanson de Geste, Epopee, Epos, Quatrain, Rhyme Royal)
(Compare Ballad, Narrative, Tragedy)

HETEROMETRIC
See under Stanza

HETERONYM
See under Homonym

HEXAMETER (hex-AM-uh-tur)
A line of verse consisting of six metrical feet; the term, however, is usually used for dactylic hexameter, consisting of dactyls and spondees, the meter in which the Greek and Latin epics were written.
Sidelight: A hexameter is called an Alexandrine when it is iambic or trochaic in its English version.
(See Meter)
(See also Poulter's Measure)

HIATUS (hy-AY-tus)
See under Elision

HIGGLEDY-PIGGLEDY
See Double Dactyl

HOKKU (HAW-koo)
See Haiku

HOMERIC SIMILE
See under Simile

HOMOGRAPH
See under Homonym

HOMONYM
One of two or more words which are identical in pronunciation and spelling, but different in meaning, as the noun bear and the verb bear.
Sidelight: Although often called homonyms in popular usage (indeed, in some dictionaries as well), homophones are words which are identical in pronunciation but different in meaning or derivation or spelling, as rite, write, right, and wright, or rain and reign. Heteronyms are words which are identical in spelling but different in meaning and pronunciation, as sow, to scatter seed, and sow, a female hog. Homographs are words which are identical in spelling but different in meaning and derivation or pronunciation, as pine, to yearn for, and pine, a tree, or the bow of a ship and a bow and arrow.
(Compare Antonym, Paronym, Synonym)
(Contrast Sight Rhyme)

HOMOPHONE
See under Homonym

HORATIAN ODE
An ode relating to or resembling the works or style of the Roman poet, Horace, consisting of a series of uniform stanzas, complex in their metrical system and rhyme scheme. The Greek form is called an Aeolic ode. Horatian odes are characteristically less elaborate and more contemplative than Pindaric odes.
Sidelight: John Keats' "Ode to a Nightingale" is an example of a Horatian ode.
(See also Sapphic Verse)

HOVERING ACCENT
In scansion, a stress which is thought of as being equally distributed over two adjacent syllables, a concept proposed to cover an accent not in alignment with the expected metrical ictus, as in Pope's:

That in | one speech | two Neg- | atives | affirme

(See also Spondee, Sprung Rhythm)

HUDIBRASTIC VERSE
A mock-heroic humorous poem written in octosyllabic couplets, after Hudibras, a satirical poem by Samuel Butler.

(See also Burlesque, Parody, Pasquinade, Satire)
(Compare Antiphrasis, Irony)

HYMN
A song or ode of praise, usually addressed to gods, but sometimes to heroes or to abstractions such as Truth, Justice, or Fortune.

(See also Paean, Encomium)

HYPALLAGE (high-PAL-uh-jee)
A type of hyperbaton involving an interchange of elements in a phrase or sentence so that a displaced word is in a grammatical relationship with another that it does not logically qualify, as in:
With rainy marching in the painful field
             ---Shakespeare, Henry V, IV.iii

Alas, what ignorant sin have I committed?
             --- Shakespeare, Othello, IV.ii

While the cock . . .
Stoutly struts his dames before;
             --- Milton, "L'Allegro"

(Compare Anastrophe, Chiasmus)

HYPERBATON (hi-PER-buh-tahn)
An inversion of the normal grammatical word order; it may range from a single word moved from its usual place to a pair of words inverted or to even more extremes of syntactic displacement. Specific types of hyperbaton are anastrophe, hypallage, and hysteron proteron.
Sidelight: The poetic use of hyperbaton is the principal difference in diction between poetry and prose. Poets utilize it to meet the needs of meter or rhyme, for emphasis or rhetorical effect, and to temper the flow of narrative.
HYPERBOLE (hi-PER-buh-lee)
A bold, deliberate overstatement, e.g., "I'd give my right arm for a piece of pizza." Not intended to be taken literally, it is used as a means of emphasizing the truth of a statement.
Sidelight: A type of hyperbole in which the exaggeration magnified so greatly that it refers to an impossibility is called an adynaton.
(Contrast Litotes, Meiosis)

HYPERCATALECTIC
Having an additional syllable after the final complete foot in a line of verse. A verse marked by hypercatalexis is called hypermetrical.

(Compare Anacrusis)
(Contrast Acatalectic, Catalectic)

HYPERMETRICAL
A line which contains a redundant syllable or syllables at variance with the regular metrical pattern.

(See also Hypercatalectic)

HYSTERON PROTERON (HIS-tuh-rahn PRAH-tuh-rahn)
Related to the hyperbaton, a figure of speech in which the natural or logical order of events is reversed, as in "I die! I faint! I fail!" from Shelley's "The Indian Serenade."

(Compare Anachronism, In Medias Res)



A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T UV W XYZ

Could mortal lip divine
The undeveloped freight
Of a delivered syllable,
'T would crumble with the weight.

---Emily Dickinson


Syllables govern the word.

---John Selden

I
IAMB (EYE-am) or IAMBUS, IAMBIC
The most common metrical foot in English, German, and Russian verse, and many other languages as well; it consists of two syllables, a short or unaccented syllable followed by a long or accented syllable, as in a-VOID or the RUSH, or from the opening line of John Keats' "Ode to a Nightingale":

a DROW | -sy NUMB | -ness PAINS
Sidelight: The name of the iambic foot derives from the Greek iambos, a genre of invective poetry (now termed lampoon) with which it was originally associated.
(See also Meter, Rhythm)

ICTUS
The recurring stress or accent in a rhythmic or metrical series of sounds; also, the mark indicating the syllable on which such stress or accent occurs.

(See Arsis)
(See also Cadence, Modulation, Rhythm, Sprung Rhythm)

IDEALISM
The artistic theory or practice that affirms the preeminent values of ideas and imagination, as compared with the faithful portrayal of nature in realism.

(Compare Classicism, Imagism, Impressionism, Metaphysical,
                 Objectivism, Romanticism, Symbolism
)

IDENTICAL RHYME
See under Perfect Rhyme

IDYLL or IDYL
A pastoral poem, usually brief, stressing the picturesque aspects of country life, or a longer narrative poem generally descriptive of pastoral scenes and written in a highly finished style, such as Milton's "L'Allegro."
Sidelight: Idyll is the anglicized version of the Greek Eidillion.
Probably because the adjectival form of the word "idyll," idyllic, is commonly used in a sense of tranquility, charm, innocence, and ideal virtues, the term is applied to poetry with wide latitude, as in Tennyson's Idylls of the King.
(See also Arcadia, Bucolic, Eclogue, Madrigal)

IMAGERY, IMAGE
The elements in a literary work used to evoke mental images, not only of the visual sense, but of sensation and emotion as well. While most commonly used in reference to figurative language, imagery is a variable term which can apply to any and all components of a poem that evoke sensory experience and emotional response, whether figurative or literal, and also applies to the concrete things so imaged.
Sidelight: Imaginative diction transfers the poet's impressions of sight, sound, smell, taste and touch to the careful reader, as in "The Chambered Nautilus," by Oliver Wendell Holmes, or "The Cloud," by Percy Bysshe Shelley.
Sidelight: In addition to its more tangible initial impact, effective imagery has the potential to tap the inner wisdom of the reader to arouse meditative and inspirational responses.
Sidelight: Related images are often clustered or scattered throughout a work, thus serving to create a particular tone. Images of disease, corruption, and death, for example, are recurrent patterns shaping the tonality of Shakespeare's Hamlet. Imagery can also emphasize a theme, as do the suggestions of dissolution, depression, and mortality in John Keats' "Ode to a Nightingale."
(See also Ekphrasis, Figure of Speech, Trope)

IMAGISM
A 20th century movement in poetry advocating free verse, new rhythmic effects, colloquial language, and the expression of ideas and emotions, with clear, well-defined images, rather than through romanticism or symbolism.

(See also Avant-Garde)
(Compare Classicism, Idealism, Impressionism,
                 Metaphysical, Objectivism, Realism
)

IMITATION
See Mimesis

IMPERFECT RHYME
See Near Rhyme

IMPRESSIONISM
As applied to poetry, a late 19th century movement embracing imagism and symbolism, which sought to portray the effects (or poet's impressions), rather than the objective characteristics of life and events.

(Compare Classicism, Idealism, Metaphysical, Objectivism, Realism, Romanticism)

IMPROVISATORE (im-prah-vuh-zuh-TOR-ee)
An improviser of verse, usually extemporaneously.

(Compare Minstrel, Meistersingers, Minnesingers, Jongleur, Troubadour, Trouvere)

INCREMENTAL REPETITION
The repetition in each stanza (of a ballad, for example) of part of the preceding stanza, usually with a slight change in wording for effect.

(Compare Anadiplosis, Anaphora, Echo, Epistrophe, Epizeuxis,
                 Parallelism, Polysyndeton, Refrain, Stornello Verses
)

INITIAL RHYME
See Alliteration

IN MEDIAS RES (in MEE-dee-uhs RAYZ)
The literary device of beginning a narrative, such as an epic poem, at a crucial point in the middle of a series of events. The intent is to create an immediate interest from which the author can then move backward in time to narrate the story.
Sidelight: In contrast, ab ovo (from the egg) refers to starting at the chronological beginning of a narrative.
(Compare Anachronism, Hysteron Proteron)

INTERIOR MONOLOGUE
A narrative technique in which action and external events are conveyed indirectly through a fictional character's extended mental soliloquy of thoughts and feelings.
Sidelight: Interior monologue and "stream of consciousness" are often used interchangeably, but interior monologue may be limited to an ordered presentation of rational thoughts, while stream of consciousness typically includes sensory, associative, and subliminal impressions intermixed with rational thought.
(See also Dramatic Monologue)
(Compare Prosopopeia)

INTERLOCKING RHYME
See Chain Rhyme

INTERNAL RHYME
Also called middle rhyme, a rhyme occurring within the line. The rhyme may be with words within the line but not at the line end, or with a word within the line and a word at the end of the line, as in Shelley's "The Cloud":

I bring fresh showers, for the thirsting flowers

(See also Leonine Verse)

INVECTIVE
See Lampoon

INVERSION
See Hyperbaton

INVOCATION
See under Apostrophe

IONIC
In classical poetry, a metrical foot of four syllables, either two long syllables followed by two short syllables (greater Ionic) or two short syllables followed by two long syllables (lesser Ionic); also, a verse or meter composed of Ionic feet. The exchange of placement between short and long syllables in Ionic rhythms is called anaclasis.

IRONY
Verbal irony is a figure of speech in the form of an expression in which the use of words is the opposite of the thought in the speaker's mind, thus conveying a meaning that contradicts the literal definition, as when a doctor might say to his patient, " the bad news is that the operation was successful." Dramatic or situational irony is a literary or theatrical device of having a character utter words which the reader or audience understands to have a different meaning, but of which the character himself is unaware. Irony of fate is when a situation occurs which is quite the reverse of what one might have expected, as in Shelley's "Ozymandias."
Sidelight: The use of irony can be very effective, providing it is reasonably obvious and not likely to be taken so literally that the reader is left with the opposite of what was meant to convey. It should also be noted that irony, of itself, is not bitter or cruel, but may become so when used as a vehicle for satire or sarcasm.
(See also Antiphrasis)
(Compare Burlesque, Hudibrastic Verse, Litotes, Meiosis, Parody)

ISOMETRIC
See under Stanza

ITALIAN SONNET
See Petrarchan Sonnet
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T UV W XYZ

While pensive poets painful vigils keep,
Sleepless themselves to give their readers sleep.

---Alexander Pope


The lyfe so short, the craft so long to lerne,
Th' assay so hard, so sharpe the conquering.

---Geoffrey Chaucer

J

JINGLE
A short poem marked by catchy repetition.

(Compare Nursery Rhyme)

JONGLEUR (zhawn-GLOOR)
A public entertainer in the Middle Ages who recited or sang chansons de geste, fabliaux, and other poems, sometimes of their own composition, but more often those written by the trouveres.
Sidelight: Prior to the 10th century, the term jongleur was applied to actors, acrobats, jugglers, and entertainers in general.
(See also Gleeman, Improvisatore, Minstrel, Meistersingers, Minnesingers, Troubadour)

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T UV W XYZ

If I can read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me,
I know that it is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off,
I know that it is poetry.

---Emily Dickinson


I wish our clever young poets would remember my homely definitions of prose and
poetry, that is, prose,--words in their best order, poetry,--the best words in their best order.

---Samuel Taylor Coleridge

K
KENNING
A compound word or phrase similar to an epithet, but which involves a multi-noun replacement for a single noun, such as wave traveler for boat or whale-path for ocean, used especially in Old English, Old Norse and early Teutonic poetry. A type of periphrasis, some kennings are instances of metaphor, metonymy, or synecdoche.
Sidelight: Beowulf, the oldest known epic poem in English, contains numerous examples of kennings. Milton used the kenning, day-star, for sun, in Lycidas.
(See also Ricochet Words, Tmesis)

KING'S ENGLISH
The standard, pure or correct English speech or usage, also called "Queen's English."
Sidelight: The origin of the term is uncertain, but it appeared in Wilson's Arte of Rhetoricke, in 1553 and in Act 1, Scene 4 of Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor, in about 1597:

    Mistress Quickly:
        What, John Rugby! I pray thee, go to the casement,
        and see if you can see my master, Master Doctor
        Caius, coming. If he do, i' faith, and find any
        body in the house, here will be an old abusing of
        God's patience and the king's English.

(Contrast Solecism)
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T UV W XYZ

Poets are the hierophants of an unapprehended inspiration, the mirrors
of the gigantic shadows which futurity casts upon the present.

---Percy Bysshe Shelley


How does a poet speak to men with power, but by being still more a man than they?

---Thomas Carlyle

L

LAI
A medieval narrative or lyric poem which flourished in 12th century France, consisting of couplets of five-syllable lines separated by single lines of two syllables. The number of lines and stanzas was not fixed and each stanza had only two rhymes, one rhyme for the couplets and the other for the two-syllable lines. Succeeding stanzas formed their own rhymes.

(See also Lay, Virelay)

LAMENT
See Dirge, Elegy, Epitaph, Monody

LAMPOON
A bitter, abusive satire in prose or verse attacking an individual. Motivated by malice, it is intended solely to reproach and distress.
Sidelight: Before the term lampoon was coined, it was called invective and dates back as far as the origin of poetry itself. It now appears primarily in prose, however, except for its occasional use in epigrams.
(See also Burlesque, Parody, Pasquinade)

LAY
Originally the Anglicized term for the French lai. It became popular in 14th century England as the Breton lay, written in a spirit similar to the French lais. In the 19th century the term, lay, was sometimes used by English poets for short historical ballads or narrative poetry of moderate length.

(See also Tragedy)

LEONINE VERSE
Named for a 12th century poet, Leonius, who first composed such verse, it consists of hexameters or of hexameters and pentameters in which the final syllable rhymes with one preceding the caesura, in the middle of the line.
Sidelight: Since internal rhyme is the most significant feature of Leonine verse, the two terms are often used synonymously.
LIGHT VERSE
A loose, catch-all term describing poetry written with a relaxed attitude and ordinary tone on trivial, mundane, or frivolous themes. It is intended to amuse and entertain and is frequently distinguished by sophistication, wit, word-play, elegance, and technical competence. Among the numerous forms of light verse are clerihews, double dactyls, epigrams, limericks, nonsense poetry, occasional poetry, parodies, society verse, and verse with puns or riddles.

LIMERICK
A light or humorous verse form of five chiefly anapestic verses of which lines one, two and five are of three feet and lines three and four are of two feet, with a rhyme scheme of aabba. The limerick, named for a town in Ireland of that name, was popularized by Edward Lear in his Book of Nonsense published in 1846.
Sidelight: the final line of Lear's limericks usually was a repetition of the first line, but modern limericks generally use the final line for clever witticisms.
Sidelight: As shown by these examples, limericks, while unsuitable for serious verse, lend themselves well to humor and word-play. Their content also frequently tends toward the ribald and off-color.
LINE
A unit in the structure of a poem consisting of one or more metrical feet arranged as a rhythmical entity.
Sidelight: The line is fundamental to the perception of poetry, since it is an important factor in the distinction between prose and verse.
Sidelight: In metrical verse, line lengths are usually determined by genre or convention, as well as by meter. But otherwise, and especially in free verse, a poet can give emphasis to a word or phrase by isolating it in a short line.
Sidelight: In recitation aloud (performance), the line-end is a signal for a slight, non-metrical pause.
Sidelight: The traditional practice of capitalizing the initial line-letters contributes to the visual perception of the line as a unit; this practice is often not observed in modern free verse.
(See also Stich)

LIST POEM
See Catalog Verse

LITOTES (LIH-tuh-teez, pl. LIH-toh-teez)
A type of meiosis (understatement) in which an affirmative is expressed by the negative of the contrary, as in "not unhappy" or "a poet of no small stature."

(Compare Irony)
(Contrast Hyperbole)

LYRIC VERSE
One of the three main groups of poetry, the others being narrative and dramatic. By far the most frequently used form in modern poetic literature, the term lyric includes all poems in which the speaker's ardent expression of a (usually single) emotional element predominates. Ranging from complex thoughts to the simplicity of playful wit, the power and personality of lyric verse is of far greater importance than the subject treated. Often brief, but sometimes extended in a long elegy or a meditative ode, the melodic imagery of skillfully written lyric poetry evokes in the reader's mind the recall of similar emotional experiences.
Sidelight: Lyric is derived from the Greek word for lyre and originally referred to poetry sung to musical accompaniment.
Sidelight: A lyric sequence is a group of poems, mostly lyric verse, that interact as a structural whole, differing from a long poem by the inclusion of unlike forms and diverse areas of focus.
(See Canzone, Ghazal, Melic Verse, Romance, Society Verse)
(See also Anthology, Canon, Companion Poem, Cycle, Sonnet Sequence)

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T UV W XYZ

There is pleasure in poetic pains
Which only poets know.

---William Cowper


If you wish me to weep, you yourself must feel grief.

---Ars Poetica, Horace

M
MACARONIC VERSE
Originally, poetry in which words of different languages were mixed together or, more strictly, words in the poet's vernacular were given the inflectional endings of another language, usually for humorous or satiric effect. In modern times, however, in recognition of the multilingual relationships of sound and sense between different languages, it is used most often with serious intent, thus transformed from a species of comic or nonsense verse into poetry characterized by scholarly techniques of composition, allusion, and structure.

(See also Amphigouri)

MADRIGAL
A short medieval lyric or pastoral poem expressing a simple delicate thought.

MALAPROPISM (MAL-a-prop-izm)
A type of solecism, the mistaken substitution of one word for another that sounds similar, generally with humorous effect, as in "arduous romance" for "ardent romance." The term is named for the character, Mrs. Malaprop, in Richard Sheridan's play, The Rivals, who made frequent misapplications of words, for example:

as headstrong as an allegory on the banks of the Nile.
Sidelight: The name of Sheridan's character, Mrs. Malaprop, was taken from the French expression for "inappropriate" or "out of place," mal à propos.
(See also Catachresis, Enallage, Mixed Metaphor, Oxymoron, Paradox, Solecism, Synesthesia)

MARINISM
Excessive ornateness marked by the use of extravagant metaphors, so named from the 17th century Italian poet, Giambattista Marino, and his school of followers.

(See also Baroque, Conceit, Euphuism, Gongorism, Melic Verse)

MASCULINE RHYME
A rhyme occurring in words of one syllable or in an accented final syllable, such as light and sight or arise and surprise.

(Contrast Feminine Rhyme)

MEASURE
Poetic rhythm or cadence as determined by the syllables in a line of poetry with respect to quantity and accent; also, meter; also, a metrical foot.
Sidelight: While the two terms are usually used synonymously, meter suggests a predictable regularity, so measure is more aptly used in reference to the irregular rhythm of free verse.
(See Accentual Verse, Quantitive Verse, Syllabic Verse)
(See also Common Measure)

MEIOSIS (my-OH-sis)
An understatement; the presentation of a thing with underemphasis in order to achieve a greater effect, such as, "the building of the pyramids took a little bit of effort."
Sidelight: Just as a hyperbole can underscore a truth by overstatement, the meiosis achieves the same effect with understatement.
(See also Litotes)
(Compare Irony, Pathos)
(Contrast Hyperbole)

MEISTERSINGERS
Members of various German trade guilds formed in the 15th and 16th centuries by merchants and craftsmen for the cultivation of poetry and music, succeeding the Minnesingers.
Sidelight: Applicants had to study poetry and singing while learning their trade and pass examinations through degrees of "scholars," "schoolmen," "singers," and "poets," to eventually become Meistersingers (Mastersingers). The most famous of the Meistersingers was Hans Sachs (1494-1576), to whom about 6,000 poems are attributed.
(See also Improvisatore, Jongleur, Minstrel, Troubadour, Trouvere)

MELIC VERSE
An ornate form of Greek poetry of the 7th and 6th centuries BC which was written to be sung, either by a single voice or a chorus, to the accompaniment of musical instruments.
Sidelight: Melic verse was the forerunner of lyric verse.
(Compare Canzone, Ghazal, Ode, Pindaric Verse, Romance, Society Verse)
(See also Conceit, Euphuism, Gongorism, Marinism)

MESOSTICH (MESS-oh-stik)
See under Acrostic Poem

METAPHOR
A figure of speech in which a word or phrase literally denoting one object or idea is applied to another, thereby suggesting a likeness or analogy between them, as:
     The Leaves of Life keep falling one by one.
                 --- Edward Fitzgerald, The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám

     I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed!
                 --- Percy Bysshe Shelley, "Ode to the West Wind"

               .   .   . The cherished fields
     Put on their winter robe of purest white.
                 --- James Thomson, The Seasons

Sidelight: While most metaphors are nouns, verbs can be used as well:
       Till the calm rivers, lakes, and seas,
     Like strips of the sky fallen through me on high,
       Are each paved with the moon and these.
                 --- Percy Bysshe Shelley, "The Cloud"
Sidelight: The poetic metaphor can be thought of as having two basic components: (1) what is meant, and (2) what is said. The thing meant is called the tenor, while the thing said, which embodies the analogy brought to the subject, is called the vehicle.
Sidelight: Both metaphors and similes are comparisons between things which are unlike, but a simile expresses the comparison directly, while a metaphor is an implied comparison that gains emphatic force by its connotative value.
Sidelight: A word or expression like "the leg of the table," which originally was a metaphor but which has now been assimilated into common usage, has lost its figurative value; thus, it is called a dead metaphor.
Sidelight: Frequently, the term metaphor, as opposed to a metaphor, is used to include all figures of speech, so the expression, "metaphorically speaking," refers to speaking figuratively rather than literally.
(See also Allegory, Conceit, Extended Metaphor, Mixed Metaphor,
                 Kenning, Personification, Synesthetic Metaphor
)
(Compare Analogy, Metonymy, Symbol, Synecdoche)

METAPHYSICAL
Of or relating to a group of 17th century poets whose verse was distinguished by an intellectual and philosophical style, with extended metaphors or conceits comparing very dissimilar things.

(Compare Classicism, Idealism, Imagism, Impressionism,
                 Objectivism, Realism, Romanticism, Symbolism
)

METER or METRE
A measure of rhythmic quantity; the organized succession of groups of syllables at basically regular intervals in a line of poetry, according to definite metrical patterns. In classic Greek and Latin versification, meter depended on the way long and short syllables were arranged to succeed one another, but in English the distinction is between accented and unaccented syllables. The unit of measure is the foot. Metrical lines are named for the type of constituent foot and for the number of feet in the line: monometer (1), dimeter (2), trimeter (3), tetrameter (4), pentameter (5), hexameter (6), heptameter (7), and octameter (8); thus, a line containing five iambic feet, for example, would be called iambic pentameter. Rarely does a metrical line exceed six feet.
The metrical element of sound makes a valuable contribution to the mood and total effect of a poem.
Sidelight: In the composition of verse, poets sometimes make deviations from the systematic metrical patterns. This is often desirable because (1) variations will avoid the mechanical "te-dum, te-dum" monotony of a too-regular rhythm and (2) changes in the metrical pattern are an effective way to emphasize or reinforce meaning in the content. These variations are introduced by substituting different feet at places within a line. (Poets can also employ a caesura, use run-on lines and vary the degrees of accent by skillful word selection to modify the rhythmic pattern, a process called modulation. Accents heightened by semantic emphasis also provide diversity.) A proficient writer of poetry, therefore, is not a slave to the dictates of metrics, but neither should the poet stray so far from the meter as to lose the musical value or emotional potential of rhythmical repetition. Of course, in modern free verse, meter has become either irregular or non-existent.
Sidelight: Generally speaking, it is advisable for poets to delay the introduction of metrical variations until the ear of the reader has had time to become accustomed to the basic rhythmic pattern.
Sidelight: In music, the term, rubato, refers to rhythmic variations from the written score applied in the performance.
(See Common Measure, Scan, Scansion)
(See also Accentual Verse, Quantitive Verse, Syllabic Verse)

METONYMY (meh-TAHN-ih-mee)
A figure of speech involving the substitution of one noun for another of which it is an attribute or which is closely associated with it, e.g., "the kettle boils" or "he drank the cup." Metonymy is very similar to synecdoche.
Sidelight: Some metonymic expressions, like paleface for white man or salt for sailor, have become so much a part of everyday language that they can no longer be considered as figurative in a poetic sense.
(Compare Antonomasia, Cataphora)

METRE
See Meter

METRICAL FOOT
See Foot

METRICAL PAUSE
A "rest" or "hold" that has a temporal value, usually to compensate for the omission of an unstressed syllable in a foot.
Sidelight: Neither a metrical pause itself nor its length can be scanned, but scansion will show the omission of the unstressed syllable(s) it replaces.
Sidelight: Edgar Allan Poe described the metrical pause as "a variable foot which is the most important in all verse," but some theorists disagree that a time value is valid in modern metrics.
Sidelight: A pause that is non-metrical and expressed only in the performance is called a caesura.
METRICS
The branch of prosody concerned with meter.

METRIST (MEH-trist, MEE-trist)
A writer of verse.

(See also Bard, Poet, Sonneteer, Versifier, Wordsmith)

MIDDLE RHYME
See Internal Rhyme

MILTONIC
Pertaining to the poetry or style of the poet, John Milton, one of the most respected figures in English literature.

MIMESIS (mih-MEE-sis)
Literally, imitation or realistic representation -- but its poetic significance is more specific: it refers to the combination of sound in phonetic symbolism and onomatopoeia (sound suggestion) with the connotative, symbolic, and synesthetic effects of the words themselves and their syntactic arrangement to resemble, reinforce, shape, and temper their lexical sense in a manner that mirrors the meaning. In An Essay on Criticism, Pope simplified with the precept, "the sound must seem an echo to the sense." He wrote the following couplet to illustrate:
Soft is the strain when Zephyr gently blows,
And the smooth stream in smoother numbers flows.
(See also Ekphrasis, Sound Devices)

MINNESINGERS
Lyric poets of Germany in the 12th to 14th centuries, all men of noble birth who received royal patronage and who wrote mainly of courtly love. They were succeeded by the Meistersingers.
Sidelight: The Minnesingers used the collective term, Minnesang, for their work on themes of courtly love.
(See also Improvisatore, Jongleur, Minstrel, Troubadour, Trouvere)

MINSTREL
In the Middle Ages, the general term for a performer who subsisted by reciting verse and singing, usually accompanied by a harp. Some minstrels were traveling entertainers; others were permanently employed by nobles.

(See also Gleeman, Improvisatore, Jongleur, Meistersingers, Minnesingers, Troubadour, Trouvere)
(Compare Bard, Metrist, Sonneteer, Wordsmith)

MINSTRELSY
The art and occupation of minstrels; also, a collection of minstrel songs or a group of musicians or minstrels.

MIXED METAPHOR
A metaphor whose elements are either incongruent or contradictory by the use of incompatible identifications, such as "the dog pulled in its horns" or "to take arms against a sea of troubles."
Sidelight: The effect of a mixed metaphor can be absurd as well as sublime.
(See also Catachresis, Enallage, Malapropism, Oxymoron, Paradox, Synesthesia)

MOCK-EPIC or MOCK-HEROIC
A satiric literary form that treats a trivial or commonplace subject with the elevated language and heroic style of the classical epic.
Sidelight: An outstanding example in English verse is Pope's The Rape of the Lock, which he wrote to expose the absurdity of a threatened feud between two families over an incident in which a young baron cut a curl from the head of a society belle.
(See also Hudibrastic Verse)
(Compare Parody)

MODULATION
In poetry, the harmonious use of language relative to the variations of stress and pitch.
Sidelight: Modulation is a process by which the stress values of accents can be increased or decreased within a fixed metrical pattern.
(See also Alliteration, Assonance, Consonance, Euphony)
(Compare Cadence, Ictus, Rhythm, Sprung Rhythm)

MOLOSSUS (moh-LAH-sus)
In classical verse, a metrical foot consisting of three long syllables.

MONODY (MAHN-uh-dee)
A poem in which one person laments another's death, as in Tennyson's, "Break, Break, Break," or Wordsworth's "She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways."

(See also Dirge, Elegy, Epitaph)

MONOLOGUE
See Dramatic Monologue or Interior Monologue

MONOMETER (muh-NAH-muh-tur)
A line of verse consisting of a single metrical foot or dipody, as in Robert Herrick's "Upon His Departure Hence."

(See Meter)

MONORHYME
A poem in which all the lines have the same end rhyme.

(See also Ghazal)

MONOSTICH (MAHN -uh-stik)
A poem or epigram of a single metrical line.

(Compare Distich, Hemistich)

MONOSYLLABLE
A word of one syllable.
Sidelight: Although the idea of a monosyllabic foot in English verse has been proposed, i.e., an accented syllable plus a hypothetical pause, the notion that pauses may constitute parts of feet is contrary to generally accepted metrical theories.
(See also Disyllable, Polysyllable, Trisyllable)

MOOD
See Tone

MORA (MOHR-uh) pl. MORAE
The minimal unit of rhythmic measurement in quantitive verse, equivalent to the time it takes to pronounce an ordinary or average short syllable; two morae are equivalent to a long syllable.

MOSAIC RHYME
A rhyme in which two or more words produce a multiple rhyme, either with two or more other words, as go for / no more, or with one longer word, as cop a plea / monopoly. It is usually used for comic effect.
Sidelight: Byron's Don Juan contains many examples of mosaic rhymes.
(See also Disyllabic Rhyme, Triple Rhyme)

MOTIF (moh-TEEF)
A thematic element recurring frequently in literature, such as the dawn song of an aubade or the carpe diem motif.

(See also Burden, Theme)
(Compare Content, Diction, Form, Persona, Style, Texture, Tone)

MUSE
A source of inspiration, a guiding genius.
Sidelight: In Greek mythology, the nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne were called the Muses, each of whom was identified with an individual art or science. While there are historic inconsistencies in the records that have been handed down, a common listing is as follows:
Calliope (kuh-LY-uh-pee): Muse of epic poetry
Clio (KLY-oh or KLEE-oh): Muse of history
Erato (EHR-uh-toh): Muse of lyric and love poetry
Euterpe (yoo-TUR-pee): Muse of music, especially wind instruments
Melpomene (mel-PAH-muh-nee): Muse of tragedy
Polymnia (pah-LIM-nee-uh): Muse of sacred poetry
Terpsichore (turp-SIK-uh-ree): Muse of dance and choral song
Thalia (thuh-LY-uh): Muse of comedy
Urania (yooh-RAY-nee-uh): Muse of astronomy
(See also Afflatus, Helicon, Numen, Parnassian, Pierian)
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T UV W XYZ

Poetry is a means to a certain kind of knowledge,
and there is a certain kind of knowledge to which it is the only means.

---Archibald MacLeish


         sweet food of sweetly uttered knowledge.

---The Defence of Poesie, Sir Philip Sidney

N

NARRATIVE
The narration of an event or story, stressing details of plot, incident, and action. Along with dramatic and lyric, it is one of the three main groups of poetry.
Sidelight: A narrative poem contains more detail than a ballad and is not intended to be sung.
(See also Epyllion, Fable, Fabliau, Lay, Tragedy)
(Compare Chanson de Geste, Epic, Epopee, Epos, Heroic Quatrain)

NEAR RHYME
Also called approximate rhyme, slant rhyme, off rhyme, imperfect rhyme, or half rhyme, a rhyme in which the sounds are similar, but not exact, as in home and come or close and lose. Most near rhymes are types of consonance.
Sidelight: Due to changes in pronunciation, some near rhymes in modern English were perfect rhymes when they were originally written in Old English.
(See also Assonance)

NEOLOGISM (nee-AH-luh-jizm)
The use of new words or new meanings for old words not yet included in standard definitions, as in the recent application of the word cool to denote, very good, excellent or fashionable. Some disappear from usage; others like hip and feedback, for example, remain in the language.

(Compare Nonce Word, Portmanteau Word)

NONCE WORD
From the expression, for the nonce, a word coined or used for a special circumstance or occasion only,
Sidelight: Sometimes a nonce word gains acceptance in the general language, as gerrymander, which means to manipulate unfairly, such as to arbitrarily rearrange the boundaries of a political district to give one party an unfair advantage. This word was coined in 1812, when a voting district was formed with an irregular shape suggesting a resemblance to a salamander during the administration of Elbridge Gerry, then governor of Massachusetts. A word thus adopted into standard usage then ceases to be a nonce word.
(Compare Neologism, Portmanteau Word, Ricochet Words)

NONSENSE POETRY
Poetry which is absurd, foolish or preposterous, usually written in a catchy meter with strong rhymes. It often contains neologisms or portmanteau words as in Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky," and may employ unusual syntax as well.

(See also Amphigouri, Macaronic Verse)

NUMBERS
Metrical feet or verse in general.
Sidelight: The term derives from the quantitive verse of classic prosody, in which the count of morae indicated the mathematical proportions in meter.
NUMEN
A spiritual source or influence, often identified with a natural object, phenomenon, or place.

(See also Afflatus, Helicon, Muse)

NURSERY RHYME
A short poem for children written in rhyming verse and handed down in folklore.

(Compare Jingle)

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T UV W XYZ

Blessings be with them, and eternal praise,
Who gave us nobler loves, and nobler cares!--
The Poets, who on earth have made us heirs
Of truth and pure delight by heavenly lays.

---William Wordsworth


Poetry begins in delight and ends in wisdom.

---Robert Frost

O
OBJECTIVISM
A type of 20th century poetry in which objects are selected and portrayed for their own particular value, rather than their symbolic quality or the intellectual concept of the author.

(Compare Classicism, Idealism, Imagism, Impressionism,
                 Metaphysical, Realism, Romanticism, Symbolism
)

OCCASIONAL POEM
A poem written for a particular occasion, such as a dedication, birthday, or victory. The encomium, elegy, prothalamium, and epithalamium are examples of occasional poems.
Sidelight: Occasional poems are sometimes configured as pattern poetry.
(See Poet Laureate)

OCTAMETER (ahk-TAM-uh-tur)
A line of verse consisting of eight metrical feet.
Sidelight: Seldom used in English poetry, Poe's "The Raven" is written in trochaic octameter.
(See Meter)

OCTAVE
A stanza of eight lines, especially the first eight lines of an Italian or Petrarchan sonnet.

(See also Ballade, Ottava Rima, Sonnet)

OCTET
See Octave

OCTOSYLLABLE
A metrical line of eight syllables, such as iambic tetrameter, or a poem composed of eight-syllable lines.

(See also Decasyllable, Dodecasyllable, Hendecasyllable, Heptasyllable)

ODE
A type of lyric or melic verse, usually irregular rather than uniform, generally of considerable length and sometimes continuous, sometimes divided in accordance with transitions of thought and mood in a complexity of stanzaic forms; it often has varying iambic line lengths with no fixed system of rhyme schemes and is always marked by the rich, intense expression of an elevated thought, often addressed to a praised person or object.
Sidelight: Two other important forms of the ode arose from classical poetry; (1) the Dorian or choric ode designed for singing, after which Pindaric verse was patterned, and (2) the Aeolic or Horatian Ode, of which "Ode to a Nightingale," considered to be one of John Keats' finest works, is an example. More commonly used in English poetry, however, is the irregular form exemplified by Wordsworth's "Ode. Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood."
Sidelight: The irregular ode retains the lofty Pindaric style, but allows each stanza to establish its own pattern, rather than follow a regular strophic structure.
(See also Anacreontic, Encomium, Epinicion, Sapphic Verse)

ODEON or ODEUM
A small roofed theater in ancient antiquity devoted to the presentation of musical and poetic works to the public in competition for prizes.
Sidelight: The name is now applied to a hall or chamber for musical and dramatic performances.
OFF RHYME
See Near Rhyme

ONOMATOPOEIA (ahn-uh-mah-tuh-PEE-uh)
Strictly speaking, the formation or use of words which imitate sounds, like whispering, clang, and sizzle, but the term is generally expanded to refer to any word whose sound is suggestive of its meaning, whether by imitation or through cultural inference.
Sidelight: The use of onomatopoeia is common to all types of linguistic expression, but because sound plays such an important role in poetry, it provides another subtle weapon in the poetic arsenal for the transfer of sense impressions through imagery, such as Keats' "the murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves," in "Ode to a Nightingale."
Sidelight: Though impossible to prove, some philologists (linguistic scientists) believe that all language originated through the onomatopoeic formation of words.
(See also Mimesis, Phonetic Symbolism)

OPEN COUPLET
A couplet in which the thought is carried beyond the rhyming lines to end at any point in any line of a subsequent couplet. A good example appears in Endymion, Book I, by John Keats.
Sidelight: The open couplet originated in Chaucer's riding rhyme and later enjoyed much popularity in the romantic period.

(See Enjambment)
(See also Distich, Heroic Couplet)
(Contrast End-Stopped, Closed Couplet)

OTTAVA RIMA (oh-TAH-vuh REE-muh)
Originally Italian, a stanza of eight lines of heroic verse, rhyming abababcc. This verse form was used in Don Juan, by George Gordon, Lord Byron.
Sidelight: The 8-line ottava rima permits more room for narrative elaboration than quatrains and the repeated rhymes in the first six lines can prepare the reader for an epigrammatic closure in the final couplet.
(See also Octave, Spenserian Stanza)

OXYMORON (ahk-see-MOR-ahn)
The conjunction of words which, at first view, seem to be contradictory or incongruous, but whose surprising juxtaposition expresses a truth or dramatic effect, such as, cool fire, deafening silence, wise folly, etc.
Sidelight: An oxymoron is similar to a paradox, but more compact, usually consisting of just two successive words.
(See also Catachresis, Enallage, Malapropism, Mixed Metaphor, Synesthesia)
(Compare Antiphrasis, Antithesis)
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T UV W XYZ

A poet soaring in the high reason of his fancies, with his garland and singing robes about him.

---John Milton


In this mortal frame of mine which is made of a hundred
bones and nine orifices there is something, and this something is called a wind-swept
spirit for lack of a better name, for it is much like a thin drapery that is torn and swept away
at the slightest stir of the wind. This something in me . . . has never found peace with itself,
always wavering between doubts of one kind and another . . . The fact is, it knows no other
art than the art of writing poetry, and therefore, it hangs on to it more or less blindly.

---Matsuo Basho

P

PAEAN (PEE-un)
In modern usage, a hymn of praise, joy, or triumph.

(See also Panegyric)

PAEON (PEE-un)
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)

PALINDROME
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)

PANTOUM
A poem in a fixed form, consisting of a varying number of 4-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; the first and third lines of the first stanza form 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.
PARADOX
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 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)

PARALLELISM
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
)

PARNASSIAN
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)

PARODY
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)

PARONOMASIA
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)

PARONYM
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)

PASQUINADE (pas-kwuh-NAYD)
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)

PASTICHE (pass-TEESH)
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)

PASTORAL ELEGY
See under Elegy

PASTORAL POETRY
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)

PASTOURELLE
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.

PATHETIC FALLACY
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.
PATHOS
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)

PATTERN POETRY
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)

PAUSE
See Caesura and Metrical Pause

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

(See Meter)

PERFECT RHYME
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)

PERSONIFICATION
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)

PETRARCHAN SONNET (pih-TRAR-kun)
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)

PHONETIC SYMBOLISM
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)

PICARESQUE
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)

PINDARIC VERSE
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)

PITCH
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)

PLAY ON WORDS
See Paronomasia, Pun

PLEIAD or PLEIADE (PLEE-ud)
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.

PLEONASM (PLEE-uh-nazm)
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 of speech 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.
POEM
A rhythmic expression of feelings or ideas, often using metaphor, meter and rhyme.

(See also Poet, Poetry)

POEMS OF CHANCE
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.

POET
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)

POETIC DICTION
See under Diction

POETIC LICENSE
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.
POETICS
Literary study or criticism on the nature and laws of poetic theory and practice; also, a treatise on poetry or aesthetics.

(See also Prosody)

POETICULE
A dabbler in poetry; a poetaster.

(See also Doggerel, Rhymester, Versifier)

POET LAUREATE
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)

POETRY
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.
POETS' CORNER
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.
POLYPHONIC PROSE
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)

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

POLYSYLLABLE
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)

PORTMANTEAU WORD
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)

POULTER'S MEASURE
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)

PROCELEUSMATIC (PRAH-see-looz-MAT-ik)
A 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)

PROSE
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.
PROSE POEM
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)

PROTHALAMIUM (pro-thuh-LAH-mee-um) or PROTHALAMION
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)

PROVERB
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)

PUN
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)

PURPLE PATCH
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)

PYRRHIC (PEER-ick)
Common in classic Greek poetry, a metrical foot consisting of two short or unaccented syllables, as in:

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

Another name for the pyrrhic is dibrach.

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T UV W XYZ

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


Q
QUANTITIVE VERSE
Verse which, rather than on the syllabic count or accent, is based on a systematic succession of long and short syllables, i.e., syllables which take a longer or shorter quantity of time to pronounce. When the lines are properly read, with the speed of articulation determined by varying vowel length and consonant groupings, the rhythmic pattern develops naturally. The unit of measure in quantitive verse is the mora.
Sidelight: Classical Greek and Latin poetry were based on quantitive verse, while most modern English poetry is a combination of accentual and syllabic versification.
(Compare Accentual Verse, Syllabic Verse)

QUATORZAIN (KAWT-ur-zayn or kat-ur-ZAN)
A sonnet or any other poem of fourteen lines.

QUATRAIN
A poem, unit, or stanza of four lines of verse, usually with a rhyme scheme of abab or its variant, xbyb. It is the most common stanzaic form.
Sidelight: The popular quatrain abab rhyme scheme, as in Wordsworth's "She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways," is sometimes referred to as alternate rhyme or cross rhyme. Its variant, xbyb, is found in folk ballads. For In Memoriam, Tennyson used an abba scheme, often called envelope rhyme. Two other rhyming possibilities are aabb, which can produce an antithetical effect, and monorhymed or near-monorhymed quatrains, of which the aaxa of Fitzgerald's The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, is an example. Sometimes two or more quatrains are interlocked by a chain rhyme, as in the aaba, bbcb, ccdc, dddd of Frost's "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening."
Sidelight: A curtal quatrain is a quatrain in which the fourth line is shortened.
(See also Heroic Quatrain)

QUEEN'S ENGLISH
See King's English

QUINTET or QUINTAIN
A poem, unit, or stanza of five lines of verse.

(See also Cinquain)

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T UV W XYZ

I'm always saying something that's just the edge of something more.

---Robert Frost


Poetry is language that tells us, through a more or less
emotional reaction, something that cannot be said.

---Edwin Arlington Robinson


The difference between the right word and the almost right word
is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.

--Mark Twain

R
REALISM
The endeavor to portray an accurate portrayal of nature and real life without the imaginative representation of idealization.

(Compare Classicism, Imagism, Impressionism, Metaphysical,
                 Objectivism, Romanticism, Symbolism
)

REDUPLICATED WORDS
See Ricochet Words

REFRAIN
A stanza, line, part of a line, or phrase, generally pertinent to the central topic, which is repeated verbatim, usually at regular intervals throughout a poem, most often at the end of a stanza, as in Spenser's Prothalamion, or Villon's "Des Dames du Temps Jadis." Occasionally a single word is used as a refrain, as nevermore in Poe's "The Raven." Sometimes a refrain is written with progressive variations, in which case it may be termed incremental repetition.

(See also Burden, Repetend)
(Compare Anadiplosis, Anaphora, Echo, Epistrophe,
                 Epizeuxis, Parallelism, Polysyndeton, Stornello Verses
)

RENGA
See under Haiku

REPETEND (REP-ee-tend)
The irregular repetition of a word, phrase, or line in a poem. It is a type of refrain, but differs in that it can appear at various places in the poem and may be only a partial repetition, as in Poe's "Ulalume."

REPETITION
A basic artistic device, fundamental to any conception of poetry. It is a highly effective unifying force; the repetition of sound, syllables, words, syntactic elements, lines, stanzaic forms, and metrical patterns establishes cycles of expectation which are reinforced with each successive fulfillment.
Sidelight: Repetition is so important to poetry that a large number of poetic devices are based on its different applications. Sometimes variations from the expected repetitions can also achieve a significant effect.
RESONANCE
The quality of richness or variety of sounds in poetic texture, as in Milton's:
                 and the thunder . . . ceases now
To bellow through the vast and boundless Deep.
(See also Alliteration, Assonance, Consonance)
(Compare Euphony)

RHAPSODY
The recitation of a short epic poem or a longer epic abridged for recitation.

RHETORIC
The art of speaking or writing effectively; skill in the eloquent use of language.
Sidelight: Rhetoric and poetry are inseparable companions.
RHETORICAL QUESTION
A question solely for effect, with no answer expected. By the implication that the answer is obvious, it is a means of achieving an emphasis stronger than a direct statement, as in Shelley's "Ode to the West Wind:"
                                                     O, Wind,
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?
RHOPALIC (roh-PAL-ik)
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.

RHYME
In the specific sense, a type of echoing which utilizes a correspondence of sound in the final accented vowels and all that follows of two or more words, but the preceding consonant sounds must differ, as in the words, bear and care. In a broader poetic sense, however, rhyme refers to a close similarity of sound as well as an exact correspondence; it includes the agreement of vowel sounds in assonance and the repetition of consonant sounds in consonance and alliteration. Usually, but not always, rhymes occur at the ends of lines.
Sidelight: Originally rime, the spelling was changed due to the influence of its popular, but erroneous, association with the Latin word, rhythmus. Many purists continue to use rime as the proper spelling of the word.
Sidelight: Differences as well as identity in sound echoes between words contribute to the euphonic effect, stimulate intellectual appreciation, and serve to unify a poem. In addition, rhymes tend to heighten the significance of the words, provide a powerful mnemonic device, and complement the rhythmic quality of the lines.
Sidelight: Terms like near rhyme, half rhyme, and perfect rhyme function to distinguish between the types of rhyme without prejudicial intent and should not be interpreted as expressions of value.
Sidelight: Early examples of English poetry used alliterative verse instead of rhyme. The use of rhyme in the end words of verse originally arose to compensate for the sometimes unsatisfactory quality of rhythm within the lines; variations in the patterns of rhyme schemes then became functional in defining diverse stanza forms, such as, ottava rima, rhyme royal, terza rima, the Spenserian stanza, and others. Rhyme schemes are also significant factors in the definitions of whole poems, such as ballade, limerick, rondeau, sonnet, triolet, and villanelle.
(See Close Rhyme, End Rhyme, Feminine Rhyme, Internal Rhyme, Masculine Rhyme)
(See also Broken rhyme, Disyllabic Rhyme, Mosaic Rhyme, Sight Rhyme, Triple Rhyme)

RHYME ROYAL
A stanza of seven lines of heroic or five-foot iambic verse, rhyming ababbcc. It probably received its name from its use by King James I of Scotland, who was also a poet. It was previously known as Troilus verse because Chaucer used it in Troilus and Criseyde.

RHYME SCHEME
The pattern established by the arrangement of rhymes in a stanza or poem, generally described by using letters of the alphabet to denote the recurrence of rhyming lines, such as the ababbcc of the Rhyme Royal stanza form.
Sidelight: The opening stanza of Wordsworth's "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud," with end rhymes of the words, cloud-hills-crowd-daffodils-trees-breeze, is described as having a rhyme scheme of ababcc; the two quatrains of the poem, "La Tour Eiffel," with end words of form-warm-storm-insouciance and earth-mirth-birth-France, have an interlocking or chain rhyme scheme of aaab cccb.
Sidelight: Capital letters in the alphabetic rhyme scheme are used for the repeating lines of a refrain; the letters x and y indicate unrhymed lines.
Sidelight: In quatrains, the popular rhyme scheme of abab, as in Wordsworth's "She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways," is called alternate rhyme or cross rhyme. Tennyson used an abba scheme, often called envelope rhyme, for In Memoriam. The rhyme scheme of Fitzgerald's The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám is aaxa.
RHYMESTER
An inferior poet.

(See also Doggerel, Poetaster, Poeticule, Versifier)

RHYMING SLANG
A slang popular in Great Britain in the early part of the 20th century, in which a word was replaced by a word or phrase that rhymed with it, as loaf of bread for head. When the rhyme was a compound word or part of a phrase, the rhyming part was often dropped, so in the foregoing example, the word loaf alone would come to stand for head.
Sidelight: While most of the words derived from rhyming slang were likely to be understood only by those familiar with the idiom, some have continued in general English slang usage, as is the case with the above example.
RHYTHM
An essential of all poetry, the regular or progressive pattern of recurrent accents in the flow of a poem as determined by the arses and theses of the metrical feet, i.e., the rise and fall of stress. The measure of rhythmic quantity is the meter.
Sidelight: A rhythmic pattern in which the accent falls on the final syllable of each foot, as in the iamb or anapest, is called a rising or ascending rhythm; a rhythmic pattern with the accent occurring on the first syllable of each foot, as in the dactyl or trochee, is a falling or descending rhythm.
Sidelight: From an easy lilt to the rough cadence of a primitive chant, rhythm is the organization of sound patterns the poet has created for pleasurable reading.
(See also Ictus, Modulation, Sprung Rhythm)
(Compare Caesura)

RICH RHYME
See under Perfect Rhyme

RICOCHET WORDS
Hyphenated words, usually formed by reduplicating a word with a change in the vowel or the initial consonant sound, such as pitter-patter, chit-chat, riff-raff, wishy-washy, hob-nob, roly-poly, pell-mell, razzle-dazzle, etc.
Sidelight: There are a substantial number of ricochet words in both modern and ancient English. They usually convey an intensifying effect.
(See also Kenning, Tmesis)
(Compare Close Rhyme, Neologism, Nonce Word, Portmanteau Word)

RIDING RHYME
An early form of open couplet, so named for its use by Chaucer to narrate the riding episodes of the pilgrims in The Canterbury Tales.

RIME
See Rhyme

RIME BRISÉE (reem bree-SAY)
See under Cross Rhyme

RIME ENCHAINÉE (reem ahn-sheh-NAY)
See under Chain Rhyme

RIME RICHE (reem-REESH)
See under Perfect Rhyme

ROMANCE
Formerly a medieval tale in mixed prose and verse describing marvelous adventures of a hero of chivalry, it later came to mean a short lyric poem.

(Compare Canzone, Ghazal, Melic Verse, Ode, Society Verse)

ROMANTICISM
An 18th century movement revolting against the conventional strictness of neo-classicism and placing artistic emphasis on imagination and the emotions.

(Compare Classicism, Idealism, Imagism, Impressionism,
                 Metaphysical, Objectivism, Realism, Symbolism
)

RONDEAU (RAHN-doe)
A fixed form used mostly in light or witty verse, usually consisting of fifteen octo- or decasyllabic lines in three stanzas, with only two rhymes used throughout. A word or words from the first part of the first line are used as a (usually unrhymed) refrain ending the second and third stanzas, so the rhyme scheme is aabba aabR aabbaR.
Sidelight: An example of the rondeau is the best-known poem from World War I, "In Flanders Fields," by Lt. Col. John McCrae.
Sidelight: The skillful writer of a rondeau, and similar forms, arranges the repetition of the refrain in such a way that it seems to come naturally, without being forced.
(Compare Rondel, Rondelet, Roundel, Triolet, Villanelle)
(See also Chain Verse, Envelope)

RONDEL (RAHN-dul)
A variation of the rondeau in which the first two lines of the first stanza are repeated as the last two lines of the second and third stanzas, thus a rhyme scheme of ABba abAB abbaA(B). Sometimes only the first line of the poem is repeated at the end.

(Compare Rondelet, Triolet, Villanelle)

RONDELET (rahn-duh-LET)
A short variation of the rondeau consisting generally of one 7-line stanza with two rhymes. The first line has four syllables and is repeated as a refrain forming the third and seventh lines; the other lines have eight syllables each.

(Compare Rondel, Triolet, Villanelle)

ROUNDEL
A variation of the rondeau devised by A. C. Swinburne, demonstrated in his poem, "The Roundel." He shortened the stanzas and moved the first refrain from the second to the first stanza, thus revising the rhyme scheme to abaR bab abaR.

ROUNDELAY (ROWN-duh-lay)
A poem with a refrain repeated frequently or at fixed intervals, as in a rondel.

ROVING OVER
See under Scansion

RUNE
A Finnish or Old Norse poem.

(See also Edda, Skald)

RUN-ON COUPLET
See Open Couplet

RUN-ON LINES
Lines in which the thought continues into the next line, as opposed to end-stopped.
Sidelight: The occasional use of run-on lines, also called enjambment, provides a variation by making a pause in the thought appear at some place other than the end of a line, but they should not be over-used.
(See also Open Couplet)
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T UV W XYZ

This is the truth the poet sings,
That a sorrow's crown of sorrow is remembering happier things.

---Alfred, Lord Tennyson


Truth is the highest thing that man may keep.

---Geoffrey Chaucer

S
SAPPHIC VERSE
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)

SATIRE
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)

SCAN
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)

SCANSION
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.
SCOP
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)

SENSE PAUSE
See Caesura

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

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

SEPTET
A stanza of seven lines.

(See also Rhyme Royal)

SERENADE
A lover's song or poem of the evening.

(Compare Aubade)

SERPENTINE VERSES
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)

SESTET
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)

SESTINA
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.

SEXAIN
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)

SHAPED VERSE
See Pattern Poetry

SIGHT RHYME
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)

SIGMATISM
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)

SIJO
A short Korean poetic form consisting of three lines, each line having a total of fourteen to sixteen syllables in groups ranging from two to seven (but usually three or four), 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.

SIMILE
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)

SKALD
An ancient Scandinavian poet or bard.

(See also Edda, Rune)

SKELTONICS
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.

SLACK
A syllable which is not accented.

SLANT RHYME
See Near Rhyme

SOCIETY VERSE
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)

SOLILOQUY
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)

SONNET
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)

SONNETEER
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)

SOTADIC or SOTADEAN
See Palindrome

SOUND DEVICES
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)

SOUND SYMBOLISM
See Phonetic Symbolism

SPEAKER
See Persona

SPENSERIAN SONNET
See under Sonnet

SPENSERIAN STANZA
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 the 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.

SPLIT LINES
See Hemistich

SPLIT RHYME
See Broken Rhyme

SPONDEE (SPAHN-dee), SPONDAIC (spahn-DAY-ick)
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
SPRUNG RHYTHM
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)

STANZA, STANZAIC
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)

STANZA FORMS
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.
STAVE
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.

STORNELLO VERSES
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
)

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

STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS
See Interior Monologue

STRESS
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)

STROPHE (STROH-fee)
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)

STYLE
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)

SYLLABIC VERSE
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)

SYLLABLE
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.
SYLLEPSIS (suh-LEP-sus)
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)

SYMBOL
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)

SYMBOLISM
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.

SYNAERESIS or SYNERESIS (sin-EHR-uh-sus)
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)

SYNALOEPHA or SYNALEPHA (sin-uh-LEE-fuh)
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)

SYNESTHESIA or SYNAESTHESIA (sin-uss-THEE-zhee-uh)
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)

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

(See also Conceit, Kenning, Mixed Metaphor)

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

(Compare Antonym, Homonym, Paronym)

SYNTAX
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.

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T UV W XYZ

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

T

TAGALIED (TAHG-uh-leet)
See Aubade

TAIL RHYME
Also called caudate rhyme, a verse form in which rhyming lines, usually a couplet or triplet, are followed by a tail, a line of shorter length with a different rhyme; in a tail-rhyme stanza, the tails rhyme with each other, as in Michael Drayton's "Nymphidia" or Sir John Suckling's "A Ballad Upon a Wedding."

TANKA (TAHNG-kuh)
The classic form of Japanese poetry with five unrhymed lines of five, seven, five, seven, and seven syllables to produce a concentrated essence of a single event, image or mood.

(See also Haiku, Senryu)

TAUTOLOGY
The unnecessary and excessive repetition of the same idea in different words in the same sentence, as "the room was completely dark and had no illumination," or "a breeze greeted the dusk and nightfall was heralded by a gentle wind."

(Compare Pleonasm)

TELESTICH (TEL-ess-tik)
See under Acrostic Poem

TENOR
See under Metaphor

TENSION
The artistically satisfying equilibrium of opposing forces in a poem, usually referring to the use of language and imagery, but often applied to other elements, such as dramatic structure, rhythmic patterns, and sometimes to the aesthetic value of the poem as a whole.

TENSON (TEN-suhn) or TENZON
A medieval competition in verse on the subject of love or gallantry before a tribunal between rival troubadours; also, a subdivision of a chanson composed by one of the competitors.

TERCET
A unit or group of three lines of verse which are rhymed together or have a rhyme scheme that interlaces with an adjoining tercet.
Sidelight: The sestet, or second part of a Petrarchan sonnet, often consists of two tercets.
Sidelight: A tercet is used as an envoi in a sestina.
(See also Terza Rima)

TERNARY METER
A meter consisting of three syllables per foot, as in dactylic or anapestic meters. They are also referred to as triple meters.
Sidelight: Because the cadence of ternary meters can provide an effect quite different from that of binary meters, they are often considered for a different range of subjects, especially those of a frolicsome or humorous nature.
(Compare Binary Meter)

TERZA RIMA (tert-suh REE-muh)
A verse form consisting of tercets, usually in iambic pentameter in English poetry, with a chain or interlocking rhyme scheme, as: aba, bcb, cdc, etc. The pattern concludes with a separate line added at the end of the poem (or each part) rhyming with the second line of the preceding tercet or with a rhyming couplet, as in Shelley's "Ode to the West Wind."
Sidelight: The rhyme sound which carries from the middle line of each tercet to the opening line of the next tercet provides a strong sense of forward movement to the terza rima.
TETRABRACH (TET-ruh-brak)
See Proceleusmatic

TETRAMETER (teh-TRAM-uh-tur)
A line of verse consisting of four metrical feet, as in William Blake's "Tyger! Tyger!," or Byron's "The Bride of Abydos."

(See Meter)

TEXTURE
The "feel" of a poem that comes from the interweaving of technical elements, diction, tone, syntax, patterns of sound and meaning, i.e., all elements apart and independent of its structure. In other words, that which would remain if it were to be rendered in prose.

(Compare Content, Diction, Form, Motif, Persona, Style, Tone)

THEME
The central idea, topic, or didactic quality of a work.
Sidelight: Although theme is often used interchangeably with motif, it is preferable to recognize the difference between the two terms.
(See also Burden)
(Compare Content, Diction, Form, Persona, Style, Texture, Tone)

THESIS
The unaccented part of a poetic foot; also, the first part of an antithetical figure of speech.
Sidelight: In musical terminology, the thesis is the downbeat, the accented part of a measure; due to an early confusion which was later recognized but never reversed, the meaning of the term is the opposite when used in reference to the poetic foot.
(Contrast Arsis)

TMESIS (tuh-MEE-sus)
The division of a compound word into two parts, with one or more words between, as what place soever for whatsoever.

(See also Kenning, Ricochet Words)

TONE
The poet's or persona's attitude in style or expression toward the subject, e.g., loving, ironic, bitter, pitying, fanciful, solemn, etc. Tone can also refer to the overall mood of the poem itself, in the sense of a pervading atmosphere intended to influence the readers' emotional response and foster expectations of the conclusion.
Sidelight: Another use of tone is in reference to pitch or to the demeanor of a speaker as interpreted through inflections of the voice; in poetry, this is conveyed through the use of connotation, diction, figures of speech, rhythm and other elements of poetic construction.
(Compare Content, Form, Motif, Style, Texture)

TOPOS (TOH-pohs) pl. TOPOI (TOH-poy)
From the Greek for "place" (short for "commonplace"), a literary passage or expression which becomes a conventional theme in subsequent literature. Although more commonly used in some literary genres than others, the term refers to content rather than form.
Sidelight: Standardized topics such as the poet's invocation if the Muse or of a dear departed "having gone to a better world" are examples of topoi, as well as are many metaphors.
(Compare Motif)

TORNADA
See Envoi

TRAGEDY
A medieval narrative poem or tale typically describing the downfall of a great person; a drama, usually in verse, portraying a conflict between a strong-willed protagonist and a superior force such as destiny, culminating in death or disaster.

(See also Lay, Ballad)
(Compare Chanson de Geste, Epic, Epopee, Epos, Hamartia, Heroic Quatrain)

TRAGIC HERO
See under Hamartia

TRIBRACH (TRY-brak)
In classical poetry, a metrical foot of three short syllables.

TRIMETER (TRY-muh-tur)
A line of verse consisting of three metrical feet or three dipodies.
Sidelight: Many poems are written entirely in trimeter, as William Cowper's "Verses Supposed to be Written by Alexander Selkirk," but frequently poems of longer line patterns are varied by the interposition of occasional trimeter lines, such as John Keats' "Ode to a Nightingale."
(See Meter)

TRIOLET (TRY-uh-lut)
A poem or stanza of eight lines in which the first line is repeated as the fourth and seventh lines, and the second line as the eighth, with a rhyme scheme of ABaAabAB, as in Adelaide Crapsey's "Song."
Sidelight: The capital letters in the rhyme scheme indicate the repetition of identical lines.
(Compare Rondeau, Rondel, Rondelet, Roundel, Villanelle)

TRIPLE METER
See Ternary Meter

TRIPLE RHYME
A rhyme in which three final syllables of words have the same sound, as in glorious and victorious.
Sidelight: Triple rhymes and disyllabic rhymes are used most frequently in humorous verse.
(See also Mosaic Rhyme)

TRIPLET
See Tercet

TRISYLLABLE
A word of three syllables.

(See also Disyllable, Monosyllable, Polysyllable)

TROBAIRITZ
See under Troubadour

TROCHEE (TROH-kee), TROCHAIC (troh-KAY-ick)
A metrical foot with a long or accented syllable followed by a short or unaccented syllable, as in ON-ly or TO-tal, or the opening line of Poe's "The Raven:"

ONCE up- | ON a | MID-night | DREAR-y, | WHILE I | PON-dered, | WEAK and | WEAR-y,
Sidelight: In English poetry, trochaic verse in long poems is infrequent since it can produce a monotonous effect, but this problem is avoided in short poems such as William Blake's "The Lamb," and "Tyger! Tyger!"
Sidelight: In a trochaic line of verse, the last syllable is often omitted to end the line with an accented syllable. A line thus shortened is termed catalectic.
(See also Meter, Rhythm)

TROILUS VERSE
See Rhyme Royal

TROPE
The intentional use of a word or expression figuratively, i.e., used in a different sense from its original significance in order to give vividness or emphasis to an idea. Some important types of trope are: antonomasia, irony, metaphor, metonymy and synecdoche.
Sidelight: Strictly speaking, a trope is the figurative use of a word or expression, while figure of speech refers to a phrase or sentence used in a figurative sense. The two terms, however, are often confused and used interchangeably.
(See also Imagery)

TROUBADOUR
One of a class of Occitan lyric poets and poet-musicians, often of knightly rank, who flourished from the 11th through the 13th centuries in Southern France and neighboring areas of Italy and Spain, and who wrote of courtly love.
Sidelight: Female troubadours were called trobairitz.
(See Tenson)
(See also Improvisatore, Jongleur, Meistersingers, Minnesingers, Minstrel, Scop, Trouvere)
(Compare Bard, Metrist, Sonneteer, Wordsmith)

TROUVERE (troo-VEHR)
One of a school of poets of northern France who flourished from the 11th to 14th centuries and who composed mostly narrative works such as chansons de geste and fabliaux.

(See also Improvisatore, Jongleur, Meistersingers, Minnesingers, Minstrel, Troubadour)

TRUE RHYME
See Perfect Rhyme
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T UV W XYZ

As soon
Seek roses in December, ice in June,
Hope constancy in wind, or corn in chaff,
Believe a woman or an epitaph,
Or any other thing that's false, before
You trust in critics.

---Lord Byron


Any nose
May ravage with impunity a rose.

---Robert Browning
U-V
UBI SUNT (OO-bee SOONT)
A literary motif dealing with the transitory nature of things, like life, beauty, youth, etc.
Sidelight: The ubi sunt motif was popular in medieval poetry, such as Villon's "Des Dames du Temps Jadis"

UNDERSTATEMENT
See Meiosis

VEHICLE
See under Metaphor

VERS DE SOCIETE (vehr duh soh-see-uh-TEE)
See Society Verse

VERSE
A line of writing arranged in a metrical pattern, i.e., a line of poetry. Also, a piece of poetry or a particular form of poetry such as free verse, blank verse, etc., or the art or work of a poet.
Sidelight: The popular use of the word verse for a stanza or associated group of metrical lines is not in accordance with the best usage. A stanza is a group of verses.
(See also Stich)

VERSE PARAGRAPH
A line grouping of varying length, as distinct from stanzas of equal length. It is the usual division in blank verse.

Sidelight: While verse paragraphs are seldom used in rhymed verse, Lycidas, by John Milton, is a noteworthy exception.
VERSET (VUHR-sut, vuhr-SET)
A short verse, especially one from a sacred book.

VERSICLE
A little verse; also, a short passage said or sung by a leader in public worship and followed by a response from the people.

(Compare Ditty)

VERSIFICATION
The art of writing verses, especially with regard to meter and rhythm. The term versification can also refer to a particular metrical structure or style or to a version in verse of something originally written in prose.
Sidelight: Edgar Allan Poe's essay, "The Philosophy of Composition," describes the conception, construction, and versification of his poem, "The Raven."
Sidelight: Classical versification was based on quantity, with the words arranged to form a systematic succession of long and short syllables, but this began to decline under the Roman Empire; the Romance Languages, being accentual in character, gave rise to accentual verse, which stressed certain syllables instead of giving time quantities to them. The classical names of the metrical feet are commonly applied to modern poetic meter, an accented syllable being equivalent to a long syllable and an unaccented syllable equivalent to a short syllable.
VERSIFIER
A writer of verse, often applied to a writer of light or inferior verse.

(See Bard, Metrist, Poet, Sonneteer, Wordsmith)
(See also Doggerel, Poetaster, Poeticule, Rhymester)

VERS LIBRE (vehr LEEBR)
See Free Verse

VILLANELLE
A poem in a fixed form, consisting of five 3-line stanzas followed by a quatrain and having only two rhymes. In the stanzas following the first stanza, the first and third lines of the first stanza are repeated alternately as refrains. They are the final two lines of the concluding quatrain.
Sidelight: The villanelle gives a pleasant impression of simple spontaneity, as in Edwin Arlington Robinson's "The House on the Hill."
(Compare Rondeau, Rondel, Rondelet Triolet)

VIRELAY (VIHR-uh-lay)
An ancient French verse form consisting of stanzas of indeterminate length and number, with alternating long and short lines and an interlaced rhyme scheme, as abab bcbc cdcd dada.
Sidelight: Virelay is the Anglicized spelling of the French virelai, a variation of the lai.
VISUAL POETRY
Poetry arranged in such a manner that its visual appearance has an elevated significance of its own, thus achieving an equivalence (or possibly even more) between the sight and sound of the poem.
Sidelight: While the term, visual poetry, is generally applied to the definition above, most poets consciously strive to influence the visual impact of their poems by their selection of line lengths, stanzaic structures, indentations, white space, punctuation, capitalization, and type styles. In traditional verse, though, these aspects are subordinate to the written text.
(See also Concrete Poetry, Pattern Poetry, Sight Rhyme)

VOICE
See under Persona

VOLTA ( VAWL-tuh)
The place at which a distinct turn of thought occurs. The term is most commonly used for the characteristic transition point in a sonnet, as between the octave and sestet of a Petrarchan sonnet.

VOWEL LENGTH
See under Accent

VOWEL RHYME
See Assonance
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T UV W XYZ

For dear to gods and men is sacred song.
Self-taught I sing, by Heaven, and Heaven alone,
The genuine seeds of poesy are sown.

---Alexander Pope


O gracious God! how far have we
Profan'd thy heavenly gift of poesy!

---John Dryden


W
WEDGE VERSE
See Rhopalic

WELL-VERSED
A state of familiarity with poetics accomplished by reading this Glossary from Abecedarian to Zeugma.
Sidelight: With the author's apologies, this is the only punning entry.
WHIMSY or WHIMSEY
A fanciful or fantastic creation in writing or art.

WORDSMITH
A person who works with words; a skillful writer.

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

WRENCHED ACCENT
A forced change in the normal accent of a word syllable(s) to make the word conform to the prevailing metrical pattern. While it may result from faulty versification, it was conventional in the folk ballad and is sometimes used deliberately for comic effects.
.
The poetry of earth is never dead.

---John Keats


Poetry is the record of the best and happiest moments
of the best and happiest minds.

---Percy Bysshe Shelley

XYZ

ZEUGMA (ZOOG-muh)
A figure of speech in which a single word, usually a verb or adjective, is used in the same grammatical and semantic relationship with two or more other words, as in "my father wept for woe while I for joy," or Pope's:

Obliged by hunger, and request of friends.

(See also Syllepsis)
(Compare Ellipsis, Hendiadys, Prolepsis)
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T UV W XYZ

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               the simple fact is that would we but permit ourselves to look into our own souls
we should immediately there discover that under the sun there neither exists
nor can exist any work more thoroughly dignified, more supremely noble,
than this very poem, this poem per se, this poem which is a poem and
nothing more, this poem written solely for the poem's sake.

---"The Poetic Principle," Edgar Allan Poe

Poetry is rhythmical, imaginative language expressing the
invention, taste, thought, passion, and insight of the human soul.

---Edmund Clarence Stedman

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Glossary of Poetic Terms from BOB'S BYWAY
Copyright © 1996 - 2014, by Robert G. Shubinski

Last modified on February 22, 2013

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