Glossary of Poetic Terms
No.1 on Google UK
||Verse which jumbles together lines or phrases written in
different languages (Originally this would have included some Latin.)
John Skelton, the English renaissance poet, wrote a number of poems in
||In prosody, a macron is the mark placed over a syllable in
a line of verse to show that it is stressed. It is denoted by the
following symbol (−). See also
||Composite nick-name (devised by Roy Campbell) for Louis
MacNeice, Stephen Spender, W.H.Auden and C. Day-Lewis. See also
||A short love poem which can easily be set to music.
||An artist or poet's 'great work' e.g. Milton's
||Archaic term for poet. In February 2004 Edwin Morgan was
appointed as 'the Scots Maker' - a position similar to that of the
|Mansion of Many Apartments
||Theory devised by John
Keats stating that people are capable of different levels of
thought. He suggested that some have the ability to move through the
'thoughtless chamber' and the 'chamber of maiden thought' to reach more
||Term used to describe the work of poets
such as Craig Raine and Christopher Reid. It originated from Raine's 1979
collection A Martian Sends a Postcard Home. Martian poetry frequently
describes everyday objects from unusual angles by using inventive
simile. For example, in Raine's poem A Walk in the Country a sewage farm
is described as being 'like a tape-recorder, whose black spools turn night and day'.
||Certain 14th-16th century German lyric poets who
organised themselves in guilds and composed elaborate verse. They were
influenced by the minnesingers.
||Greek poetry written to be sung. The term derives from
the Greek word 'melos' meaning 'song'.
||Poundian term to describe the kind of poem which induces
'emotional correlations by the sound and rhythm of the speech'. He
stated that the maximum amount of melopoeia is to be found in poems that
are written to be sung, chanted or read aloud. See also
||Tavern frequented by John Donne,
Francis Beaumont, Ben Jonson and possibly
William Shakespeare. It stood in Bread St. London and was the location
for literary meetings. Keats wrote about it in
Lines on the Mermaid Tavern.
||Similar to an
acrostic but where
the significant vertical phrase occurs in the middle of the lines rather
than at the beginning or end. Often used by the composer John Cage.
||An imaginative comparison between two actions/objects etc
which is not literally applicable.
An example of metaphor occurs in In
Memory of W.B.Yeats by W.H.Auden:
'The provinces of his body revolted,
The squares of his mind were empty,'
Obviously Yeats' body does not have provinces, nor does his mind have
squares but the comparison helps to bring the poem to life. Metaphor is
simile but omits words
such as 'like' or 'as'.
Some poems feature an extended metaphor e.g.
Crossing the Bar by Tennyson.
I.A. Richards coined the terms 'tenor' and 'vehicle' to distinguish
the 2 parts of a metaphor. The 'tenor' is an idea with which a second
idea (the vehicle) is identified. In Macbeth's famous soliloquy there is
the line: 'life's but a walking shadow' - where 'life' is the 'tenor'
and 'walking shadow' is the 'vehicle'.
See also dead
metaphor and mixed metaphor.
||A term originally coined by Samuel
Johnson in his Life of Cowley to criticise a group of poets including: John
Donne, George Herbert, Richard Crashaw,
Henry Vaughan, Thomas Traherne, Andrew
Marvell and Abraham Cowley etc. whose poetry he regarded as being over
intellectualised. The term is somewhat misleading as it pigeon holes a number of
poets who, in reality, had little in common.
||Is the regular pattern of stressed and unstressed
syllables that make up a
line of poetry. Meter gives rhythm and regularity to poetry.
English language does not always fit exactly into metrical patterns so many poems
employing meter will exhibit irregularities.
In English verse the most common meters are: iambic, dactylic,
anapestic. Other meters are occasionally used, such as
and pyrrhic. There are also a number of classical Greek meters which are very rare
indeed - such as
An end stressed two syllable foot e.g. from
In Memoriam by
I DREAMED | there WOULD| be SPRING | no MORE
This example is an iambic tetrameter - i.e. it has four iambic feet and therefore
the total number of syllables in the line is eight. Iambic is an example
of rising meter.
A front stressed two syllable foot.
e.g. The Song of Hiawatha by Henry
BY the | SHORES of | GIT chee | GUMee,
This example is trochaic tetrameter - i.e. four two syllable feet.
Therefore the total line has eight syllables. Trochaic meter is less commonly used
than iambic meter. Trochaic is an example of falling meter.
An end stressed three syllable foot e.g. The Destruction
of the Sennacherib by Byron:
And the SHEEN | of their SPEARS | was like STARS | on the SEA,
This line is an anapestic tetrameter i.e. it has four feet
containing three syllables each. Therefore the total number of syllables in the
line is twelve.
A front stressed three syllable foot e.g.
The Lost Leader by
WE that had | LOVED him so, | FOLlowed him | HONoured him,
This line is an example of dactyllic tetrameter i.e. it has
four feet containing three syllables each. Therefore the total number of syllables in
the line is twelve.
Each of the above meters can be used in lines with varying numbers of feet. The
number of feet in a line is usually classified as follows:
foot), dimeter (two feet),
trimeter (three feet),
feet), pentameter (five feet),
hexameter (six feet),
feet) and octameter (eight feet).
||Figure of speech where the name of the object being
described is substituted for something closely related to it. For
example, 'the crown' is often substituted for 'the monarchy'. Other
examples include 'the press' for newspapers and 'the bench' for the
||The written and spoken language of England
from the beginning of the 12th Century to approx. 1500. The most
important writer of the period being Chaucer.
||In the style of John
||The imitation of reality in art/poetry.
||German lyric poets who were writing between the 12th and
14th centuries. Their main subject was 'love' (Minne) - hence their
name. They were influenced by the French
See also meistersinger.
||Itinerant medieval musician/singer/story teller/poet. See
||Figure of speech which combines two or more inconsistent
metaphors e.g. 'We're not through the woods by a long chalk.' Or more
famously the fourth line from Hamlet's soliloquy: 'Or to take arms
against a sea of troubles.' See metaphor.
||Type of satirical verse which deals with
trivial matters in the style of epic or heroic verse. The
Rape of the Lock by
Alexander Pope is an example of mock-heroic verse. Pope's
poem was inspired by Lord Petre's cutting of a lock of Miss Arabella Fermor's hair
without her permission.
Another example is The Sofa - the first
book of The Task by William Cowper -
which begins: 'I sing the sofa'.
||The written and spoken language of England
from approx. 1500 to the present day.
that occurred from c.1890 until the beginning of World War II and sought to
challenge traditional forms.
In poetry, the three main exponents of modernism were T.S.Eliot,
Ezra Pound and W.B. Yeats. Pound
was the main promoter of modernism and influenced many poets both in England and
America. Pound also invented
Imagism which was an attempt to create
minimalist poetry of great clarity - influenced by Japanese forms such as
The Waste Land (1922) by T.S.Eliot
is arguably the most important 'modernist' poem - with its non-traditional forms,
its juxta-positioning of images and its complex literary allusions. The final
shape of The Waste Land owed much to Pound's editing.
In general terms, modernism has resulted in a greater use of
verse and a turning away from formal poetic meters and verse forms.
||Classical metrical foot containing three long or stressed
||A Greek ode sung by a single actor and lamenting a
person's death. A modern example is Monody on the Death of a
Platonist Bank Clerk by
||A line consisting of one metrical foot. Monometers are very rare.
However an example of a (predominantly) iambic monometer is
Upon His Departure Hence by
||A unit of measure in
quantitative verse; namely the time taken up by a short syllable. A
long syllable is equal to two morae.
||Term coined by J. D. Scott, editor of
the Spectator, to describe a group of poets including Philip
Larkin, Kingsley Amis, D. J. Enright, John Wain and Robert Conquest. Movement
poetry tends to be witty, sardonic, anti-poetic and eschewed the use of
classical allusions. See also the
The nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne who inspired artists and
musicians. Four of the daughters: Calliope, Euterpe, Erato and
Polyhymnia were specifically responsible for inspiring poets.