Glossary of Poetic Terms
No.1 on Google UK
|In classical verse, the time required to
pronounce a syllable. The Greeks and Romans classified syllables
as either 'short' or 'long' and this provided the basis for their
metrical patterns. In English verse, however, quantity is important but
is not the only consideration - as syllable length is often determined
by the position in the line and also by tonic accent.
||Fourteen line irregular
stanza comprising of
four lines e.g.
Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard by Thomas Gray.
|Quintet / Quinquain/Quintain
||A stanza comprising of five lines
e.g. Ode to a
Skylark by Percy Bysshe Shelley.
||Irregular, sporadic rhyme - often used in
||Music of African American origin which
delivers (rapid) rhythmic rhymes - usually over a backing beat. However,
some rap poets recite their lines without musical accompaniment.
||Poem which is written to be spoken or
performed - possibly with a musical accompaniment. See the opening line
a Locomotive in Winter by Whitman.
||A line or phrase that recurs throughout a
poem - especially at the end of stanzas. In his poem Easter 1916
the refrain 'A terrible beauty is born.' Another famous refrain line is
'Sweet Thames! run softly, till I end my song' from Spenser's
French verse forms
||Broad term used to describe the work of 16th
and 17th Century English poets including: Sidney, Ralegh, Donne,
Spenser, Jonson, Herrick, Milton, Elizabeth I, Marvell, Shakespeare,
Marlowe, Drayton, Wyatt and Skelton. See also
poets and cavalier poets.
||Longer Japanese form consisting of half tanka
written by a number of different poets. See
||Greek epic poem (or section of poem) suitable
||Verse in which each line is a (metrical) foot
longer than its predecessor e.g. Richard Crashaw's Wishes to His
||Welsh syllabic verse form. See
||The effect produced when similar vowel
sounds chime together and where the final consonant sound is also in agreement
e.g. 'bat' and 'cat'. (See also assonance
- which occurs when the vowel sounds are similar but where the consonant sounds
Rhyme is normally divided into masculine and
feminine rhymes. Masculine or single rhymes occur when the last syllable in a word
rhymes with the last syllable in another word. This can occur where the words are single
syllable words such as 'bat' and
'cat' or where the words have more than one syllable but where the final syllable
of each word is stressed
e.g. 'instead' and 'mislead'. Masculine rhymes are usually associated with end-stressed meters such as
Feminine rhymes occur in words of more than one syllable where
the stressed (or rhyming) syllable is followed by an unstressed syllable e.g. 'nearly' and
'clearly' or 'meeting' and 'greeting'. It is also possible to have triple feminine
rhymes where the stressed syllable is followed by two unstressed syllables - as in
'liable' and 'friable'. Feminine rhymes tend to be used in
front stressed meters such as trochaic.
The rhyme patterns in a poem can be analysed by using letters at the
end of lines to denote similar vowel sounds e.g.
||Who will go drive with Fergus now,
||And pierce the deep wood's woven
||And dance upon the level shore?
||Young man, lift up your russet
||And lift your tender eyelids,
||And brood on hopes and fear no
||See also alliteration,
||A person who employs rhyme; often a
pejorative term for a poet.
||Group of poets including
W.B. Yeats and Ernest Rhys who met at the Cheshire Cheese pub in
Fleet Street, London to read and discuss their poetry.
||A poem consisting of seven line stanzas,
usually in iambic pentameters, and rhymed a-b-a-b-b-c-c. This form was used by Shakespeare
in A Lover's Complaint and by Chaucer in Troilus
||Device invented by 'Cockney geezers' to
conceal the subject of conversations from eavesdroppers and/or the
police. Examples include: apples and pears (stairs), Barnet Fair (hair),
butchers' hook (look) and Chalfont St. Giles (piles). Not to be confused
with Cockney Poetry.
||Archaic term for rhyme.
||French term for a tail-rhyme stanza i.e. a
stanza which is concluded by a short line that rhymes with a previous
short line but which is separated from it by a long line.
Robert Burns' stanza
is an example of rime couée.
||Term used to describe end-stressed meters
such as iambic and anapestic - as opposed to
||Term used to describe the work of poets
such as: Wordsworth, Coleridge,
Blake, Burns, Southey,
Scott, Keats, Shelley
In broad terms, Romanticism was a reaction against the order and
balance of the previous Augustan age in favour of self expression,
inspiration and soaring imagination. It arose at a time when there was
considerable social and political upheaval in England, Europe and American and
when the rights of individuals were beginning to be asserted. It was also a time
when poets were becoming less reliant on patrons and therefore had greater freedom
to express themselves. However, Romanticism, is a notoriously difficult term to
define precisely. It is also a term that embraces a diverse range of poets.
||Usually a fifteen line poem, of
French origin, composed of three uneven length stanzas. It features a refrain at
the end of the second and third stanzas which is taken from the first line of the
poem. There is also a ten line version of the rondeau.
||Another variation on the rondeau - this time
consisting of five quatrains and a final quintet. The first quatrain
furnishes four refrains which appear as the final lines of the following
quatrains. In the final quintet there is only one repeation - the last
line - which uses a phrase drawn from the first line of the poem.
||Another poem of French
origin, normally consisting of fourteen lines, but with only two rhymes. The first
and second, seventh and eighth, and thirteenth and fourteenth lines are the same.
The most common rhyme scheme is: A-B-b-a-a-b-A-B-a-b-b-a-A-B.
||Smaller version of the
rondel. The rondelet is a seven line poem with a refrain in the first, third and
seventh line and a rhyme scheme: A-b-A-a-b-b-A.
||Variation on the rondeau
devised by A.C.Swinburne. It is an eleven line poem
where the first part of the first line is repeated as a refrain in the fourth and
||Short, simple song with a refrain.
||A quatrain with a rhyming scheme a-a-b-a e.g.
the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
by Edward Fitzgerald.
||Term used to describe the
effect of meters featuring regular patterns of stressed
and unstressed syllables - as opposed to