Glossary of Poetic Terms

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Dactyl A foot consisting of three syllables where the first is long or stressed and the second two are short or unstressed e.g. as in 'MURmuring'.
Dactylic Hexameter Meter used in Greek epic poetry. Homer wrote the Odyssey and the Iliad in unrhymed dactylic hexameters. See meter. A more recent example is Evangeline by Longfellow.
Dactylic Meter A front stressed meter comprised of three syllables per foot. See meter
Dada Poetry Poetry which attempts to deny sense and reason. Dada comes from the French for 'hobby-horse' - a word originally selected at random from the dictionary. Dada was the forerunner of surrealist poetry.
Dead Metaphor A metaphor which has lost its meaning due to overuse e.g. 'to beat about the bush' or 'one fell swoop'. See metaphor.
Decasyllabic Line A line with ten syllables e.g. iambic pentameter. See meter.
Deconstruction Form of literary criticism developed by the French philosopher Jacques Derrida which stated that literary texts (including poems) have no fixed or definitive meaning but, instead, are full of contradictions and inconsistencies and are open to a variety of interpretations.
Decorum The appropriate adherence to traditional poetic form and content.
Descriptive  Verse Verse which paints a picture e.g. the first 3 stanzas of Thomas Hardy's early poem Domicilium - which describes the cottage at Higher Bockhampton where he was born.
Diaeresis A sign like an umlaut put over the second of two vowels to indicate that they are pronounced separately.
Dialect Verse Verse which employs national or regional dialects e.g. Robert Burns (Scottish), William Barnes (Dorset) and Tennyson (Lincolnshire - see Northern Farmer).
Dictionary A book explaining the meaning of words, organised in alphabetical order.
Didactic Verse Verse which attempts to instruct or educate - as opposed to pure poetry. An example of didactic verse is Alexander Pope's Essay on Man which is a moral treatise. Satirical verse is often indirectly didactic as, in ridiculing something, it attempts to show us an alternative way to go.

Simple aide-mémoire poems such as: 'Thirty days hath September' could also be described as didactic.

Dimeter A line of poetry consisting of two metrical feet. Dimeters are comparatively rare but an example of an iambic dimeter is The Robin by Thomas Hardy. An example of a dactylic dimeter is The Charge of the Light Brigade by Tennyson.
Dipody Greek measure consisting of two metrical feet, which are taken as a single unit.
Dirge Poem of lamentation. See elegy.
Dispondee Two spondees combined into a single unit.
Dissociation of
Term invented by T.S. Eliot to describe (what he saw as) the split between thought and feeling which occurred in English poetry after the metaphysical poets.
Dissonance The deliberate use of inharmonious syllables/words/phrases in order to create a harsh-toned effect. Walt Whitman employs dissonance in his poem To a Locomotive in Winter.
Distich A two line Greek stanza. The distich is particularly associated with Greek elegiac verse and consists of one line of dactylic hexameter and one line  of dactylic pentameter.
Distributed Stress When uncertainly occurs regarding which of two consecutive syllables is stressed. This is sometimes called hovering accent.
Disyllabic Foot A foot with two syllables - as in iambic and trochaic meter.
Dithyramb Greek lyric poem (possibly invented by Arion) sung in honour of the God Bacchus. Alexander's Feast by John Dryden is a more recent example.
Doggerel Poor quality poetry. The Scottish poet William McGonagall is famous for his doggerel and enjoys the dubious distinction of being regarded as the world's worst poet.
Double Consonance See pararhyme.
Double Dactyl Difficult light verse form invented by the American poet Anthony Hecht, consisting of two quatrains where the first three lines are two dactyls e.g. 'Higgledy-piggledy' and the fourth is a dactyl and a macron. The last word of each quatrain must also rhyme.
Double Rhymes Double or disyllabic rhymes occur when the final two syllables of different words chime together - as in 'spender' and 'slender'.
Dramatic Monologue Poem narrated by an imaginary character (not the poet) in the manner of a speech from a play. Dramatic monologue poems were particularly developed during the 19th century by poets such as Tennyson, Hardy and most notably Robert Browning (e.g. My Last Duchess). The technique was then used to great effect by Eliot (e.g. The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock) and Pound.


Duple Meter See monometer.
Dymock Poets Group of poets including Robert Frost, Edward Thomas, Wilfred Gibson, Rupert Brooke, John Drinkwater and Lascelles Abercrombie. They gathered together in the Gloucestershire village of Dymock to write and discuss poetry in the years immediately preceding the 1st World War.
See also Georgian Poets.

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