Poetry and Prose. Sound Patterning.
Prosody. Rhymes. Stanza Forms
Poetry and Verse
Poetry is one of the subcategories of literature along
with drama and fiction. In this sense by poetry lyric
poetry is meant.
Metrical poetry, i.e. verse, differs from prose in
that the former is rhythmically organized speech
down to the level of syllables, whereas the latter is
either orderless or follows ordering patterns other
than syllabic principles.
Prose rhythm may use repetitions, parallels of
words, syntactical units, grammar structures,
sentence length, semantic structures.
Prose rhythm does not follow any preset
Jane Austen: Pride and Prejudice
from Chapter 1
IT is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in
possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.
However little known the feelings or views of such a man may
be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well
fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is
considered as the rightful property of some one or other of
their daughters.
``My dear Mr. Bennet,'' said his lady to him one day, ``have you
heard that Netherfield Park is let at last?''
Austen cont.
Mr. Bennet replied that he had not.
``But it is,'' returned she; ``for Mrs. Long has just been here,
and she told me all about it.''
Mr. Bennet made no answer.
``Do not you want to know who has taken it?'‘ cried his wife
``You want to tell me, and I have no objection to hearing it.''
This was invitation enough.
Austen cont.
``Why, my dear, you must know, Mrs. Long says that
Netherfield is taken by a young man of large fortune from the
north of England; that he came down on Monday in a chaise
and four to see the place, and was so much delighted with it
that he agreed with Mr. Morris immediately; that he is to take
Possession before Michaelmas, and some of his servants are to
be in the house by the end of next week.''
``What is his name?''
``Is he married or single?''
``Oh! single, my dear, to be sure! A single man of large fortune;
four or five thousand a year. What a fine thing for our girls!''
King James Bible
1: In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
2: And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was
upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon
the face of the waters.
3: And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
4: And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the
light from the darkness.
5: And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called
Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
Genesis cont.
6: And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the
waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.
7: And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which
were under the firmament from the waters which were above
the firmament: and it was so.
8: And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and
the morning were the second day.
9: And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered
together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it
was so.
Genesis cont.
10: And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering
together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was
11: And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb
yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after
his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.
12: And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed
after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in
itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
Verse Rhythm
Verse is a patterned succession of syllables:
some are strongly emphasized, some are not.
Rhythms of poetry, compared with prose
rhythms, are stylized and artificial, they fall into
patterns that are more repetitive and
Poetic rhythms call attention to themselves.
Poetic Rhythm
Literature – coded text
Poetic rhythm – concentration and intensity
Primordial functions of poetry
Incantatory rhythms, verse spells, healing charms
(an incantation or enchantment is a charm or spell
created using words)
An Old English medical verse-spell
against poison
This herb is called Stime; it grew on a stone,
It resists poison, it fights pain.
It is called harsh, it fights against poison.
This is the herb that strove against the snake;
This has strength against poison, this has strength
against infection,
This has strength against the foe who fares through
the land.
(Anglo-Saxon Poetry. Sel. and trans. by R. K. Gordon, rev.
ed., London: J. M. Dent and Sons, 1954, 93)
Verse Rhythm
Rhythm is based on orderly repetition.
Poetic rhythm is based on the regular
alternation of certain syllabic features of the
A syllable commonly consists of a vocalic peak, which may
be accompanied by a consonantal onset or coda. In
some languages, every syllabic peak is indeed a vowel.
But other sounds can also form the nucleus of a syllable.
In English, this generally happens where a word ends in
an unstressed syllable containing a nasal or lateral
CV / CVC / VC /CCV / CCVC / etc.
Diphtongs, triphtongs – vowel sequences in which two or
three components can be heard but which none the less
count as a single vowel
one syllable: hire, lyre, flour, cowered
two syllables: higher, liar, flower, coward
(from Wikipedia)
In poetry, meter (metre in British English) is the basic
rhythmic structure of a verse or lines in verse. Many
traditional verse forms prescribe a specific verse meter, or
a certain set of meters alternating in a particular order.
The study of meters and forms of versification is known as
prosody. (Within linguistics, "prosody" is used in a more
general sense that includes not only poetical meter but also
the rhythmic aspects of prose, whether formal or informal,
which vary from language to language, and sometimes
between poetic traditions.)
Prosodic features of
Chief phonetic correlates:
stress / beat /accent
is widely regarded in English as the most
salient determinant of prominence.
When a syllable or a word is perceived as
‘stressed’ or ‘emphasized’, it is pitch height or a
change of pitch, more than length or loudness,
that is likely to be mainly responsible.
The duration of syllables depends on both
segment type and the surrounding phonetic
Duration is also constrained by biomechanical
factors: part of the reason why the vowel in
English bat, for example, tends to be relatively
long is that the jaw has to move further than in
words like bit or bet.
Stress / Beat / Accent
Stress commonly is a conventional label for the
overall prominence of certain syllables relative
to others within a linguistic system.
In this sense, stress does not correlate simply
with loudness, but represents the total effect
of factors such as pitch, loudness and duration.
Stress in English
English, sometimes described as a ‘stress
timed’ language, makes a relatively large
difference between stressed and
unstressed syllables, in such a way that
stressed syllables are generally much longer
than unstressed.
The term ACCENT is sometimes used loosely to
mean stress, referring to prominence in a
general way or more specifically to the
emphasis placed on certain syllables.
The term ‘accent’ is also used to refer to
relative prominence within longer utterances.
Stress / Accent
The terms STRESS and ACCENT in particular are
notoriously ambiguous, and it would be
misleading to suggest that there are standard
Beat denote stress with metrical relevance, i.e.
stressed syllables which count in metrical lines
are called beats.
English Versification
English poetic rhythm is based on the regular alternation of
stressed and unstressed syllables. (Duration and pitch are no
metre creating features.)
Stresses are that of words stresses and marked in dictionaries
by ‘ as in synecdoche /sɪ’nɛkdəkɪ/.
Scansion is the act of determining and graphically representing
the metrical character of a line of verse.
Stressed syllables are marked by the symbols / or –.
Unstressed syllables /slacks are marked by the symbol X.
When I consider how my light is spent
X / X / X /
X / X /
Whose woods these are I think I know
/ X / X /
When my mother died I was very young
X / X / X X / X /
Down by the salley gardens
X / X / X / X
my love and I did meet
X /
X / X /
‘||’ is a division marker or bar between repeated units of a line
broken into sections by a caesura
Rhythm and Metre
The rhythmic structure of a poem is formed by repeating a
basic rhythmical unit of stressed and unstressed syllables
Metre grows out of the linguistic rhythms of the words, it is the
design formed by the rhythms, it is an abstract pattern.
The general metre and the actual rhythm of a specific line are
not always identical.
Metrical Systems in English
1 Accentual/Stressed Metre
In accentual/stressed metre the number of
accents/stressed syllables is fixed in a line.
However the number of unstressed syllables
is variable. In order to define the actual form
you have to count the number of accents per
Metrical Systems in English
1 Accentual/Stressed Metre
Old English (Anglo-Saxon) Alliterative Versification
The basic metrical feature of the line is four strong stresses:
/ / / /
The spaces before and between the stress can be occupied by
zero, one, two or three syllables, e.g. :
X / X X / X X X / /, or X X / X / / X X / X, etc.
Each full line is divided into two half-lines (hemistichs) by a
X X / X X / || X X / X X /
Anglo-Saxon Alliterative Versification cont.
The distinctive feature of this metrical form is its alliteration.
Alliteration is a figure speech, meaning the repetition of
consonant or vowel sounds at the beginning of words or
stressed syllables.
It is a very old device which often help create onomatopoeic
effects, i.e. effects imitating sounds.
Alliteration is a key organizing principle in Anglo-Saxon verse.
Alliteration is the principal binding agent of Old
English poetry.
Two syllables alliterate when they begin with
the same sound; all vowels alliterate together,
but the consonant clusters st-, sp- and sc- are
treated as separate sounds (so st- does not
alliterate with s- or sp-).
Anglo-Saxon Alliterative Versification cont.
Formal requirements:
• A long-line is divided into two half-lines. Half-lines
are also known as verses or hemistichs
• A heavy pause, or cæsura, separates the two halflines.
• Each half-line has two strongly stressed syllables.
• The first lift in the second half-line (i.e. the third
stress) is always alliterated with either or both
stressed syllables in the first half-line.
• The second stress in the second half-line, i.e. the
fourth stress does not alliterate.
Anglo-Saxon Alliterative Versification cont.
Thus there are the following variants:
(‘A’ marks an alliterating syllable, ‘X’ marks a non-alliterating
A A || A X
A X || A X
X A || A X
Beowulf Manuscript
Beowulf is the conventional title of an Old English
heroic epic poem consisting of 3182 alliterative long
Its composition by an anonymous Anglo-Saxon poet is
dated between the 8th and the early 11th century.
The poem appears in what is today called the Beowulf
manuscript or Nowell Codex (British Library MS
Cotton Vitellius A.xv), along with other works.
Beowulf Manuscript
Examples from Beowulf
(translated by Michael Alexander
1. It is a sorrow in spirit
A ||
for me to say to any man
2. Then spoke Beowulf,
son of Edgeheow
|| A
3. A boat with a ringed neck rode in the haven
|| A
Further examples
Alliterative stress within polisyllabic word
It was not remarked then if a man looked
Vowel alliteration
To encompass evil, an enemy from hell
A || A
The ample eaves
adorned with gold
|| A
Twentieth century example - Ezra Pound: Canto I
(A free translation of the opening of Odyssey 11)
We set up mast and sail
A ||
Bore sheep aboard her,
Heavy with weeping,
Bore us out onward
Circe's this craft,
A (?)
on that swart ship,
and our bodies also
so winds from sternward
with bellying canvas,
the trim-coifed goddess.
Ezra Pound
Significance of Sound Patterning
Cohesive and mnemonic function
Primordial and bardic poetry was transmitted
orally, repetitive formal components bound words
together and thus enhanced memorability.
The metrical frame creates a musical body for the
poem; it may also contribute to a level of sound
symbolism, onomatopoeia, onomatopoeic words.
Native Metre / Folk Metre
Sing a song of sixpence,
A pocket full of rye;
Four and twenty blackbirds
Baked in a pie.
When the pie was opened,
They all began to sing.
Now, wasn't that a dainty dish
To set before the King?
Sixpence cont.
Sing a song of sixpence,
A pocket full of rye;
Four and twenty blackbirds
Baked in a pie.
Sixpence cont.
Sing a song of sixpence,
A pocket full of rye;
Four and twenty blackbirds
Baked in a pie.
(p) = pause
Ballad Metre
Ballad metre is a form of poetry that
alternates lines of four and three beats, often in
quatrains, rhymed abab.
The anonymous poem Sir Patrick Spens
demonstrates this well.
The alternating sequence of four and three
stresses is called common measure when used
for hymns.
Sir Patrick Spens
The king sits in Dumfermline town.
/ /
Drinking the blude-red wine: O
'O whare will I get a skeely skipper,
To sail this new ship of mine?'
Dunfermline Palace Ruin
Dunfermline was Scotland’s capital in the 11th century
Syllable-Stress Verse / Accentual-Syllabic Metre
After the Norman Conquest, from the 12th century on
accentual-syllabic versification started to appear.
It went hand in hand with strophic construction and
rhyming line endings.
Out of stressed and unstressed syllables metrical feet
were created after the pattern of ancient Greek and
Latin poetry.
In accentual syllabic foot-verse both the number of
stressed and unstressed syllables are fixed, and also
their respective positions in the poetic line.
Foot Verse
Stressed / Accentual-Syllabic Metre
Ancient Greek and Latin prosody is quantitative, i.e.
the regular alternation of syllables is based on their
duration. Quantitative versification makes distinction
between long and short syllables.
A syllable is long if the vowel sound in it is long or if it
Is short but followed by more two or more consonants.
A syllable is short if the vowel sound in it is short and
Is followed by zero or one consonant sound.
Accentual-Syllabic Metre / Quantitative Versification
English accentual-syllabic foot-verse is sometimes
called quantitative. It is, however, is inaccurate.
But quantitative versification is based on the
‘quantity’, i.e. the duration of a syllable.
Apart from a few technical experiments, duration of
syllables is not a metre constitutive principle in English
Quantitative versification makes metrical feet using
short and long syllables.
Quantitative Versification
Metrical Feet
The foot is the basic metrical unit that generates a line
of verse in quantitative versification.
The foot is a purely metrical unit; there is no inherent
relation to a word or phrase as a unit of meaning or
A foot is composed of syllables, the number of which
is limited.
The feet are classified first by the number of syllables
in the foot (disyllabic feet have two, trisyllabic three,
And tetrasyllabic four syllables), and by the pattern of
vowel lengths.
Qualitative vs. quantitative metre
(from the Wikipedia entry on ‘Prosody’)
The meter of much poetry of the Western world and
elsewhere is based on particular patterns of syllables of
particular types. The familiar type of meter in English
language poetry is called qualitative meter, with stressed
syllables coming at regular intervals (e.g. in iambic
pentameter, typically every even-numbered syllable). Many
Romance languages use a scheme that is somewhat
similar but where the position of only one particular
stressed syllable (e.g. the last) needs to be fixed. The
meter of the old Germanic poetry of languages such as Old
Norse and Old English was radically different, but still was
based on stress patterns.
Qualitative vs. quantitative metre
(from the Wikipedia entry on ‘Prosody’)
Many classical languages, however, use a different
scheme known as quantitative metre, where patterns are
based on syllable weight rather than stress. In dactylic
hexameter of Classical Latin and Classical Greek, for
example, each of the six feet making up the line was either
a dactyl (long-short-short) or spondee (long-long), where a
long syllable was literally one that took longer to pronounce
than a short syllable: specifically, a syllable consisting of a
long vowel or diphthong or followed by two consonants.
The stress pattern of the words made no difference to the
meter. A number of other ancient languages also used
quantitative meter, such as Sanskrit and Classical Arabic
(but not Biblical Hebrew).
Quantitative Versification
Most common feet
(symbols: ¯ = long syllable, ˘ = short syllable)
iamb or iambic foot: ˘ ¯
trochee or trochaic foot: ¯ ˘
anapaest or anapaestic foot: ˘ ˘ ¯
dactyl of dactylic foot: ¯ ˘ ˘
spondee or spondaic foot: ¯ ¯
pyrrhic or pyrrhic foot: ˘ ˘
tribrach: ˘ ˘ ˘
molossus: ¯ ¯ ¯
minor ionic: ˘ ˘ ¯ ¯
choriamb: ¯ ˘˘ ¯
English Accentual-Syllabic Metre
English prosody is based on the regular
alternation of stressed and unstressed
Consequently classical Greek and Latin
quantitative metrical feet are translated into
syllable stresses: 'long' becomes 'stressed' (or
'accented'), and 'short' becomes 'unstressed‘
(or 'unaccented').
English Accentual-Syllabic Metre
For example, an iamb, which is short-long in classical
meter, becomes unstressed-stressed, as in the English
word “today”; a trochee is constituted of a stressed
and unstressed syllable, as in “never”; a dactyl is
constituted of a stressed syllable followed by two
unstressed ones, as in “yesterday”; while an anapaest
is constituted of two unstressed syllables followed by
a stressed one, as in “interrupt”. A spondee is made of
two successive stressed syllables, as in “heartbreak”;
a pyrrhic is made of two successive unstressed
syllables and the phrase “of the”.
English metrical feet
iamb or iambic foot: X /
trochee or trochaic foot: / X
anapaest or anapaestic foot: X X /
dactyl of dactylic foot: / X X
spondee or spondaic foot: / /
pyrrhic or pyrrhic foot: X X
tribrach: X X X
molossus: / / /
minor ionic: X X / /
choriamb: / X X /
English Accentual-Syllabic Metre
For the scansion of an English poem the standard
Symbols are used (the symbol ‘|’ marks foot boundary)
Down by the salley gardens my love and I did meet
X / | X / | X / | X ||X / | X / |X /
Whose woods these are I think I know.
/ | X
/ | X / |X /
English Accentual-Syllabic Metre
Metrical feet add up to poetic lines, which consequently are
defined in terms of the number and type of poetic feet they
Monometer: one foot
Dimeter: two feet
Trimeter: three feet
Tetrameter: four feet
Pentameter: five feet
Hexameter: six feet
English Accentual-Syllabic Metre
Thus we can discern
Iambic monometers (i.e. one-stress iambic lines)
Thus I
Pass by
And die
As one
An gone
(Robert Herrick: Upon His Departure Hence, 1648)
English Accentual-Syllabic Metre
Or anapaestic tetrameters (four-stress anapestic lines)
There's little Tom Dacre, who cried when his head,
/ X X
/ |X X
/ | X X /
That curled like a lamb's back, was shaved: so I said,
X / | X X / | X
/ | XX /
"Hush, Tom! never mind it, for when your head's bare,
/ | X X /| X X
/ | X
You know that the soot cannot spoil your white hair.
X / | X X / | X X /| X
(William Blake: The Chimney Sweeper)
English Accentual-Syllabic Metre
Or iambic pentameters (five-stress iambic lines)
THERE was a roaring in the wind all night;
/ |X / |X / | X / | X /
The rain came heavily and fell in floods;
But now the sun is rising calm and bright;
The birds are singing in the distant woods;
Over his own sweet voice the Stock-dove broods;
The Jay makes answer as the Magpie chatters;
And all the air is filled with pleasant noise of waters.
(from William Wordsworth: Resolution and Independence)
William Wordsworth
(from the National Portrait Gallery)
English Accentual-Syllabic Metre
Iambic pentameter has a distinguished role in the history of
English poetry.
If unrhymed, it is called blank verse (e.g. Shakespeare’s plays)
Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York;
And all the clouds that lour'd upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.
(Shakespeare: Richard III)
English Accentual-Syllabic Metre
If pair-rhymed, it is called heroic couplet (e.g. Alexander Pope’s
Essay on Criticism)
Of all the Causes which conspire to blind
Man's erring Judgment, and misguide the Mind,
What the weak Head with strongest Byass rules,
Is Pride, the never-failing Vice of Fools.
(from Alexander Pope: Essay on Criticism)
English Accentual-Syllabic Metre
It is important to notice that the alternation of stressed and
unstressed syllable in accentual-syllabic metre is not entirely
In iambic forms, e.g. a poet may use substitute feet. The
two syllabic spondee and pyrrhic are proper substitute feet for
Sometimes poets add an extra unstressed syllable, thus
substituting an anapest for an iamb.
A sudden blow: the great wings beating still
X /| X / | X / | /
/|X /
Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed
X /| X /|X X /| X
/ | X /
By the dark webs, her nape caught in his bill,
X X| /
/ | X / | /
X| X /
He holds her helpless breast upon his breast.
How can those terrified vague fingers push
The feathered glory from her loosening thighs?
/ | X
/ |X X | X / |X X /
And how can body, laid in that white rush,
But feel the strange heart beating where it lies?
Substitution cont.
A shudder in the loins engenders there
The broken wall, the burning roof and tower
And Agamemnon dead.
Being so caught up,
So mastered by the brute blood of the air,
Did she put on his knowledge with his power
Before the indifferent beak could let her drop?
(William Butler Yeats: Leda and the Swan)
Leda and the Swan
16th century copy after lost painting by Michelangelo
English Accentual-Syllabic Metre
A metrical line has three levels:
Oh, to vex me, contraryes meet in one (Donne)
(iambic pentameter)
1. Abstract metrical pattern
2. Actual rhythm of the particular line
3. Speech rhythm
(where ‘\’ marks secondary stress)
Rough and Smooth Rhythms
If the three levels fall apart, as in the above excerpt of Donne’s
poem, the rhythm is ‘rough’. If they tend to coalesce, as in this
line by Donne’s contemporary, Edmund Spenser, the rhythm is
One day I wrote her name upon the strand
(Edmund Spenser: Amoretti, Sonnet 75)
Edmund Spenser
John Donne
English Accentual-Syllabic Metre
English accentual-syllabic poems may rhyme. Rhyme is the
identity of sound between words. Rhyme is not necessarily
based on identity of spelling. Pronunciation is the essence.
great rhymes with mate
bough does not rhyme with though
great and meat look alike, but pronounced differently,
they are called eyes-rhymes
Sound Parallelism
Rhyme is only one aspect of sound-parallelism. Based on the
concept of the linguistic formula of a syllable, i.e. a cluster of
up to three consonants followed by a vowel nucleus followed
by a cluster of up to four consonants (C⁰⁻³–V–C⁰⁻⁴), Geoffrey
Leech set up the following chart of sound patterns:
Sound Parallelism
from Geoffrey N. Leech: A Linguistic Guide to English Poetry.
London: Longman, 1969, 89
great/grazed send/sell
send/sound pararhyme
reverse rhyme
Consonance is often called half-rhyme
I have net them at close of day
Coming with vivid faces
From counter or desk among grey
Eighteenth-century houses.
(from W. B. Yeats: Easter 1916)
Easter Rising, Dublin 1916
Internal Rhymes
By rhymes generally terminal rhymes are meant. However,
poets use internal rhymes within a line, usually followed by a
break (caesura):
And through the drifts the snowy clifts
Did send a dismal sheen:
Nor shapes of men nor beasts we ken –
The ice was all between.
(from S. T. Coleridge: The Rime of the Ancient Mariner)
Poetic Forms
The disposition of lines into groups falls into two categories:
Stichic poetry, in which verse line follows verse line, as in
Milton’s Paradise Lost. Stichic poetry is often segmented into
verse paragraphs, i.e. passages of irregular length divided by a
Strophic poetry, in which groups of lines (stanza) are formed,
as in Keats’s Ode on a Grecian Urn.
Rhyme Schemes and Poetic Forms
Strophic or stanzaic forms are often bound together by rhymes.
Stanza forms are determined by numbers of lines:
Couplet – two-line stanza
Tercet – three line stanza
Quatrain – four-line stanza
(Italian ‘station, stopping place’)
A structural unit in verse composition, a sequence of lines
arranged in a definite pattern of meter and rhyme scheme
which is repeated throughout the whole work. Stanzas range
from such simple patterns as the couplet or the quatrain to
such complex stanza forms as the Spenserian or those used by
Keats in his odes.
(Alex Preminger, ed.: Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics. Enlarged edition.
London: Macmillan, 1975)
Stanzas may consist of metrically identical or different lines.
Rhyme Scheme
Patterns of rhyme within larger units of poetry
marked by letters :
A or a: first line and every following line rhyming
with it
B or b: next new rhyme and every following line
rhyming with it
Rhyme Schemes
Couplet: aa bb cc, etc.
Had we but world enough, and time,
This coyness, lady, were no crime.
We would sit down and think which way
To walk, and pass our long love's day.
(from Andrew Marvell: To his Coy Mistress)
Rhymes Schemes
Alternate Rhymes
Alternating / alternate / cross rhymes: abab cdcd, etc.
The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
The lowing herd winds slowly o'er the lea,
The ploughman homeward plods his weary way,
And leaves the world to darkness and to me.
(from Thomas Gray: Elegy Written in a Country Church-Yard)
Rhyme Schemes
Envelope Rhymes
Envelope / enclosed: abba cddc, etc.
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
(William Wordsworth: The world is too much with us;
late and soon)
Rhyme Schemes
Terza Rima
Terca rima: aba bcb cdc, etc. (It is a type interlocking rhyme
patterns: word unrhymed in 1st stanza is linked with words
rhymed in 2nd stanza.)
O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn's being,
Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,
Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red,
Pestilence-stricken multitudes: O thou,
Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed
Rhyme Schemes
Terza Rima cont.
The winged seeds, where they lie cold and low,
Each like a corpse within its grave, until
Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow
Her clarion o'er the dreaming earth, and fill
(Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air)
With living hues and odors plain and hill:
(from P. B. Shelley: Ode to the West Wind)
Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)
by Alfred Clint (1807–1883)
Rhyme Schemes
Ottava Rima
of Italian origin
rhyme scheme: ABABABCC
Three alternate rhymes plus a closing couplet
consists of iambic lines, usually pentameters
Byron’s Don Juan is a well known example
Ottava Rima
That is no country for old men. The young
In one another's arms, birds in the trees
- Those dying generations - at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.
(from W. B. Yeats: Sailing to Byzantium)
Rhymes Schemes
Rhyme Royal
rhyme scheme: ABABBCC
usually iambic pentameter
Geoffrey Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde is a well-know example
Rhyme Royal
Here at right of the entrance this bronze head,
Human, superhuman, a bird's round eye,
Everything else withered and mummy-dead.
What great tomb-haunter sweeps the distant sky
(Something may linger there though all else die;)
And finds there nothing to make its tetror less
Hysterica passio of its own emptiness?
(from W. B. Yeats: A Bronze Head)
Rhyme Schemes
Spenserian Stanza
Rhyme scheme: ABABBCBCC
The Spenserian stanza was invented by Edmund Spenser and
used it for his epic poem The Faerie Queene.
Each stanza contains nine lines in total: eight lines in iambic
pentameter followed by an iambic hexameter (alexandrine).
Spenserian Stanza
The wicked witch now seeing all this while
The doubtfull ballaunce equally to sway,
What not by right, she cast to win by guile,
And by her hellish science raisd streightway
A foggy mist, that overcast the day,
And a dull blast, that breathing on her face,
Dimmed her former beauties shining ray,
And with foule ugly forme did her disgrace:
Then was she faire alone, when none was faire in place.
(from Edmund Spenser: Faerie Queene)
Edmund Spenser
The Faerie Queene
The Sonnet
Consists of fourteen lines divided into stanzas.
Iambic pentameters (or iambic hexameters, also
called alexandrines, sometimes iambic tetrameters).
The rhyme schemes is fixed.
There are three main types.
The Petrarchan / Italian Sonnets
John Donne: Holy Sonnet 19
Oh, to vex me, contraryes meet in one:
Inconstancy unnaturally hath begott
A constant habit; that when I would not
I change in vowes, and in devotione.
As humorous is my contritione
As my prophane Love, and as soone forgott:
As ridlingly distemper'd, cold and hott,
As praying, as mute; as infinite, as none.
I durst not view heaven yesterday; and to day
In prayers, and flattering speaches I court God:
To morrow I quake with true feare of his rod.
So my devout fitts come and go away
Like a fantistique Ague: save that here
Those are my best dayes, when I shake with feare.
According to the stanzaic pattern, you can print like
thie (actually many sonnets are printed this way:
Oh, to vex me, contraryes meet in one:
Inconstancy unnaturally hath begott
A constant habit; that when I would not
I change in vowes, and in devotione.
1st quatrain
As humorous is my contritione
As my prophane Love, and as soone forgott:
As ridlingly distemper'd, cold and hott,
As praying, as mute; as infinite, as none.
2nd quatrain
I durst not view heaven yesterday; and to day
In prayers, and flattering speaches I court God:
To morrow I quake with true feare of his rod.
1st tercet
So my devout fitts come and go away
Like a fantistique Ague: save that here
Those are my best dayes, when I shake with feare.
2nd tercet
The Petrarchan Sonnet
1st quatrain
2nd quatrain
1st tercet
2nd tercet
The English Sonnet
William Shakespeare: Sonnet 75
So are you to my thoughts as food to life,
Or as sweet-seasoned showers are to the ground;
And for the peace of you I hold such strife
As 'twixt a miser and his wealth is found.
Now proud as an enjoyer, and anon
Doubting the filching age will steal his treasure,
Now counting best to be with you alone,
Then bettered that the world may see my pleasure,
Sometime all full with feasting on your sight,
And by and by clean starved for a look,
Possessing or pursuing no delight
Save what is had, or must from you be took.
Thus do I pine and surfeit day by day,
Or gluttoning on all, or all away.
The English Sonnet
4 + 4 + 4 + 2 = 8 + 4 + 2 = 12 + 2
1st quatrain
2nd quatrain
3rd quatrain
closing couplet
The Spenserian Sonnet
Edmund Spenser: Amoretti 75
One day I wrote her name upon the strand,
But came the waves and washed it away:
Again I wrote it with a second hand,
But came the tide, and made my pains his prey.
Vain man, said she, that doest in vain assay
A mortal thing so to immortalize,
For I myself shall like to this decay,
And eek my name be wiped out likewise.
Not so (quoth I), let baser things devise
To die in dust, but you shall live by fame:
My verse your virtues rare shall eternize,
And in the heavens write your glorious name.
Where whenas Death shall all the world subdue,
Out love shall live, and later life renew.
The Sonnet
Petrarchan / Italian
Rhyme scheme
quatrains - envelope rhymes repeated
turn after line 8 (turn markers: but, though, yet, etc.)
quatrains versus tercets
based on opposition, thesis – antithesis, static quality
The Sonnet
English / Shakespearean
Rhyme scheme
a b a b | c d c d || e f e f || g g
alternate rhymes
two turns: the first one after line 8
the second one after line 12
quatrains versus closing couplet (summary, conclusion)
dramatic quality, tripartite structure:
thesis – antithesis – synthesis
The Sonnet
Rhyme scheme
a b a b | b c b c || c d c d || e e
A mixture of the two, the overlapping rhymes create a similar
acoustic effect to that of the Italian sonnet, yet displays two
turn, thus represents a more dramatic quality. However, the
overlapping rhymes blur the tripartite division.
Semi-strict forms, loosely metrical poems
Poets often use loosely metrical patterns.
It either means the employment of metrical substitutions or
variations, as in S. T. Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner,
with subtle irregularities in the ballad measure, e.g.
With throats unslaked, with black lips baked,
We could nor laugh nor wail;
Through utter drought all dumb we stood!
I bit my arm, I sucked the blood,
And cried, A sail! a sail!
Semi-strict forms, loosely metrical poems
or the use of metrical
lines of irregular length, as
T. S. Eliot’s Preludes,
Or it may take other, more
radical forms of only hinting
at the vague memory of strict
metrical patterns.
T. S. Eliot (1888-1965)
The winter evening settles down
With smell of steaks in passageways.
Six o'clock.
The burnt-out ends of smoky days.
And now a gusty shower wraps
The grimy scraps
Of withered leaves about your feet
And newspapers from vacant lots;
The showers beat
On broken blinds and chimneypots,
And at the corner of the street
A lonely cab-horse steams and stamps.
And then the lighting of the lamps.
The morning comes
to consciousness
Of faint stale smells of beer
From the sawdust-trampled street
With all its muddy feet that press
To early coffee-stands.
With the other masquerades
That times resumes,
One thinks of all the hands
That are raising dingy shades
In a thousand furnished rooms.
You tossed a blanket from the bed
You lay upon your back, and waited;
You dozed, and watched the night revealing
The thousand sordid images
Of which your soul was constituted;
They flickered against the ceiling.
And when all the world came back
And the light crept up between the shutters
And you heard the sparrows in the gutters,
You had such a vision of the street
As the street hardly understands;
Preludes III cont.
Sitting along the bed's edge, where
You curled the papers from your hair,
Or clasped the yellow soles of feet
In the palms of both soiled hands.
His soul stretched tight across the skies
That fade behind a city block,
Or trampled by insistent feet
At four and five and six o'clock;
And short square fingers stuffing pipes,
And evening newspapers, and eyes
Assured of certain certainties,
The conscience of a blackened street
Impatient to assume the world.
Preludes IV cont.
I am moved by fancies that are curled
Around these images, and cling:
The notion of some infinitely gentle
Infinitely suffering thing.
Wipe your hand across your mouth, and laugh;
The worlds revolve like ancient women
Gathering fuel in vacant lots.
Attridge, Derek: Poetic Rhythm. An Introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1995
Brooks, Cleanth and Warren, Robert Penn: Understanding Poetry. 4th
edition. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1976
Fry, Stephen: The Ode Less Travelled. Unlocking the Poet Within. London:
Hutchinson, 2005
Hobsbaum, Philip: Metre, Rhythm and Verse Form. London: Routledge, 1996
Leech, Geoffrey N.: A Linguistic Guide to English Poetry. London: Longman,
Scannel, Vernon: How to Enjoy Poetry. London: Piatkus, 1983
Preminger, Alex, ed.: Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics. Enlarged
edition. London: Macmillan, 1975

Rhyme, rhythm, sound patterning