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Poetry Handout

J. Dorotte
Poetry Handout
CPGE Jean-Jaurès
Poetry Handout
Reminder—basic poetry vocabulary:
Un vers = a line
La poésie = verse
Une strophe = a verse / a stanza
When studying English verse, we first look at the stresses rather than the syllables; English verse is
based on an alternation of stressed and unstressed syllables.
Lines are composed of feet; a foot contains two or three syllables, at least one of which is stressed.
Most common types of metrical feet
* IAMB __ ⁄
two-syllable foot that has one unstressed
syllable and one stressed syllable
In doubt | to deem | himself | a god | or beast
(Alexander Pope)
* TROCHEE ⁄ __
Two-syllable foot with one stressed syllable
and one unstressed syllable
Tyger, | tyger, | burning | bright. (William
Two-syllable foot with two stressed syllables
Me miserable ! Which way shall I fly (John
* PYRRHIC __ __ (rare)
Two-syllable foot with two unstressed
 these create a binary rhythm
Three-syllable foot with two unstressed
syllables and one stressed syllable
Like a child | from the womb, | like a ghost |
from the tomb
I arise | and unbuild | it again. (Shelley)
* DACTYL ⁄ __ __
Three-syllable foot with one stressed syllable
and two unstressed syllables
 these create ternary rhythm
Measured by the number of feet:
- one foot = monometer
- two feet = dimeter
- three feet = trimeter
- four feet = tetrameter
five feet = pentameter
six feet = hexameter
seven feet = heptameter
eight feet = octameter
Iambic pentameter is the basic English pattern, is particularly common in Shakespeare’s works for
- lines are end-stopped when clause or sentence ends at the end of the line
- there is an enjambment / a run-on line when the clause or sentences continues after the line
ended :
Me miserable ! Which way shall I fly
Infinite wrath, and infinite despair ? (John Milton)
 rising rhythm= lines ending with stressed syllables (iambs and anapaests)
 falling rhythm = lines ending with unstressed syllables (trochees and dactyls)
 masculine endings = iambic pentameters ending on stressed syllables
 feminine ending = when an extra unstressed syllable is added
Upon | this hope | that you | shall give | me rea | sons. (Shakespeare)
J. Dorotte
Poetry Handout
CPGE Jean-Jaurès
Other kinds of verse :
Blank verse : No rhymes, makes it more flexible.
Free verse : does not conform to any regular metrical pattern, although it may rhyme.
Walt Whitman and T.S. Eliot use free verse.
Syllabic verse: based on the number of syllables in one line, common in French, Japanese
poetry and in some authors like Sylvia Plath
* a stanza with two lines = a couplet
* a stanza with three lines = a tercet
* a stanza with four lines = a quatrain
* a stanza with five lines = a quintain
* a stanza with six lines = a sestet
* a stanza with seven lines = a septet
* a stanza with eight lines = an octave
a rhyme = phonemic parallelism between two syllables
an alliteration = when initial consonants are the same (fish and fowl)
a consonance = when final consonants are the same (pick a fork)
an assonance = when vowel sounds are the same (Jane says it rained)
Types of rhymes :
True rhyme: most common type of rhyme in English verse. Vowel + consonant are the same
in two different syllables (tries / eyes ; flight / light)
- Identical rhyme (rare): when same word repeated
- Rime riche : when the two rhyming words have same sound but different meaning (rite /
Imperfect rhymes :
- Half-rhyme : only end consonant is repeated, is just consonance (rot / put, rose / buzz)
- Slant-rhyme : initial and final consonants both repeated (trod / tried ; let / lit)
- Alliteration : only initial consonant repeated (spick and span)
- Assonance : only vocalic sound repeated (beat / feel)
- Eye-rhyme / sight-rhyme : when two syllables look the same way but are pronounced
differently (hush / bush)
Rhyme schemes
Position: Rhyme can occur at the end (end rhyme, most common); or within the line (internal
rhyme: until the end we’ll go my friend)
Rhyme scheme :
Couplet rhymes : AABBCC
Alternate rhymes : ABAB
Enclosing rhymes : ABBA
Terza rima : ABA, BCB, CDC
Ottava rima : ABABACC
Shakespearian sonnet : ABAB
Refrain= when one or more lines repeated at the end of each stanza
Common metre (also called short metre, hymn stanza or ballad stanza): a four-line stanza (=quatrain),
with iambic tetrameters in the first and third lines, and iambic trimeters in the second and fourth line,
it is often used in hymns and ballads (although there might be variations: not only iambs for instance)
rhyming ABCB or ABAB.