The Sounds of Poetry

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DEFINITIONS RELATED TO SOUND
ONOMATOPOEIA – a word capturing or approximating the sound of what it describes: quack, buzz,
bang, squeak, choo-choo
ALLITERATION – the repetition of initial consonant sounds through a sequence of words: “while I
nodded, nearly napping”
ASSONANCE – the repetition of vowel sounds in a sequence of words with different endings “The
death of the poet was kept from his poems”; “time and tide”
RHYME – two or more words that have the same sounds: snappy and happy, vein and reign. Rhyme
can emphasize words, direct a reader’s attention to relations between words and provide an
overall structure for a poem
RHYME SCHEME: the pattern of end rhymes in a poem, often noted by small letters, such
as abab or abba.
END RHYME – the rhyming words come at the end of the lines
INTERNAL RHYME – rhyming words come within the same line
NEAR RHYME (also called off rhyme, slant rhyme or approximate rhyme) the sounds are almost but
not exactly alike: “easy” and “dizzy”
FREE VERSE – poetry that does not rhyme or use regular meter
EYE RHYME – the words look like they should rhyme but they do not, such as bear and ear or Yeats
and Keats
RHYTHM - the modulation of weak and strong (or stressed and unstressed) elements in the flow of
speech. In most poetry written before the twentieth century, rhythm was often expressed in
meter; in prose and in free verse, rhythm is present but in a much less predictable and regular
manner.
DEFINITIONS CONTINUED
RHYTHM - the modulation of weak and strong (or stressed and unstressed) elements in
the flow of speech. In most poetry written before the twentieth century, rhythm was
often expressed in meter; in prose and in free verse, rhythm is present but in a much
less predictable and regular manner.
METER - the more or less regular pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables in a line of
poetry. This is determined by the kind of foot (iambic or dactylic, for example) and by
the number of feet per line (e.g., five feet = pentameter, six feet = hexameter).
FOOT – the basic unit of poetic meter, consisting of any of various fixed patterns of one to
three stressed and unstressed syllables. A foot may contain more than one word or
just one syllable of a multisyllabic word. In scansion, breaks between feet are usually
indicated with a vertical line or slash mark, as in the following example (which
contains five feet): "One com- | mon note | on ei- | ther lyre | did strike" (Dryden, "To
the Memory of Mr. Oldham"). .
IAMBIC - referring to a metrical form in which each foot consists of an unstressed syllable
followed by a stressed one; this type of foot is an iamb.
IAMBIC PENTAMETER - a metrical form in which most lines consist of five iambs; the most
common poetic meter in English
COUPLET - two consecutive lines of verse linked by rhyme and meter; the meter of
a heroic couplet is iambic pentameter.
QUATRAIN - a four-line unit of verse, whether an entire poem, a stanza, or a group of four
lines linked by a pattern of rhyme (as in an English or Shakespearean sonnet). (We will
talk more about this on Thursday)
“THE RAVEN” BY EDGAR ALLEN POE
In small groups, discuss the use of literary devices in “The Raven.”
Identify where Poe uses the specific literary device that your
group has been assigned. Discuss the affect that this literary
device has on the poem. Be prepared to share your ideas with
the text.
Group 1: alliteration
Group 2: assonance
Group 3: internal rhyme
Group 4: onomatopoeia
Group 5: repetition
“THE RAVEN” DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
All eighteen stanzas of “The Raven” contain four lines ending with an “-ore”
sound. Which “-ore” words are repeated most frequently in the poem? What is
the effect of the steady, unvarying repetition of this sound?
Notice that the final seven-syllable line of each stanza ends either in the phrase
“nothing more” or the word “nevermore” (with the exception of stanza 2, which
ends with the word “evermore”). What does the speaker mean when he says
“nothing more”? Does the phrase contain different meanings in different
contexts? What about the raven’s repetition of “nevermore”? Does the shift from
“nothing more” to “nevermore” signal a change in the speaker’s mindset and
feelings?
Who do you think constitutes the “we” the speaker refers to in line 51?
The first seventeen stanzas are written in the past tense. How long ago do you think
the events the speaker recounts occurred? What clues does the poem provide
about how much time has passed between the occurrence of those events and
their narration? What is the effect of the shift to the present tense in the final
stanza?
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