Verse (poetry)

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A verse is formally a single metrical line in a poetic composition. [1] However, verse has come to represent any grouping of lines in a poetic composition, with groupings traditionally having been referred to as stanzas. [2]


Verse in the uncountable (mass noun) sense refers to poetry in contrast to prose. [3] Where the common unit of verse is based on meter or rhyme, the common unit of prose is purely grammatical, such as a sentence or paragraph. [4]

Verse in the second sense is also used pejoratively in contrast to poetry to suggest work that is too pedestrian or too incompetent to be classed as poetry.

Types of verse

Rhymed verse

Rhymed verse is historically the most commonly used form of verse in English. It generally has a discernible meter and an end rhyme. [5] [6]

  I felt a Cleaving in my Mind –
  As if my Brain had split –
  I tried to match it – Seam by Seam –
  But could not make them fit.

  The thought behind, I strove to join
  Unto the thought before –
  But Sequence ravelled out of Sound
  Like Balls – upon a Floor.
 Emily Dickinson

Blank verse

Blank verse is poetry written in regular, metrical, but unrhymed, lines, almost always composed of iambic pentameters. [7] [8]

  Of man's first disobedience, and the fruit
  Of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste
  Brought death into the world, and all our woe,
  With loss of Eden, till one greater man
 John Milton (from Paradise Lost )

Free verse

Free verse is usually defined as having no fixed meter and no end rhyme. Although free verse may include end rhyme, it commonly does not. [9] [10]

  Whirl up, sea—
  Whirl your pointed pines
  Splash your great pines
  On our rocks,
  Hurl your green over us,
  Cover us with your pools of fir.

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Alexandrine</span> Line of poetic meter comprising 12 syllables

Alexandrine is a name used for several distinct types of verse line with related metrical structures, most of which are ultimately derived from the classical French alexandrine. The line's name derives from its use in the Medieval French Roman d'Alexandre of 1170, although it had already been used several decades earlier in Le Pèlerinage de Charlemagne. The foundation of most alexandrines consists of two hemistichs (half-lines) of six syllables each, separated by a caesura :

o o o o o o | o o o o o o  o=any syllable; |=caesura
<span class="mw-page-title-main">Epic poetry</span> Lengthy narrative poem, ordinarily detailing extraordinary and heroic deeds

An epic poem, or simply an epic, is a lengthy narrative poem typically about the extraordinary deeds of extraordinary characters who, in dealings with gods or other superhuman forces, gave shape to the mortal universe for their descendants.

In poetry, enjambment is incomplete syntax at the end of a line; the meaning 'runs over' or 'steps over' from one poetic line to the next, without punctuation. Lines without enjambment are end-stopped. The origin of the word is credited to the French word enjamber, which means 'to straddle or encroach'.

Free verse is an open form of poetry, which in its modern form arose through the French vers libre form. It does not use consistent meter patterns, rhyme, or any musical pattern. It thus tends to follow the rhythm of natural speech.

In poetry, metre or meter is the basic rhythmic structure of a verse or lines in verse. Many traditional verse forms prescribe a specific verse metre, or a certain set of metres alternating in a particular order. The study and the actual use of metres and forms of versification are both known as prosody.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Poetry</span> Form of literature

Poetry, also called verse, is a form of literature that uses aesthetic and often rhythmic qualities of language − such as phonaesthetics, sound symbolism, and metre − to evoke meanings in addition to, or in place of, a prosaic ostensible meaning. A poem is a literary composition, written by a poet, using this principle.

In poetry, a stanza is a group of lines within a poem, usually set off from others by a blank line or indentation. Stanzas can have regular rhyme and metrical schemes, but they are not required to have either. There are many different forms of stanzas. Some stanzaic forms are simple, such as four-line quatrains. Other forms are more complex, such as the Spenserian stanza. Fixed verse poems, such as sestinas, can be defined by the number and form of their stanzas. The term stanza has a similar meaning to strophe, though strophe sometimes refers to an irregular set of lines, as opposed to regular, rhymed stanzas.

A strophe is a poetic term originally referring to the first part of the ode in Ancient Greek tragedy, followed by the antistrophe and epode. The term has been extended to also mean a structural division of a poem containing stanzas of varying line length. Strophic poetry is to be contrasted with poems composed line-by-line non-stanzaically, such as Greek epic poems or English blank verse, to which the term stichic applies.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Alliterative verse</span> Form of verse

In prosody, alliterative verse is a form of verse that uses alliteration as the principal ornamental device to help indicate the underlying metrical structure, as opposed to other devices such as rhyme. The most commonly studied traditions of alliterative verse are those found in the oldest literature of the Germanic languages, where scholars use the term 'alliterative poetry' rather broadly to indicate a tradition which not only shares alliteration as its primary ornament but also certain metrical characteristics. The Old English epic Beowulf, as well as most other Old English poetry, the Old High German Muspilli, the Old Saxon Heliand, the Old Norse Poetic Edda, and many Middle English poems such as Piers Plowman, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and the Alliterative Morte Arthur all use alliterative verse.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Blank verse</span> Poetry written in regular metre but without rhyme

Blank verse is poetry written with regular metrical but unrhymed lines, almost always in iambic pentameter. It has been described as "probably the most common and influential form that English poetry has taken since the 16th century", and Paul Fussell has estimated that "about three quarters of all English poetry is in blank verse".

Syllabic verse is a poetic form having a fixed or constrained number of syllables per line, while stress, quantity, or tone play a distinctly secondary role — or no role at all — in the verse structure. It is common in languages that are syllable-timed, such as French or Finnish — as opposed to stress-timed languages such as English, in which accentual verse and accentual-syllabic verse are more common.

Scansion, or a system of scansion, is the method or practice of determining and (usually) graphically representing the metrical pattern of a line of verse. In classical poetry, these patterns are quantitative based on the different lengths of each syllable. In English poetry, they are based on the different levels of stress placed on each syllable. In both cases, the meter often has a regular foot. Over the years, many systems have been established to mark the scansion of a poem.

Iambic pentameter is a type of metric line used in traditional English poetry and verse drama. The term describes the rhythm, or meter, established by the words in that line; rhythm is measured in small groups of syllables called "feet". "Iambic" refers to the type of foot used, here the iamb, which in English indicates an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable. "Pentameter" indicates a line of five "feet".

This glossary of literary terms is a list of definitions of terms and concepts used in the discussion, classification, analysis, and criticism of all types of literature, such as poetry, novels, and picture books, as well as of grammar, syntax, and language techniques. For a more complete glossary of terms relating to poetry in particular, see Glossary of poetry terms.

Timothy Steele is an American poet, who generally writes in meter and rhyme. His early poems, which began appearing in the 1970s in such magazines as Poetry, The Southern Review, and X. J. Kennedy's Counter/Measures, are said to have anticipated and contributed to the revival of traditional verse associated with the New Formalism. He, however, has objected to being called a New Formalist, saying that he doesn't claim to be doing anything technically novel and that Formalism "suggests, among other things, an interest in style rather than substance, whereas I believe that the two are mutually vital in any successful poem." Notwithstanding his reservations about the term, Steele's poetry is more strictly "formal" than the work of most New Formalists in that he rarely uses inexact rhymes or metrical substitutions, and is sparing in his use of enjambment.

This is a glossary of poetry.

Sonnet 17 is one of 154 sonnets written by the English playwright and poet William Shakespeare. It is the final poem of what are referred to by scholars as the procreation sonnets with which the Fair Youth sequence opens.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Annie Finch</span> American poet (born 1956)

Annie Finch is an American poet, critic, editor, translator, playwright, and performer and the editor of the first major anthology of literature about abortion. Her poetry is known for its often incantatory use of rhythm, meter, and poetic form and for its themes of feminism, witchcraft, goddesses, and earth-based spirituality. Her books include The Poetry Witch Little Book of Spells, Spells: New and Selected Poems, The Body of Poetry: Essays on Women, Form, and the Poetic Self, A Poet’s Craft, Calendars, and Among the Goddesses.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">French alexandrine</span> French poetic line of 12 syllables

The French alexandrine is a syllabic poetic metre of 12 syllables with a medial caesura dividing the line into two hemistichs (half-lines) of six syllables each. It was the dominant long line of French poetry from the 17th through the 19th century, and influenced many other European literatures which developed alexandrines of their own.

Poetic devices are a form of literary device used in poetry. Poems are created out of poetic devices composite of: structural, grammatical, rhythmic, metrical, verbal, and visual elements. They are essential tools that a poet uses to create rhythm, enhance a poem's meaning, or intensify a mood or feeling.


  1. Rys, John Van; Meyer, Verne; Sebranek, Patrick (2011-01-01). The Research Writer, Spiral bound Version. Cengage Learning. p. 350. ISBN   978-1-133-16882-9.
  2. "Definition of verse |". Retrieved 2022-10-09.
  3. Wiktionary, "verse" (accessed 20 November 2020).
  4. "Verse", "Types-Of-Poetry", Screen 1
  5. Wells, William Harvey (1846). A Grammar of the English Language: For the Use of Schools. Allen, Morrill, and Wardwell. p. 199.
  6. Camp, Elisabeth (2021-01-18). The Poetry of Emily Dickinson: Philosophical Perspectives. Oxford University Press. p. 127. ISBN   978-0-19-065122-0.
  7. Shaw, Robert Burns (2007). Blank Verse: A Guide to Its History and Use. Ohio University Press. p. 1. ISBN   978-0-8214-1757-7.
  8. Strachan, John (2011-07-07). Poetry. Edinburgh University Press. p. 83. ISBN   978-0-7486-8079-5.
  9. Greene, Roland; Cushman, Stephen; Cavanagh, Clare; Ramazani, Jahan; Rouzer, Paul; Feinsod, Harris; Marno, David; Slessarev, Alexandra (2012-08-26). The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics. Princeton University Press. pp. 522–25. ISBN   978-0-691-15491-6.
  10. Hartman, Charles O. (2015-03-30). Verse: An Introduction to Prosody. John Wiley & Sons. p. 168. ISBN   978-0-470-65600-6.

Further reading