Dr. John Morillo
Think of the major technical components of poetry as roughly equivalent to the way music is represented on the page, turning something you hear into something you can see.
A rhyme is two or more words or phrases that repeat the same sounds. The matching sounds are usually, but not always, at the end of poetic lines.
As melody is to music, so is RHYME to poetry. The sounds of vowels are what create most rhymes. Words whose sounds don’t match are (somewhat) like different notes on a musical scale (c, d, e, etc.) .
end rhyme= the ususal form, where the last vowels in different lines are what rhyme
internal rhyme = where vowels rhyme within a single line or within multiple lines
To mark up a poem for rhyme, you assign a single lower-case alphabetical letter, starting with ‘a’ to the sound of the last word in the line.
Whatever the first sound or end rhyme is, mark it ‘a’. If the next word has the same vowel sound (tree, sea or tree, see), mark the next line ‘a’. IF the next line has a different vowel sound, mark it ‘b’ Lines with the same end vowel sound, the same rhyme, get marked with the same letter. A series of marked lines will create a rhyme scheme, for example abab or aabbcc
Example: The first four lines of Byron's "She Walks in Beauty":
She walks in beauty like the night a
Of cloudless climes and starry skies b
And all that's best of dark and bright a
Meet in her aspect and her eyes. b
In this case a and b are both exact or perfect rhymes. Notice that different letters can produce the same vowel sound (skies/eyes). Any pattern of lines that alternate vowel sounds in this way form an example of alternate rhyme.
Named Rhymed groups of lines:
couplet = any pair of rhyming lines
Marked Example: last two lines of My Galley (p. 361):
Drowned is reason that should me consort a
And I remain despairing of the port a
triplet = group of 3 lines with the same rhyme
Marked Example: from The Convergence of the Twain (p. 141): ‘
In a solitude of sea a
Deep from human vanity a
And the pride of life that planned her, stilly couches she. a
Alternate Rhyme = where lines 1 and 3 have one rhyme sound, and 2 and 4 another
Marked Example: from My Papa’s Waltz (p. 269):
The hand that held my wrist a
Was battered on one knuckle; b
At every step you missed a
My right ear scraped a buckle. b
Perfect Rhyme, also called exact rhyme, full rhyme = two or more words or phrases share the same last stressed vowel and all sounds following that vowel examples: towel / vowel, aboard / ignored
Note that all of the
marked examples above use perfect rhyme. Older poetry used considerably more
perfect rhyme than current poetry does.
Note that all of the marked examples above use perfect rhyme. Older poetry used considerably more perfect rhyme than current poetry does.
Slant rhyme, also called half rhyme, off rhyme, near rhyme is when either the stressed vowel or the sounds following it differ and don’t match. Slant rhyme is very prevalent in current poetry.
Examples: bite / fire (only the long i sound, the stressed vowel, matches; consonants differ)
courage/bunker (only match is the UR sound of our and er)
slant rhyme can also use different vowels, but same consonants
Examples: sound, sand; blade, blood; food, fade
Consonance= a kind of slant rhyme when there is an identical consonant sound preceded by a different vowel sound.
Examples: home, same worth, breath trophy, taffy
Alliteration = connects words that have the same initial consonants, as in taffy, trophy above
Assonance = repeated vowel sounds in a sequence of words with different endings
Example: “The death of the poet was kept from his poems”
If rhyme is like melody, meter is the aspect of time, involving rhythm and accents of poetry. Whereas musicians represent time and beat with a time signature, like 4/4, 3/4, or 6/8, readers of poetry record the beat of poetic words by dividing them into kinds of feet based on lengths of syllables, and locations of spoken accents, the bits of words we typically say louder.
Here are the major kinds of POETIC FEET:
A foot is the metrical unit by which a line of poetry is measured. Unlike an inch for measuring distance, a poetic foot measures both length in numbers of syllables, and sound in stressed versus unstressed vowel sounds. One foot can match one single word, or it can span several words. (Capital letters below show which syllable is accented, said louder in relation to other syllables, in most English speech). The names of feet look odd to us because they are all derived from Greek. For example, ‘dactyl’ means finger in Greek.
iamb any two syllables, usually a single word but not always, whose accent or stressed sound is on the second syllable. CAPS show the stressed syllable.
Examples = upON, ariSE, aWAY
trochee any two syllables, usually a single word but not always, word whose accent is on the first syllable.
Examples = VIRtue, FURther, LOVEly
anapest any three syllables, usually a single word but not always, word whose accent is on the third syllable.
Examples = interVENE, underSTAND,
dactyl any three syllables, usually a single word but not always, word whose accent is on the first syllable.
Examples = TENderly, DESperate, HICKory
spondee any two syllables, sometimes a single word but not always, with strong accent on the first and second syllable.
Examples (in this case no one word, but a series of words in this line:
The long day wanes, the slow moon climbs. The words "day wanes" form a spondee after the iamb “the LONG”.
pyrrhic any two syllables, often across words, with each syllable unstressed/unaccented
III. Conventions for Marking Meter
Scanscion = measuring the stresses in a line to determine its meter
A poetic line is any group of words preceding the break for the next group. To mark the end of any complete line when quoting poetry without block indenting it, place a space and a / (called a virgule) followed by another space, and after the last word in one line and before the first word in the next line: “Williams’ This Is Just to Say ends, ‘so sweet / and so cold’.”
Caesura = a pause, break, or cut in a poetic line. It is marked ‖, with 2 parallel vertical lines placed at the break
Medial Caesura = pause in the middle of a line
Hypermetric line = a line of regular, metered verse in which there is one more syllable than the metric pattern requires
Catalectic line = a line of regular, metered verse in which there is one fewer syllable than the metric pattern requires
When we scan a poem we name a complete poetic line by the kind of foot, use the adjective form for the foot, followed by the length of meter.
A line of iambs = iambic meter
A line of trochees = trochaic meter
A line of anapests = anapestic meter
a line of dactyls = dactylic meter
The number of feet in a given line is maked as a form of the word meter.
dimeter - a 2-foot line
trimeter a 3-foot line
tetrameter a 4-foot line
pentameter a 5-foot line
hexameter a 6-foot line
consequently a line with 5 iambic feet is written in iambic pentameter
Stanza = any group of lines forming a unit, offset by space from other such groups of lines.
Groups of stanzas have names all taken from Italian words:
Stanza of 2 lines is a couplet
Stanza of 3 lines is a tercet
Stanza of 4 lines is a quatrain
Stanza of 6 lines is a sestet
Stanza of 7 lines is a septet
Stanza of 8 lines is an octave
V. How to Scan a poem.
Mark the rhyme, with single alphabets (eg. abab) and the meter by counting the number of feet, and the kind of feet in the line.
To start scanning meter always mark the stressed syllables first, with a / then unstressed syllables with a u . You can also use all CAPS for stressed, lower-case for unstressed if writing on a computer.
Not all lines contain only one kind of foot. For example, quite often the first foot of an iambic line is reversed, making it a trochee. When this happens in a poetic line it is called a "trochaic inversion." As you'll see these poetic laws are meant to be interpreted, and they are often bent.
My LOVE is OF a BIRTH as RARE a number of feet = 4; type= iambs
As 'TIS, for OBject, STRANGE and HIGH; b number of feet = 4 iambs
It WAS beGOTten BY desPAIR a number of feet = 4 iambs
UpON ImPOSSiBILiTY. b number of feet = 4 iambs
Remarks: the first stanza of Marvell's poem is therefore in iambic tetrameter. The rhyme scheme is called alternate rhyme. The basic foot is the iamb, and there are four of
Them, and four stresses, in each line. Note how the first line shows iamb can be split across two words, and in line 4 how multiple iambs can occur within one word. In the second line there is a caesura after the word ‘’tis’, and that the comma helps create this pause.
VI. Specialized Rhymes and Rhythms Combining Rhyme and Scansion Patterns
Masculine rhyme or ending – if the last stressed vowel is the last syllable (so both halves of the rhyme pair are stressed (accented) syllable example: aRISE / surPRISE
Rising rhythm, rising meter –
Rising rhythm, rising meter –iambic and anapestic lines, moving from unstressed to stressed sounds
Falling rhythm, falling meter – trochaic and dactylic lines, the reverse of above
Feminine rhyme or ending – if the last stressed vowel is followed by one or more unstressed syllables example: RAPidly /VApidly
Examples of leonine rhyme: The sky. ‖ A plane in the sky.
Seven firmaments of heaven to hell, ‖ 8 Million Stories to tell
Gwynn, R. S. Poetry: A Pocket Anthology. 7th ed. Boston: Longman, 2012.
Hunter, J. Paul, Alison Booth, and Kelly J. Mays, eds. The Norton Introduction to Poetry. 9th ed. New York: W. W. Norton, 2007.
Lennard, John. The Poetry Handbook: A Guide to Reading Poetry for Pleasure and Practical Criticism. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1996.
Meyer, Michael, ed. Poetry: An Introduction. 5th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2007.
Rosengarten, Herbert, and Amanda Goldrick-Jones, eds. The Broadview Anthology of Poetry. Ontario: Broadview Press, 1993.