A TO Z Literary Principles from History of English Literature: Note 38


Short notes on:Poetic Term /Rhetoric/ Figure of Speech

A Set of 26 Objective Questions & Answers

1. Ballad:  The Ballad has been defined in the Reader's companion to world Literature as “a narrative song - poem usually relating a single, dramatic incident, in a form suitable for singing or rhythmical chanting ". Ballads are of two kinds -- the folk ballads and the literary ballads. The authors of the former are unknown; the authors of latter are known literary figures. Ballads and more especially folk ballads are characterized by simplicity of language, terseness of expression, directness of narration, the use of archaic words and repletion of phrases and lines to achieve a cumulative effect. They are usually objective and impersonal, and devote little attention to character portraiture or setting.

Bishop’s Reliques of English poetry contain some of the best ballads in English.

2. Blank Verse:  Each line of Blank verse contains ten syllables. The pre - dominant beat is iambic. The lines are unrhymed. Blank verse is written in unrhymed iambic pentameter. This has been most popular among the best and the poorest technicians. If each line is a complete thought, then it is ' end stop ‘. If the ideas flow from one line to the next, then it is enjambled. The pause within the line is called ' caesura ‘.

Exp: Nine times the space that measures day and night

          To mortal men, he, with his, horrid crew - - - - -

                                                                                          Paradise Lost


3. Dramatic Monologue:  It is type of poem written in the form of a single speech by a lone speaker with an audience where a miniature drama unfolds and one is aware of the reactions of the audience even though that audience never utters a word. Browning used the form to great effect in poems like My Last Duchess, Andre de Sarto , The Bishop order His Tomb , Laboratory etc . Tennyson's Ulysses, T. S. Eliot's The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock are other notable examples. We must note that psychological insight, analytical subtlety, and power of dramatic interpretation are the man features of this type of poetry.

4. Elegy:  Elegy as defined in classical literature is a poem composed of elegiac tones or sombre meditation. Notably death, war, love and such themes are central part of this poem which is however variably used at different times. For example Donne’s Elegies are love poems. But the  celebrated use of this type is the formal and sustained lament for the death of a particular person which usually ends in consolation Few notable examples are Tennyson's In Memorian (elegy on The of Arthun Hallam) , Shelly's Adonias (elegy on the death of Keats), Thomas Gray's Elegy (on the death in general) etc .

5. Epic:  Epic is a narrative poem. It deals with the martial exploits of some national hero. In subject it is solemn, in style it is grand and elevated. There are many episodes in an epic which sum up two salient features of an epic - age - conscience and dialogism. Few other notable features are -- invocation, Medias res, tournament, dues ex machina etc. There are two types of epic -- classical and Romantic.

 Exp: Milton's paradise Lost -- Homer Iliad , and Odyssey

virgil Aeneid , Balmkib Ramayan , Vyasa's Maha bharata are great epics in world history .

6. Fleshly school of poetry:  This is a pejorative term used by Robert Buchanan to describe the work of the pre - Raphaelites, both painters and poets. This group or Brotherhood as they were called included poets like Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Swinburne and it advanced the style and spirit of Italian painting before the Renaissance painter Raphael. It delighted in the sensuous aspects of art. The chief aim of these writers was to depict or create beauty for its own sake, without any regard of material reward or for the approval of the moralists. Their poems are really things of beauty.

Exp : " The sun was gone now ; the curled moon

              was like a little feather

              Flutter far down the gulf; and now

              She spoke through the still weather

              Her voice was like the voice of stars

              Had when they sang tog ether.”

                                                                     The Blessed Damozel

                                                               ---    D. G. Rossetti

7. Free Verse:  Here the rhythmic is determined by the subject matter. The lines do not follow regular meter but vary from thought to thought. Rhyme is usually not used. Walt Whitman and Carl Sandburg have helped to establish this as a staple in the repertory of the modern poet. Free verse is a modern form and therefore the images and the language used by the poet tend to be modern.

Example:  “He was found by the Bureau of satistics to be

One against whome there was no official complaint.

And all the reports on his conduct agree

That, in the modern sense of an old fashioned word, he was a saint,

For in everything he did he served the

 Greater community”

         -The unknown citizen by W. H. Auden

" A passage to India !         

       Lo soul su' st thou not God's purpose -         .

      from the first "

                -Whitman’s A passage to India

8. Heroic couplet:  Two line of rhymed jam bic pentad is known as heroic couplet - a a   bb cc and so on. The term heroic is applied to it in the late 17th century when the frequent use of such couplets formed the heroic poems or epical poems God heroic dramas.

In English Chaucer is the innovator whose the Legend of Good women and must of The Canterbury Tales are written in the rhyme style. The other masters are Alexander Pope, Dryden, and Samuel Johnson etc.


 “No Then thyself presume no God to Scan;

 The proper study of mankind is man”

                        The Essay on Man                                                                                                                                                          

                                            --   Pope
9. Instress & inscape:  These Two words are coined by Hopkins to define the variegated world and its Lord Hopkins joins 'inscape' to refer to the ' essential ' individuality of a thing. The distinctive characteristics of a thing --- its particularity or uniqueness are the trails of ' inscape. The definition is however, religious.

                  ' Instress ' is the force of energy which holds the inscape together . The impulse or feeling or impression of a thing is owing to its individuality whose origin lies in ' instress ‘. The splendor and wonder of nature and its pied beauty is the divine mystery. In fact, it is the God for Hopkins.

10. Lyric:  The origin is Greek which means a song sung by the instrument of Lyre. Though the the original sense is still kept , Lyric in general sense is a type of poetry which is shorter in genre and usually expresses the thoughts and feelings of a speaker . However, it does not confirm the speaker being the poet himself or the thoughts poet's own subjective world. Lyric is a distinct form apart forms the dramatic or narrative poems. The famous lyrical poems include Coleridge’s Frost at Midnight, Rossetti’s song or Alfred Tennyson's Break, Break , Break etc .

11. Metre:  (metrics) Metre measures the rhythm of a line of a verse or the theory of the phonetic structure of verse. The word metre derives from Greek word ' mefrom' which means ' measure ‘. Traditionally metre refers to the regular, recurrence of feet. According to the Hungarian -- American linguist John Lotz, “In some languages there are texts in which the phonetic material within certain syntactic frames, such as sentences, phrase, and word is numerically regulated. Such text is called verse, and its distinctive characteristic is metre ". Metrics is the study of metre of a verse.

                             There are basically four types of metres. They are:

                                i) Syllable - stress or accented syllabic metres

                                ii) Strong stress metres

                               iii) Syllabic metres

                               iv) Quantitative metres.

12. Mock epic:  The mock epic is a parody of the real epic in a light no serious mood. The true genius of mock heroic poem lies in traversing the serious epic in bringing all the leading features of the epic - machinery, lofty incidents, characters and style to the exaltation of a trivial subject. It mustno doubt entertain a moral bearing but the satire ought not to be Too apparent.

                         The Rape of the Lock by Alexander pope,  Dryden's Mac Flecknoe are notable mock heroic poems . From wider sense of the term even Gray’s Begger's Qpera was burlesque of dramatic form whereas The life of Jonathan Wilde The Great by Fielding is Parody of heroic biographies of truly great persons.

13. Negative capability:  This is the phrase by which Keats defines a poet in his job. Keats here means to say that a poet has no personality of his own; he assumes the personality of the characters he creates. “The poets have none, no identity -- he is certainly the most unpoetical of all God's creatures."

The analyses of the keatsian concept can be summed up in two key points . Firstly , keats favours an aesthetic distance , an impersonal objective view of the author . Secondly , he means that a beautiful artistic form when embodied in a subject , the ordinary standard of judging through experience is not applicable .

14. Objective correlative: In his essay Hamlet and His problem T. S. Eliot used this term to explain how emotion is best expressed in poetry. " objective correlative is a set of objects , a situation , a chain of events which shall be the formula of that particular emotion , such that when the external facts , which must terminate in sensory experience are given , the emotion is immediately evoked " . According to T. S. Eliot the poet should transfer his emotions in a set of objects, a situation, a chain of events. The only way of expressing emotion in the form of art is by finding an objective co - relative.

Exp: T. S. Eliot in his famous poem the waste Land depicts the spiritual sterility of modern man though the objective correlative of Waste Land.

15. Ode:  Ode is a long lyrical ceremonial poem, serious in subject elevated in style and elaborates in its stanza structure. It is in the form of an address to the object or the person about whom it is written.

                     Generally there are Two type of odes ----   Horation and Pindaric. Horation ode is in calm, meditative and restrained homostrophic stanzas.

    Exp :  To Autumn  by keats

A Pindaric ode observes a strict regularity both as regards the measure and number of stanzas and verse and the wherence of thought. A Pindaric ode normally consists of three stanzas called the stophe , the anti -- strophe , and the epode . (Regular odes)

Exp : The Progress of poesy by Gray

There is also irregular ode which is Pindaric in style but has variety of stanzaic divisions ---

    Exp : Collin's Ode To Evening

16. Ottava rima:  The origin of this rhyme scheme is Italian. Like Sonnet and terza rima it was also introduced in English by Wyatt in 16th century. The premier example of this verse form is Don Juan. The rhyme scheme of the eight line stanza is a b a b a b c c. It is noticeable that an extra rhyme has been introduced in the rhyme royal scheme. Here in ottava rima the single couplet at the end of the stanza gives a witty verbal snap to the foregoing section.

Exp:  " A long , long kiss , a kiss of youth and love ,

             And beauty , all loncentrating like rays

             Into one focus , kindled from above ;

             such kisses as belong to early days ,

             where heart , and soul , and sense , in concert move ,

              And the blood's lava , and the pulse a blaze,

             Each kiss a heart - quake - for a kiss's strength ,

             I think it must be reckon'd by its length  "

                                                                        Don Juan

                                                                            By Lord Byron

17. Pantheism:  The pantheism defines complex understandings of religious and philosophical beliefs. It puts for ward a God - Nature relation. It expounds that God is present in Nature and is integrated within inseparably. As the God is the creator and the Nature is his creation how can they be separated? The thought is however originated from Plato and Platonists of the 16th century.

Many of the English poets and their poetry are inspired by pantheism. Among them wordsworth and his inspired poems The prelude, Tintern Abbey etc are notable examples.

18. Platonic love:  It is the theorization of Plato’s discussion in the Symposium. It relates three distinct senses or ideas by Plato. Firstly, it states a love between individuals which transcends sexual desire and attains spiritual heights. Secondly, it states a kind of love through sexuality which is directed at an ideal end. The thought is being carried in Donne's The Extasy. Thirdly, platonic love also refers to isomosexual love and Plato voices in favour of this relationship in his symposium.

19. Poetic Justice:  It is a phrase coined by Thomas Rhymer to evaluate a poetic piece. It means exact reward or punishment given to a character according to his good or bad deeds. This exactness of justice is possible in the world of poetry.

                         The poetic justice is the righteous ideal principle of decorum that must be followed by the author. If the poetic Justice is denied the possibility of tragic suffering and its intensity will be missing. The tragic Flans must have to be punished and virtues rewarded.

20.  Prosody: That art of writing poetry or part of grammar which deals with laws governing the structure of verse or versification is called prosody. It encompasses the study of all the elements of language that contribute towards acoustic or rhythmic effects chiefly in poetry but also in prose. Ezra pound called prosody “the articulation of the total sound of a poem ". Simply speaking all that can produce harmony and melody in poetry may be taken as the subject - matter of poetry. The plinth of prosody is based on two elements -- quality and accent. However, the accent is the key factor in understanding prosody.

21. Rhyme royal:  This is one of the popular varieties of rhyme scheme. There is a seven line stanza in rhyme royal -- a b a b b c c. It looks as if a quatrain has been dovetailed onto two couplets. Rhyme royal was used by Chaucer for the first line in English in Troilus and Criseyde and then by Shakespeare in The Rape of Lucrece. However, royal name is derived from King James I of Scotland’s use of it in his poem The king's Book (1424).

22. Sonnet:  The sonnet today is defined as a lyric of fourteen lines in the iambic pentameter form. It is also linked by an intricate rhyme scheme.

The sonnet was originally a stanza used by Sicilian school of court poets in the 13th century. From there it reached its highest expression in the poetry of Petrarch. He wrote 3/4 sonnet idealizing his beloved Laura. In England it was Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey and Sir Thomas Wyatt who experimented with the sonnet form and gave it the structure that Shakespeare used and made famous. Since then the Sonnet (origin Sonneto meaning a little sound) has proved itself to be one of the most versatile of the poetic form. Basically they are written in Sonnet sequence i . e. Long poems composed of a series of sonnets. Most of the Sonnets fall into these categories -- the Petrarchian, Shakespearean and Spenserian.

23. Sprung rhythm:  In ' sprung rhythm ' the general metrical rhythm is not followed, father it springs occasionally. In spring rhythm, the accented syllables in the line are counted but there is no limit on the total number of syllables. It has greater freedom of using stressed or unstressed syllables. The stressed syllables here may occur random or one after another. Even the total number of syllables in a foot may vary from one to four or more, but each foot must begin with a strong stress

Exp : Pied Beauty

24. Terza rima:  A three rhymed pattern (i . e   three line are rhyming together ) is called a triplet or tercet . Three lines with one set of rhyming words can be found in Tennyson's The Eagle, Dryden's poetry etc. This is however, not very common in English and is generally used to give variety to a poem in the rhyming couplet. However, the rhymes are sometimes linked from verse to verse and may be run as aba -- bcb -- cdc -- ded -- and so on. This form of triplet is called Terza Rima . It is borrowed from Italian and was employed by Dante in his Devine comedy. The finest example of it in English is Shelly Ode To The West Wind which, however, ends in a couplet.

25. Vates:  ' vates ' is a Greek word which means a maker or a creator . The Greeks originally defined a poet as ' vates ' because a poet is next to God the only creator of the original form of the world and nature. In fact, a poet re - creates an imaginative and aesthetic world alike the God's own.

Ref: 1. History of English Literature- Albert, 
      2. The Concise Cambridge History of English Literature
     3.Glosarry of Literary Terms_ Abraham


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