RYTHM Rhythm is a regularly patterned flow of sounds or of movements, expressing a variety of thought patterns in a work of poetry.
Important things to remember: Each language has its own characteristic rhythm. Rhythm has a direction, a defined destination both in prose and verse; it sets a mood, which is the expressive function of a work. In poetry, Rhythm has been regularized and systematized; when we say, “a poem is written in verse,” what we mean is it is written in “METER.” Rhythm establishes the “FORM” of a poem, and it brings its “MATERIAL” make up into focus. Fundamentally, Rhythm is associated with human “EMOTION.” For example, utterances of pain, grief, joy, etc. bring about a “Marked” Rhythm in a work. Its musicality evokes emotions for the hearer. Rhythm also has a “hypnotic” effect, which lends suggestibility, e.g.,
His soul stretched tight across the skies That fade behind a city block, And trampled by insistent feet At four and five and six o’clock; .... (T. S. Eliott, Preludes, IV)
VERSE Verse, in its generic sense, is a “metrical line” in a poem. A line in a poem is a metric discourse, also referred to as a part of the 'stanza,' which means multiple lines.
Important things to remember: “Accentual syllabic verse“ is a pattern of verse based not only on the number of syllables in a line, but also on their relation to each other, of accented and unaccented syllables. E.g. read this stanza from Housman’s folk ballad Farewell to Barn and Stack and Tree below: (Scansion signs used here: V-unstressed, !-stressed)
My mother thinks us long away; My (V) mo (!) ] ther (V) thinks (!) ] us (V) long (!) ] a (V) way (!); ‘This time the field were mown. ‘Tis (V) time (!) ] the (V) field (!) ] were (V) mown (!). She had two sons at rising day, She (V) had (!) ] two (V) sons (!) ] at (V) ris (!) ] ing (V) day (!), To-night she’ll be alone. To (V) -night (!) ] she’ll (V) be (!) ] a (V) lone (!).
Notice here that the 1st and 3rd line has 8 syllables, 2nd and 4th lines have 6, and every other syllable is accented. This pattern of one unaccented syllable followed by an accented syllable is what determines the “Measure” of the verse in this poem. The first and third lines in this stanza have four feet (tetrameter), whereas the second and the fourth lines have three feet (trimeter). Measure of verse is a FOOT, plural of two feet.
FEET AND LINE LENGTHS:
IAMB: One unaccented followed by one accented syllable; e.g. a-way (v-!)
ANAPEST: Two unaccented followed by one accented syllables; e.g. in-ter-vene (v-v-!)
Iamb and anapest are considered “rising” rhythms: i.e. they move from “weak” stress to “strong” stress. (Masculine)
TROCHEE: One accented followed by one unaccented syllable; e.g. on-ly (!-v)
DACTYL: One accented followed by two unaccented syllables; e.g. hap-pi-ly (!-v-v)
Trochee and dactyl are considered “falling” rhythms; i.e. they move from “strong” stress to “weak” stress. (Feminine)
SPONDEE: Two accented syllables; E.g. da-y’s ta-sk (! !)
In Syllabic Verse (which is most common in French poetry) as compared to accentual-syllabic verse in English, the concept of feet is not needed, and rarely applies. But since the latter verse counts stresses as well as syllables, its basic unit has to be a combination of an unaccented syllable or syllables and an accented syllable. Hence, the line in accentual-syllabic verse consists of so many units of this kind, i.e. so many “metrical feet.” By and large, in English poetry, the line terminates in an accented syllable, or what is called a “defective feet.”
Important things to remember: Meter cannot violate the natural accentuation of a word, but it can recognize minor or secondary accents in a word: e.g. Im-!! mor- tal-! i- ty-!! What good verse embodies is both a pattern and a vital variety--without monotonous regularity.
About “Defective feet“: One of the forms of substitution in a work of poetry is the defective foot, a foot from which one or more “weak” syllable is missing; e.g. see Housman’s use of the word “Long” above.
Rhetorical variation: A variation of meter forced by considerations of expressive emphasis in a work, which adds vitality. There is a “Tug” between metrics of uniformity and special stresses.
Syncopation: Speed up the line “to get in” the extra syllable.
Two principles are at work in poetry: (1) A principle of metrical regularity which conditions our reading toward a fixed recurrence of stress and tends to level out divergences from the norm; (2) A principle of dramatic and rhetorical emphasis which demands stresses that sometimes coincide with those of the metrical patterns and sometimes diverges from them.
The characteristic rhythm of a piece of verse comes from the interplay of these two principles--a positive tension which is necessary to achieve vitality and unique expression. Meter does modify our awareness of a line, but only because of this tension. But we must avoid a doggerel, i.e. “meter that dominates meaning” donkey and cart example illustrates the point, for the tug and tag must be balanced well. (See Shakespeare’s Sonnet LV )
Important things to remember: Metrical feet do not necessarily correspond to words. Sound, not spelling is what counts in scansion.
Catalexis: Unaccented syllable in the last foot of a line.
Caesura: Marks the end of a sense unit, not the metrical unit. Its an internal pause, end-stopped (which becomes enjambment).
Enjambment: Run-on lines meant to “Relieve” monotony.
Quantitative Variation and Forced Pauses: This is another factor that influences rhythm but finds no specific place in the scansion of English verse, yet common in Greek and Latin poetry. It is based on the count and distribution of long and short syllables. Quantitative variation establishes the “felt” aspect of rhythm. Look at the transitions of consonants and/or vowels in verse.
Cacophony: “Bad-sounding” transitions from one unit to another labor, giving an unpleasant effect.
Euphony: “Good-sounding” smooth transitions.
Give this statement some thought: “Variety in the verse makes the sound ‘seem’ an echo to the sense.” (See Alexander Pope’s Sound and Sense)
RHYME Rhyme has a unifying and formative function in poetry. It is a correspondence in sound between the accented syllable of two or more words (grow-know, rebound-astound). When the rhyming words end in one or more unaccented syllables, these, too, must correspond in sound (potato-plato). Rhythm is a constant factor in all languages, but other factors that shape and bind poetry are to be found in common and systematic appearance of structural devices such as RHYME. Thus, Rhyme is a phenomenon of sound, never of mere spelling (buy-why-sigh-eye). Observe, too, that the introductory consonants in rhyme, when there is one, e.g. like “eye” above, are not identical.
Masculine Rhyme: Occurs when the rhymed accented syllables conclude the word, as in ‘rebound-astound.’
Feminine or Double Rhyme: Occurs when the rhymed accented syllables are followed by identical unaccented syllables, as in ‘forever-never.’
Triple Rhyme: Occurs when the rhymed accented syllables are followed by two syllables that are identical, as in ‘ slenderly-tenderly.’
Internal Rhyme: Occurs when instead of rhymes appearing only at the end of lines, a word within a line rhymes with a word at the end, e.g. “The splendor falls on castle walls.”
Rhetorical Variation: This is an alteration of the regular metrical pattern (Housman’s poem above); e.g. the secondary accent stand for every degree of accent between the lightest and the heaviest; this is a form of Substitution of Feet, e.g. altering anapest for the iamb, thus diverging the stress levels.
Rhyme has other elements of repetition of identical or related sounds, e.g. Alliteration (front rhyme), Assonance (interior rhyme), and Consonance. These must be used with great discretion!
Some examples of good rhyme can be observed in these select poems below:
Triplet (3 verses)
a) She opened her eyes, and green b) They shone, clear, like flowers undone a) For the first time, now for the last time seen. - By D. H. Lawrence
Quatrain (4 verses)
a) A ruddy drop of manly blood b) The surging sea outweighs; c) The world uncertain comes and goes, b) The lover rooted stays. - By Ralph Waldo Emerson
Quintet (5 verses)
a) Hail to thee blithe spirit, b) Bird thou never wert a) That from heaven, or near it, b) Pourest thy full heart b) In profuse strains of unpremeditated art. - By Percy Bysshe Shelly
Sestet (6 verses)
a) Good-bye, proud world! I'm going home: b) Thou art not my friend, and I'm not thine: a) Long through the weary crowds I roam; b) A river-ark on the oceanbrine, a) Long I've been like the driven foam; a) But now, proud world! I'm going home. - By Ralph Waldo Emerson
Septet (7 verses)
a) The flower that smiles today b) Tomorrow dies; a) All that we wish to stay b) Tempts and then flies: c) What is this world's delight? c) Lightening that mocks the night, c) Brief even as bright. - By Percy Bysshe Shelly
Octave (8 verses)
a) Thou art a female, Katydid! b) I know it by the trill c) That quivers through thy piercing notes, b) So petulant and shrill; d) I think there is a knot of you e) Beneath the hollow tree, - f) A knot of spinster Katydids, - e) Do Katydids drink tea? - To an Insect, by Oliver Wendell Holmes
Nine-Line stanza (9 verses)
a) Fair Daffodils, we weep to see b) You haste away so soon; c) As yet the early rising sun b) Has not attained his noon. d) Stay, stay, d) Until the hasting day c) Has run f) But to the even-song; a) And having prayed together, we f) Will go with you along. ( ... We have short time to stay, as you, We have as short a spring; As quick a growth to meet decay, As you, or anything. We die As your hours do, and dry Away Like to the summer’s rain; Or as the pearls of morning’s dew, Ne’er to be found again. .... ) - To Daffodils, by Robert Herrick
Limerick (5 verses with the rhyming word at the end of the first verse repeated in the last verse)
a) The Reverend Henry Ward Beecher a) Called a hen a most elegant creature. b) The hen pleased with that, b) Laid an egg in his hat- a) And thus did the hen reward Beecher! - By Oliver Wendell Holmes
Sonnet (14 verses - rhyming patterns are varied)
(a) Shall I compare thee to a summers day? (b) Thou art more lovely and more temperate; (a) Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May, (b) And summer's lease hath all too short a date: (c) Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines, (d) And often is his gold complexion dimm'd; (c) And every fair from fair sometime declines, (d) By chance or nature's changing course untrimm'd; (e) But thy eternal summer shall not fade, (f) Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest; (e) Nor shall death brag thou wander'st in his shade, (f) When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st: (g) So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see, (g) So long lives this, and this gives life to thee. - Sonnet XVIII, by William Shakespeare
Alliteration: Front rhyme: It has a Musical effect! Rarely used today. Too mechanical. Example: See Beowolf
Assonance: Interior rhyme: Also emphasis on the Musical effect! Depends on the identity of vowel sounds in accented syllables, without the identity of following consonants. Example: See Pope’s The Rape of the Lock
Consonance: It involves a similarity between the patterning of consonants. Example: See W. H. Auden, Poems, III
Rhyme Schemes: Fixed patterns of line lengths in poetry.
Sonnet: E.g. see “Like as the Waves” by Shakespeare or Sonnet XVIII above. Sonnet has continued on with its distinctive Italian origination from the Renaissance (Petrarchian). It has a length of “fourteen” lines in “iambic pentameter” (English style). Shakespeare made the sonnets notable in the 16th century.
Rhyme Royal: This is a poem in iambic pentameter format, rhymed ABABBCC, used by Shakespeare in Venus and Adonis.
Ottava Rima: Also iambic pentameter, rhymed ABABABCC, used by Keats in Isabella.
Spenserian Stanza: Iambic pentameter minus the last line which is iambic hexameter, rhymed ABABBCBCC, used by Spenser in The Faerie Queene.
Stanza: Defines a group of lines in a poem as a unit. Like meter, it is a device for giving a “form” to a poem, but it is an abstract, rigid form. Good Examples: How Do I love Thee by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, On the Late Massacre in Piedmont by John Milton, To Daffodils by Robert Herrick (above), The Blossom by John Donne.
Question to ponder: “How does the poet use a particular stanza form in any given work to produce the special effects of the poem?”
The Rondeau: This is an old French form; 15 lines of usually 8 syllables each in 3 stanzas The opening words of the poem become the refrain; rhymed AABBA, AABC, AABBAC.
AROUND LOVE -- By T. Dean Fidan
Words of wonder say do you dare (A) Chase life storms or let time repair? (A) Wasted sunshine long at a spree (B) When we were childlike and carefree (B) Gods of gold thought: “This life’s unfair?” (A)
Not a thing can find a new way (A) For, something’s not lost where it lay (A) Rabid minds like rapacity (B) Fear drives their hearts to what’s not right! (C)
Empathy too, shows our own face (A) Great deeds don’t come from undue haste (A) When lovers serve love as a gift (B) There, love gains a giving spirit (B) Flash of brief hope is a place, where (A) Care might shine, once more a bright light (C)
Another good example of the standard Rondeau is the following renowned World War I poem:
In Flanders fields the poppies blow Between the crosses, row on row, That mark our place, and in the sky, The larks, still bravely singing, fly, Scarce heard amid the guns below. We are the dead; short days ago We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, Loved and were loved, and now we lie In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe! To you from failing hands we throw The torch; be yours to hold it high! If ye break faith with us who die We shall not sleep, though poppies grow In Flanders fields.
The French Ballade: Adopted for a poem with the strophe form ABABBCBC. In the 14th century the ballade had 3 strophes, often octosyllabic lines, with an envoi (final summary stanza). The Chant Royal was similar, but of 5 strophes.
(STROPHES in poetry are rhythmic and often composed from two or more lines repeated as a unit, and such units are "recurring" in a series of other strophic units. More simply put: They are "alternating" and "turning" and "returning" back to the theme of the poem via harmony of sound and sense.)
The French Sestina: The sestina is a complex form that achieves its often spectacular effects through intricate repetition. The thirty-nine-line form is attributed to Arnaut Daniel, the Provencal troubadour of the twelfth century. The name "troubadour" likely comes from trobar, which means "to invent or compose verse." The troubadours sang their verses accompanied by music and were quite competitive, each trying to top the next in wit, as well as complexity and difficulty of style. Sestina has a fixed poetic form: 6 stanzas, 6 lines each, envoi of 3 lines; usually unrhymed, but repeating as final words those of the first stanza, in the following order (each letter represents the final word of a line): stanza 1 A B C D E F 2 F A E B D C 3 C F D A B E 4 E C B F A D 5 D E A C F B 6 B D F E C A envoi B D F or A C E
Often the envoi uses all the final words, 2 to a line: B E; D C; F A. (See e.g. “Paysage Moralise” by W. H. Auden)
The French Villanelle: It consists of five 3-line stanzas ABA, and a final quatrain; all on two rhymes. The first and third lines are alternately the last lines of the remaining tercets, and together are the last lines of the quatrain. (See Missing Dates by William Empson, and Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night by Dylan Thomas)
Grant your heart a free hand True friends are a rare find Be my love, my sole friend
Kindheartedness will lend When spirit stays warm and kind Grant your heart a free hand
With a kiss, again we'll mend Our life will be just fine Be my love, my sole friend
Perch on a tree, and bend Live! Turn off what’s unkind Grant your heart a free hand
Was today spent too grand? It lent your cares and mine Be my love, my sole friend
Alms to and from heartland True love sent you a sign Grant your heart a free hand Be my love, my sole friend
Japanese and Chinese poetry (HAIKU OR HOKKU) See Imagist Movement, which was influenced by Japanese and Chinese poetry. Poems of precisely seventeen syllables, which are usually [but not necessarily!] divided into 5-7-5 syllabic format, generally unrhymed. See my work “Defining Moments of Poetry,” [by T. Dean Fidan] for some more samples.
Example: (By an anonymous Japanese poet) A crow is perched Upon a leafless withered bough The autumn dusk
Onomatopoeia: It means name-making, using a sound that suggests the object named. Words imitative of their own literal meaning are such, e.g. bang, fizz, crackle, murmur, moan, whisper, roar--denoting special sounds--but they must be imitative of sound only! (See God’s Grandeur by Gerard Manley Hopkins, “The Expense of Spirit“ by Shakespeare) The general “feel” of the line will be “Tight,” or “Thin,” and/or “Hard” or “Soft.” Used for rhythmic and musical affect of the line, and to further express the mood of the poem.
Musicality in poetry: Consider these statements: “Poetry insists on the unity of experience: Mind and Body; Idea and Emotion; and, Language is the medium of literature.”
“Do the very obvious verbal effects, including the assertive meter and emphatic rhyming (a complex of English vowels i.e. 'a' 'e' 'i' 'o' 'u' in the order of words) overwhelm the other aspects?”
Thoughts at large: In Old English Poetry (Beowulf) the stresses were four in number, and this four stress line was divided in half by a strongly marked caesura, and further, stressed syllables were marked by alliteration, usually three of these syllables being so linked. This basic four-stress pattern has survived into modern English. E.g. in nursery rhymes. Dipodic principle (two-syllable foot) is at work, with distinct primary and secondary stresses at select or random fashion, constituting an isochronous (equal-time units) line.
'Metrical' and 'Stanza' form make up the 'material' aspects of a special 'shape' which develops within aparticular form of poetry in a given poem, endowing it with a uniqueand autonomous style.Development of the material includes the development of the rhythms. Free Verse refers to freedom from versification in any traditional sense. But it does not mean freedom from form. “No form: No Poem!” Free verse must accept the necessity of creating a form without the systematic metrical structure of verse. The lines can be based on syntactical units; like prose, it can ebb and flow with imagery without any apparent meter, rhyme or rhythm! For some concrete samples see my book “Thoughts In Poetry,” [by Tacettin Fidan]; it is mostly written in free verse.
Here is a sample of Free Verse:
To me, you are a delicate Rose Whose beauty never dies When pressed between the pages Of a good book; Or caught between the pages Of my mind. - Unknown Author
The French poet Paul Valery said that 'prose was walking, poetry dancing.' Original two terms, prosus meant “going straight forth” while versus meant “returning.” These distinctions point to the inclination of poetry to selectively use repetition and variation, plus dealing with different subject matters and different themes in a singlecontinuous form e.g. in couplet or stanza. Be it prose or poetry, the questions of “who,” “what,” “where,” “when,” and “why” need to be addressed for a wholesome piece of writing to appreciably stand out. The best way to get to know poetry is to read and write poetry, since for most, the knowledge of poetry arrives by chance and by way of great love, along with a good amount of backing undiluted by schools, colleges and libraries.
Good luck to all!
Recommended, General Sources: --To date, some of the best critical or explanatory anthologies on poetry are the following two books (which may be out of print): (1) Cleanth Brooks and Robert Warren, Understanding Poetry, 4th Ed. (1976), Harcourt Brace College Publishers, FL. (2) I.A. Richards, Practical Criticism: A Study of Literary Judgment (1929), reprinted 1964.
LINKS to some generic online sources of poetry (about great poets, forms, contents, and styles):
For a general introduction to poetry, follow this link: POETRY