- CACOPHONY (cack-AH-fuh-nee or cack-AW-fuh-nee)
- Discordant sounds in the jarring juxtaposition of harsh letters or syllables which are grating to the ear, usually
inadvertent, but sometimes deliberately used in poetry for effect.
Sound devices are important to poetry. To create sounds
appropriate to the content, the poet may sometimes prefer to achieve
a cacophonous effect instead of the more commonly sought-for euphony.
The use of words with the consonants b, k and p, to cite one example, produce harsher
sounds than the soft f and v or the liquid l, m and n.
(See also Dissonance)
- The recurrent rhythmical
pattern in lines of verse; also, the natural tone or
modulation of the voice determined by
the alternation of accented or unaccented syllables.
Sidelight: Cadence differs from
meter in that it is not necessarily regular, but rather a more flexible concept of rhythm such
as is characteristic of free verse and
(See also Accent, Ictus,
Sprung Rhythm, Stress)
- CAESURA (siz-YUR-uh)
- A rhythmic break or pause in the flow of sound which is commonly introduced in
about the middle of a line of verse, but may be varied for different effects.
Usually placed between syllables rhythmically connected in order to aid
the recital as well as to convey the meaning more clearly, it is a pause dictated by the sense
of the content or by natural speech patterns, rather than by metrics. It may coincide with
conventional punctuation marks, but not necessarily. A caesura within a line is
indicated in scansion by the parallel symbol (||), as in the first
line of Emily Dickinson's
"I'm Nobody! Who Are You?":
I'm no | body! || Who are | you?
Sidelight: As a grammatical, rhythmic, and dramatic
device, as well as an effective means of avoiding monotony, the caesura is a subtle but effective weapon in the skilled poet's
Sidelight: Since caesura and pause
are often used interchangeably, it is better to use metrical pause for the
type of "rest" which compensates for the omission of a syllable.
Sidelight: A caesura occurring at the end
of a line is not marked in the scanning process.
Sidelight: The classical caesura was a break
caused by the ending of a word
within a foot.
(See also Alexandrine,
(Compare Accent, Cadence,
- In a literary sense, the authoritative works of a particular writer; also, an accepted list of works
perceived to represent a cultural, ideological, historical, or biblical grouping.
Sidelight: Other literary groupings or
collections include sonnet sequences, lyric sequences,
cycles, companion poems,
- A major division of an extended narrative poem, such as an
distinguished from shorter divisions like stanzas.
- CANZONE (kan-ZO-nee)
- An Italian lyric poem of varying stanzaic
length, usually written in a mixture of hendecasyllables and
heptasyllables with a concluding short stanza or envoi.
Sidelight: The word "canzone"
is derived from the Latin cantio (a song) and normally embraced subjects like love, heroic courage, or moral
virtue. Milton's pastoral elegy, Lycidas,
is an example in English poetry of a structure similar to the canzone.
(Compare Ghazal, Melic Verse,
- CARMINA FIGURATA (KAHR-muh-nuh fig-yuh-RAY-tuh) or CARMEN FIGURATUM
- See Pattern Poetry
- CARPE DIEM (KAHR-peh DEE-em)
- Latin for "seize the day," a common motif in
lyric verse throughout the history of poetry, with the
emphasis on making the most of current pleasures because life is short and time is flying, as
in Robert Herrick's, "To the Virgins" or Edward Fitzgerald's
The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám.
- CATACHRESIS (kata-KREE-sis)
- Misuse or abuse of words; the use of the wrong word for the context, as
atone for repent, ingenuous for ingenious, or a forced trope
in which a word is used too far removed
from its true meaning, as "melancholy table"
or Milton's "blind mouth" in Lycidas.
(See also Enallage,
Mixed Metaphor, Oxymoron,
- CATALECTIC, CATALEXIS
- A term applied to a line of verse which is metrically
incomplete due to the omission of one or two of the ending unaccented
syllables of the final foot.
poets sometimes use catalexis in lines of trochaic and
dactylic verse to achieve a final accented syllable for a strong close or a
rhyme, as did William Blake in the poem,
(Compare Acatalectic, Acephaly,
- CATALOG VERSE
- A poem comprised of a list of persons, places, things, or abstract ideas which
share a common denominator. An ancient form, it was originally a type
of didactic poetry.
- The use of a grammatical substitute (like a pronoun) which has the
same reference as the next word or phrase, as "before him, John
saw a sea of smiling faces."
- CAUDATE RHYME
- See Tail Rhyme
- Poetry made up of lines borrowed from a combination of established authors, usually
resulting in a change in meaning and a humorous effect.
- CHAIN RHYME
- Also called interlocking rhyme, a rhyme scheme in which
a rhyme in a line of one stanza is used as a link to a rhyme in the next stanza, as in the aba bcb cdc, etc. of
terza rima or the aaab cccb of
"La Tour Eiffel."
Sidelight: Another type of chain rhyme,
which is usually referred as rime enchainée, links
consecutive lines, with the last word of one line rhyming with the first word of the following line.
- CHAIN VERSE
- Similar to chain rhyme, but links words, phrases, or lines (instead of rhyme) by repeating them in
succeeding stanzas, as in the pantoum, but there are many variations.
(Compare Envelope, Rondeau)
- CHANSON DE GESTE (shan-SAWN duh ZHEST))
- Literally, a song of heroic deeds, it refers to a class of Old French
epic poems of the Middle Ages, such as the Chanson de Roland,
believed to have been written by the Norman poet, Turold.
(See Jongleur, Trouvere)
(See also Epic, Epopee,
Epos, Heroic Quatrain)
(Compare Ballad, Narrative,
- CHANT ROYALE
- An elaborate fixed form of ballade in Old
French poetry, consisting of five stanzas of eleven lines with a
the end of each stanza, rhyming ababccddedE
and an envoi of five lines rhyming ddedE.
Sidelight: The chant royale was
originally used by 12th century troubadours and
trouveres. Its 60-line length provided
increased range for elaboration of the subject matter, which often dealt with satirical
observations as well as elevated topics.
- A small book or pamphlet containing ballads, poems, popular tales or
- CHAUCERIAN STANZA
- See Rhyme Royal
- CHIASMUS (kye-AZ-mus)
- An inverted parallelism; the reversal of the order of corresponding words
(with or without exact repetition) in successive clauses which are usually
parallel in syntax, as Pope's "a fop their passion, but their prize a sot,"
or Goldsmith's "to stop too fearful, and too faint to go."
Sidelight: While the term, chiasmus, is usually
used in reference to syntax and word order, it also includes the repetition in reverse of any element of a poem,
including sound patterns.
antimetabole (an-tye-muh-TAB-uh-lee) is a type of chiasmus in which the words reversed
involve a repetition of the same words, as "do not live to eat, but eat to live," or
March, the ides of March remember."
(See also Anastrophe,
The distinction is not generally observed, however.
(Compare Envelope, Palindrome)
- CHOREE (koh-REE)
- A rare form of trochee, also written as choreus.
- In classical poetry, a metrical foot consisting of four
the first two forming a trochee
and the second two an iambus, as in BOT-tom | -less PIT
or RO-ses | are RED.
- CHORIC ODE
- See Pindaric Verse
- CINQUAIN (sing-KANE)
- A five-line stanza of syllabic verse, the successive lines containing
two, four, six, eight and two syllables. The cinquain, based on
the Japanese haiku, was an innovation of the American poet,
(See also Quintet)
- The adherence to the traditional standards that are universally valid and enduring.
- See Pun
- CLERIHEW (KLEHR-ih-hyew)
- A comic light verse, two couplets in length, rhyming aabb, usually
dealing with a person mentioned in the initial rhyme.
It was named for its originator, Edmund Clerihew Bentley, an English writer, who wrote the following
example at age sixteen:
Sir Humphrey Davy
He lived in the odium
Of having discovered sodium.
- Rhetorically, a series of words, phrases, or sentences arranged in a continuously ascending
order of intensity. If the ascending order is not maintained, an anticlimax
or bathos results.
Sidelight: The term is usually
applied to the point of supreme interest in a series of thoughts or events, often the turning point of a
play or narrative.
- CLOSED COUPLET
- A couplet in which the sense and syntax
is self-contained within its two lines, as opposed to an open couplet.
(See also Distich,
- CLOSE RHYME
- A rhyme of two contiguous or close words, such as in the idiomatic expressions, "true blue" or
"fair and square."
Sidelight: Close rhymes are a
distinguishing characteristic of echo verse.
(Compare Ricochet Words)
- CLOSET DRAMA
- A literary work written in the form of a drama, but intended by the author
only for reading, not for performance in the theater.
- The effect of finality, balance, and completeness, which leaves the reader with a sense of
fulfilled expectations. Though the term is sometimes employed to describe the effects of individual
repetitive elements, such as rhyme, metrical patterns,
and stanzas, its most significant application is in reference to the concluding
portion of the entire poem.
- COMMON MEASURE
- A meter consisting chiefly of seven iambic feet arranged
in rhymed pairs, thus a line with four accents followed by a line with three accents,
usually in a 4-line stanza. It is also called common meter.
Sidelight: A meter of 4-line stanzas of tetrameter
verse is called a long meter (L.M.). A meter of 4-line stanzas in which the first, second, and
fourth lines are trimeter and the third tetrameter is called a short meter (S.M.). The meter of 8-line stanzas
of which the first four lines are tetrameter and the last four are trimeter is called
hallelujah meter (H.M.).
Sidelight: While essentially the same as
ballad meter, common measure is more regularly iambic.
- COMPANION POEM
- A poem that is associated with another poem, which it complements.
(See also Anthology, Canon,
Lyric Sequence, Sonnet Sequence)
- An elaborate metaphor, artificially strained or far-fetched, in
which the subject is compared with a simpler analogue usually chosen from
nature or a familiar context. Especially associated with intense emotional or spiritual feelings, they sometimes
extend through the entire length of a poem. An example of a conceit is Sir Thomas Wyatt's
"My Galley," an adaptation of
Petrarch's Sonnet 159.
Sidelight: The term is derived from
concetto, Italian for "concept." Most modern conceits are written in a more
(See also Euphuism,
- CONCRETE POETRY
- Poetry which forms a structurally original visual shape, preferably abstract, through the use of
reduced language, fragmented letters, symbols, and other typographical variations to
create an extreme graphic impact on the reader's attention. The essence of concrete poetry
lies in its appearance on the page rather than in the written text; it is intended to be perceived
as a visual whole and often cannot be effective when read aloud.
(See also Pattern Poetry,
- The suggestion of a meaning by a word beyond what it explicitly
denotes or describes. The word, home, for example,
means the place where one lives, but by connotation, also suggests security, family, love
Sidelight: Sometimes one of the
connotations of a word gains enough widespread acceptance to become a
(See also Allusion,
- The close repetition of the same end consonants of stressed syllables with differing vowel sounds, such as
boat and night, or the words drunk and milk in the final line of Coleridge's
Sidelight: Consonance most often
occurs within a line. When used at line ends in place of rhyme, as in the words, cool and soul, in the
third stanza of Emily Dickinson's "He Fumbles at your Spirit,"
it is sometimes referred to as consonantal rhyme to differentiate it from
perfect rhyme and other types of
Sidelight: In a more general sense, consonance
also refers to a pleasing combination of sounds; sounds in agreement with
(See also Euphony,
Resonance, Sound Devices)
- The substance of a poem; the impressions, facts and ideas it
(Compare Diction, Form,
- CONTINUOUS FORM
- See Stanza
- In a literary sense, established "codes" of basic principles and procedures for types of works
that are recurrent in literature. The prevailing conventions of their time strongly
influence writers to select content, forms, style,
diction, etc., which are acceptable to the cultural expectations of the public.
Sidelight: A knowledge of conventions,
particularly from a historical aspect, aids the reader in the understanding, interpretation, and appreciation
of literary works, particularly poems following the classical pastoral and
Sidelight: Conventions can change over time.
Their very existence fosters the emergence of originality and
serves as a comparative measure and contrast to new concepts.
- CONVERSATION POEM
- A poem whose light, colloquial treatment of a serious subject is intended to resemble informal conversation. Similar to
the dramatic monologue, the term originates from Coleridge's subtitle for his poem,
- Two successive lines of poetry, usually of equal length and rhythmic correspondence, with
end-words that rhyme. The couplet, for practical purposes, is the shortest
but is frequently joined with other couplets to form a poem with
no stanzaic divisions, as in Robert Browning's
"My Last Duchess."
Sidelight: If the couplet is written in
iambic pentameter, it is called a
(See also Closed Couplet,
- COURTLY LOVE
- A late medieval idealized convention establishing a code for the conduct of
amorous affairs of ladies and their lovers. Expressed and spread by the
troubadours, it became associated with the literary
concept of love until the 19th century.
- A game in which one player gives a word or line of verse to be matched
in rhyme by the other players.
(See also Bouts-Rimes)
- Used in classical poetry, a metrical foot consisting of a short
syllable between two long syllables, as in THIR-ty-NINE.
Sidelight: Another name for the cretic
foot is amphimacer.
- An inferior or petty critic.
- CROSS RHYME
- The rhyme scheme of abab, also called alternate rhyme,
in which the end words of alternating lines rhyme with each other, i.e., the rhymes cross intervening lines.
Cross rhyming derives from long-line verse such as hexameter in which two lines have
caesural words rhymed together and end words rhymed together, as
Fate is a sea without shore, and the soul is a rock that abides;
As written above, the rhyme pattern what the French call rime brisée;
if the two long lines were to be split after the caesuras into four short lines, the rhyme pattern would become
a cross rhyme.
But her ears are vexed with the roar and her face with the foam of the tides.
(Compare Envelope Rhyme)
- CURTAL QUATRAIN
- See under Quatrain
- The aggregate of accumulated literature, plays or musical works treating the
same theme. In poetry, the term is typically applied to epic
or narrative poems about a
mythical or heroic event or character, such as the Siege of Troy or the Nibelungs of medieval
Sidelight: After the death of Homer,
a certain group of epic poets, between 800 and 550 BC, wrote continuations and additions on the subject
of the Trojan War; chief among them were Agias, Arctinos, Eugamon, Lesches and Strasinos. Since
their writing was confined to that single subject, they were referred to as cyclic poets.
(See also Anthology, Canon,
Lyric Sequence, Sonnet Sequence)