- DACTYL, DACTYLIC
- A metrical foot of three
syllables, the first of which is long or
accented and the next two short or unaccented, as in MER-rily or LOV-er boy, or from Byron's
"The Bride of Abydos":
KNOW ye the | LAND where the |
CY-press and | MYR-tle
Sidelight: Except for their use
in humorous light verse, dactylic lines are
now infrequent in English poetry.
(See also Double Dactyl,
- A short-lived WWI European movement in arts and literature based on
deliberate irrationality and the negation of traditional artistic values.
(See Poems of Chance)
- DECAMETER (dek-AM-uh-tur)
- A line of verse consisting of ten metrical feet.
- A metrical line of ten syllables or a poem composed of ten-syllable lines.
(See also Dodecasyllable,
- The literal dictionary meaning(s) of a word as distinct from an associated idea or
Sidelight: Many words have more than one denotation,
such as the multiple meanings of fair or spring. In ordinary language, we strive for a
single precise meaning of words to avoid ambiguity,
but poets often take advantage of words with more than one meaning to
suggest more than one idea with the same word. A pun also
utilizes multiple meanings as a play on words.
- DIACOPE (di-ACK-o-pee)
- See Epizeuxis
- DIAERESIS or DIERESIS (dy-EHR-uh-sus)
- The pronunciation of two adjacent vowels within a word as separate sounds rather than as a diphthong, as
in coordinate; also, the mark indicating the separate pronunciation, as in naïve.
Sidelight: In classical
prosody, the diaeresis was a break or pause in a line of verse
occurring when the end of a foot coincides with the end of a word.
- DIBRACH (DYE-brak)
- See Pyrrhic
- The choice of words, phrases, sentence structures, and figurative language in a literary
work; the manner or mode of verbal expression,
particularly with regard to clarity and accuracy. The diction of a poem can range from
colloquial to formal, from literal to figurative, or from concrete to abstract.
Sidelight: Poetic diction
refers to words, phrasing, and figures
not usually used in ordinary speech and often utilizes
Sidelight: Poets often adapt diction
to the form or genre of a poem, for example, elevated for
folksy for ballads.
(Compare Content, Form,
- DIDACTIC POETRY
- Poetry which is clearly intended for the purpose of instruction -- to impart theoretical, moral, or practical
knowledge, or to explain the principles of some art or science, as Virgil's Georgics, or
Pope's An Essay on Criticism.
Sidelight: Didactic poetry
can assume the manner and attributes of imaginative works by incorporating the knowledge in
a variety of forms, such as dramatic poetry, satire, and
parody, among others. Allegories,
gnomes, and proverbs are so closely related to didactic poetry
that they can be considered specific types of that genre.
Sidelight: Although the instructional purpose
is its primary aim, didactic poetry often contains vivid descriptive passages, digressions, and thoughtful reflections
bearing on the subject matter.
(See also Georgic)
(Compare Catalog Verse,
- DIIAMB or DIAMB (dye-EYE-am, DYE-am)
- In classical poetry, a metrical foot consisting of
four syllables, with the first and third short and the second and fourth long, i.e., two iambs
considered as a single foot.
- DIMETER (DYE-muh-tur)
- A line of verse consisting of two metrical feet, or of two
- DIPODY, DIPODIC VERSE (DIP-uh-dee, dih-PAH-dik)
- A double foot; a unit of two feet.
Sidelight: Sometimes heavy and light
stresses alternate in the accented syllables
of verse. When such alternations are frequent enough to establish a discernable pattern, the
meter is scanned in units of two feet instead of one and
termed dipodic verse.
- A poem of grief or lamentation, especially one intended to accompany
funeral or memorial rites.
Sidelight: In contrast to an
elegy, the principle aim of the dirge is to lament the dead, rather than to console
(See also Epitaph,
- DISPONDEE (dye-SPAHN-dee)
- In classical poetry, a metrical foot consisting of four long syllables,
equivalent to a double spondee.
- A mingling or union of harsh, inharmonious sounds, often
used deliberately for effect, as in the lines from Whitman's "The Dalliance of Eagles:"
The clinching interlocking claws, a living, fierce, gyrating wheel,
Four beating wings, two beaks, a swirling mass tight grappling,
In tumbling turning clustering loops, straight downward falling,
Sidelight: The term, dissonance, can also refer
to any elements of a poem which are discordant in the context of their use.
Sidelight: Although often considered synonymous
with cacophony, the term dissonance more strongly implies a
- DISTICH (DIS-tik)
- A strophic unit of two lines; a pair of poetic lines or verses which
together comprise a complete sense.
Sidelight: If the end words of a distich
rhyme, it is called a couplet.
(See also Closed Couplet,
- A word of two syllables.
(See also Monosyllable,
- DISYLLABIC RHYME
- A rhyme in which two final syllables of words have the same
sound, as in fender and bender or beguile and
In the above examples of disyllabic rhymes, fender and bender are also a
feminine rhyme, while beguile and revile are also a
(See also Mosaic Rhyme,
- DITHYRAMB (DITH-eye-ram)
- In classical poetry, a type of melic verse associated
with drunken revelry and performed to honor Dionysus (Bacchus), the Greek god of wine.
In modern usage, the term has come to mean a poem of impassioned frenzy and irregular character.
Sidelight: John Dryden's
"Alexander's Feast," bears a resemblance to the dithyrambic
- A simple little poem meant to be sung.
Sidelight: Long ago, the word
"ditty" served as a verb, meaning to sing a song or set words to music, but its use as such became obsolete
by the 16th century.
- DIVINE AFFLATUS
- See Afflatus
- DOCHMIUS (DAHK-mee-us) pl. DOCHMII (DAHK-mee-eye)
- In classical prosody, a metrical
foot consisting of five syllables,
the first and fourth being short and the second, third, and fifth long.
- DODECASYLLABLE (DOH-decka-SIL-uh- bul)
- A metrical line of twelve syllables.
(See also Decasyllable,
- Originally applied to poetry of loose irregular measure, it now is
used to describe crudely written poetry which lacks artistry in form or meaning. It is sometimes
deliberately used, however, for comic or satirical effect.
(See Broadside Ballad)
(See also Poetaster, Poeticule,
- DORIAN ODE
- See Pindaric Verse
- DOUBLE BALLADE
- See Ballade
- DOUBLE DACTYL
- A word with two dactyls, such as COUNT-er-in-TEL-li-gence or
PAR-lia-men-TAR-i-an; also, a modern form of light verse consisting of
two quatrains with two dactyls per line. The first line is a hyphenated
nonsense word, often "higgledy-piggledy," the second line is a proper name, and the
sixth line is a single double dactyl word. The fourth and eighth lines are truncated, lacking the final
two unaccented syllables, and rhyme with each other, as in the following example:
Doctor D. Livingstone
Scottish explorer of
Note, but of whom
Chiefly we know by the
Greeting by Stanley, who
said, "I presume."
- DOUBLE RHYME
- See Disyllabic Rhyme
- DRAMATIC MONOLOGUE
- A literary work which consists of a revealing one-way conversation by a
character or persona, usually directed to a second person
or to an imaginary audience. It typically involves a critical moment of a specific situation, with
the speaker's words unintentionally providing a revelation of his character, as in Robert Browning's
"My Last Duchess."
(See also Conversation Poem,
- DRAMATIC POEM
- A composition in verse portraying a story of life or character, usually
involving conflict and emotions, in a plot evolving through action and dialogue.
lyric, and narrative are the three
main groups of poetry. It is possible, however, for a poem to combine the characteristics
of all three.
- DUPLE METER
- See Binary Meter
- DYSPHEMISM (DIS-fuh-mizm)
- The substitution of a disagreeable, offensive or disparaging expression to
replace an agreeable or inoffensive one.