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POETIC VERSE FORMS


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Poetry is a special reading experience in which the style of expression is as important as the content of the words. Because of its rhythm and sound, most poetry is best read aloud so that its language can be appreciated. If a reading of a poem manages to catch its invention, surprise, and delight, then the assertion of American poet MacLeish in "Ars Poetica" is fulfilled:

A poem should not mean
But be.


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~**~ballad~**~

Narrative poem consisting of four-line stanzas with altering rhymes. Folk ballads were handed down from generation to generation and were originally sung. Major poets sometimes use the forms, as did Keats in "La Belle Dame sans Merci."

~**~dramatic monologue~**~

Form of dramatic poetry in which only a single character speaks, gradually revealing his or her own dramatic situation. Robert Browning worte many dramatic monologues. T.S.Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" is a famous modern example.

~**~elegy~**~

Named from the Greek word for "lament," elegies are lyric poems on the subject of death. The death may be that of an individual, as in Auden's "In Memory of W.B. Yeats" and Milton's Lycidas, or in a more figurative sense that of all men, as in Donne's Elegies or Gray's "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard."

~**~epic~**~

Long narrative poem whose subject is of major importance. The major classical epics are Homer's Iliad and Odyssey and Vergil's Aeneid.


~**~hymn~**~

Lyric poem in praise of God, or, by extension, anything of great value. The Homeric Hymns celebrate the Greek gods. Donne wrote "A Hymn to God the Father," and Shelley wrote a "Hymn to Intellectual Beauty."

~**~limerick~**~

A humorous poem of five lines. The first,second, and fifth lines rhyme, while the shorter third and fourth lines have a different rhyme. "Hickory Dickory Dock" is a limerick.

~**~ode~**~

Lyric poem of irregular form, often used to express deep personal feelings. Odes originated with the ancient Greek poet Pindar. English examples include Keats's "Ode to a Nightingale," and Wordsworth's "Ode: Intimations of Immortality."

~**~romance~**~

Long narrative poem based on legend. Among the heroes of romance are Roland in France, King Arthur and his knights in Britain, and Orlando in Italy. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is the most important literary romance in English. The term also describes a type of historical novel.

~**~sonnet~**~

Lyric poem of 14 lines. The sonnet originated in Italy and was taken over by English poets, many of whom used a different rhyme scheme. The sonnet has been used by such English poets as Spencer, Shakespeare, Milton, and Keats.

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