An A-Z of literary and poetic terms that I discovered last week made me think about what and how work is written. When writing do we know we are producing iambic pentameters or alliterative verse? I thought alliterative verse - as an example - was a whole poem full of same sounding words but it isn't. Alliteration is the commencement of two or more words in close connection with the same sound as in 'Monday morning murmurings' but alliterative verse is the native German tradition of English poetry and the standard form in Old English up to the 11th century, recurring in Middle English as a formal alternative to the syllable-counting rhymed verse borrowed from French. The Old English line was unrhymed and made up of two distinct half-lines each containing two stressed syllables. The alliteration was always on the the first stress of the second half-line which alliterated with the stresses in the first half-line. Nothing after Middle English, apparently, can be said to be alliterative verse, although Auden and Day-Lewis did attempt a revival of the art.
Here are a few more terms that I found interesting:
Assonance - is the correspondence or rhyming of one word with another in accented and following vowels but not in the consonents - such as in Yeat's 'Byzantium' - 'That dolphin-torn, that gong-tormented sea' and in Keats' 'Ode to Autumn' - Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn/Among the river sallows, borne aloft/Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies.'
Ballad and Ballade: A ballad was originally a song intended as a dance accompaniment. They were often printed on a single sheet and sold at fairs. Now it is used as a short spirited poem in short stanzas narrating a popular story. Keats (again), Morris, Hardy and Yeats used this form often.
A ballade, on the other hand, is a poem of one or more triplets of seven or eight-lined stanzas, each ending with the same line. It was dominant in 14th and 15th century French poetry, Villon being one of its main users.
Canto - is a subdivision of a long, narrative, epic poem such as in Dante's 'Inferno'.
Clerihew - is an epigrammatic verse-form that was invented by Edmund Clerihew Bentley. it consists of two rhymed couplets that usually deal with a well-known person's character or career, for example:
Sir James Jeans
Always says what he means
He is really perfectly serious
About the Universe being Mysterious
Concrete poetry - experiemtental poetry developed and flourishing during the 1950's and 1960's dealing with typography, graphics and the 'ideogram concept'.
Foot - is a division of verse consisting of a number of syllables, one of which has the principal stress.
Heroic couplet - Introduced into English by Chaucer, this is a pair of rhymed lines of iambic pentameter.
Metre - This one could have a section all of its own as there are feet, dactyls, elegiac couplets, iambic trimeters and lyric metres involved. Basically it is the sound pattern on whose recurrence the rhythm depends throughout the poem. The most popular in ancient poetry was the hexameter. The 5th century brought about a radical change as stress became the determining feature rather than shape of the classical 'feet'. I need to look further into this one!
Palindrome - This is from the Greek 'running back again' as the word or line of text can read the same backwards as forwards, for example: Lewd did I live & evil I did dwel (Philips).