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English Literary Forms


Stanza - Forms
The Chaucerian Stanza / Rhyme Royal The Ottava Rhyma The Spensarian Stanza The Terza Rhyma The Quatrain The heroic Couplet The Octosyllabic Couplet Satire

The Chaucerian Stanza

Rhyme RoyalKing James I of Scotland in 15th CenturyKings Choir Seven Iambic Pentameter lines a b; a b b; c c Suited for narrative verse ( Chaucers Canterbury Tales; Shakespeares The Rape of Lucrece; William Morris The Earthly Paradise)

The aim of all is but to nurse the life With honour, wealth and ease, in waning age; And in this aim there is such thwarting strife That one for all or all for one we gage: As life for honour in fell battle's rage; Honour for wealth; and oft that wealth doth cost The death of all, and all together lost

The Ottava Rhyma

First used in Englandearly 16thSir Thomas Wyatthis frequent visits to Italy Well suited for narrative purpose, satiric purpose Eight iambic pentameter lines a b;a b;a b ;c c Six lines rhyme alternately with a couplet at the end Byrons Don Juan ; Shelleys The Witch of Atlas ; Keats The Pot of Basil

Mans love is of mans life a thing apart, Tis womans whole existence; man may range The court, camp, church, the vessel, and the mart; Sword, gown, gain, glory, offer in exchange Pride, fame, ambition, to fill up his heart, And few there are whom these cannot estrange; Men have, all these resources, we but one, To love again, and be again undone.

Spenserian Stanza
SpenserThe Faerie Queen Eight Iambic Pentameter lines and a line of twelve syllables ( Alexandrine) at the end a ba b;b c b c;c Difficultone rhyme is repeated four times; another three times Long narrative and descriptive poems but Spenser used it James Thomson : Castle of Indolence; Byron : Child Harold; Keats : The Eve of St.Agnes; Shelley : The Revolt of Islam, Adonais; Tennyson : The Lotos-Eaters

I weep for Adonais-he is dead! O, weep for Adonais! though our tears Thaw not the frost which binds so dear a head! And thou, sad Hour, selected from all years To mourn our loss, rouse thy obscure compeers, And teach them thine own sorrow, say: "With me Died Adonais; till the Future dares Forget the Past, his fate and fame shall be An echo and a light unto eternity!"

The Terza Rhyma

Italian verse form Dante : The Divine Comedy Group of three lines forming one unit ( tercet) may be run or closed; run is frequently used-each tercet is linked with the other Rhyme of two tercets : a b a, b c b ShelleyOde to the West Wind ; Byron Prophecy of Dante; Browning The Statue and the Bust

O Wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn's being Thou from whose unseen presence the leaves dead Are driven like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing, Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red, Pestilence-stricken multitudes! O thou Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed


The wingd seeds, where they lie cold and low, Each like a corpse within its grave, until Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow Her clarion o'er the dreaming earth, and fill (Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air) With living hues and odours plain and hill

The Quatrain
Stanza of four iambic lines with alternate rhymes Variation in rhyme, length Lines may be Pentameter, Tetrameter or even shorter Most of the ballads; Ballad-stanza Coleridge: Rime of the Ancient mariner Keats : La Belle Dame Sans merci

The sun came upon the left, Out of the sea came he! And he shone bright, and on the right Went down into the sea.

The Heroic Couplet

Two iambic pentameter lines rhyming Heroic : Iambic pentameter verse was first used for epic or heroic poetry Augustan Age Each linefive feet / ten syllables; second syllable of each foot accented; pause after the fourth and before the sixth ( Caesura) Two kinds : closed or run First used by ChaucerSpenser, MarloweWaller and Denhambut Pope and Dryden led to its glorious phase used as an instrument of satire, other works

Dryden : Absalom and Achitophel; MacFlecknoe Pope : Rape of the Lock; Dunciad; Essay on Man; Essay on Criticism Ease, vigor, strength, sweetness Dryden often uses run-on; Popeclosed Even Byron, Shelley, Keats ( Lamia) run on ( enjambed) ; Browning, Morris, Swinburne

We think our fathers fools, so wise we grow; Our wiser sons, no doubt will think us so. All human things are subject to decay, And, when Fate summons, monarchs must obey: This Flecknoe found, who, like Augustus, young Was call'd to empire, and had govern'd long: In prose and verse, was own'd, without dispute Through all the realms of Non-sense, absolute.

Octosyllabic Couplet
Differs from Heroic Each line eight syllables / four feet Difficult ; mechanical ; tiresome; long narrative poems Samuel ButlerSir Hudibras Coleridge : Christabel

For his Religion, it was fit To match his learning and his wit; 'Twas Presbyterian true blue; For he was of that stubborn crew Of errant saints, whom all men grant To be the true Church Militant; Such as do build their faith upon The holy text of pike and gun;

Latin-Satura Lanks Literary work that searches out the faults of men or institutions in order to hold them upto ridiculeLong The True end of satire is the amendment of vices by correctionDryden The expression in adequate terms of sense of amusement or disgust excited by the ridiculous or unseemly, provided that humor is a distinctly recognized element, and that the utterance is invested with literary form. Without humor satire is invective; without literary form, it is mere clownish jeering Richard Garnett

Literary form of expression Disgust at the ridiculous, the ugly, the foolish Humor Sincere desire to correct or reform Author clothes his attackallegory, fable, mockheroic, parody, burlesque Concentration, brevity intensify the effect

Personal : aimed at Individual ; ephemeral Impersonal : Passes from individual to the Type ; eternal and universal ; wider sweep; individuals are used as examples of the vices and follies that infect the Age Roman were the first satirists ( mankind) Persius ( indignantly lashes) Horace ( laughs at) Juvenal ( hates and despises) Middle AgesChurch and WomenChaucer, Langland Age of MiltonPolitics Dryden, PopePersonal and Political enemies; later to impersonal

Swift : Gullivers Travels one of the most appalling exposures of human weakness-strange worlds , precision, likeness between the real and imaginary FieldingContemporary societys follies, foibles, weaknesses, vices reformative ( Amelia) Smollett mankind in general ( reduced to the level of insectes)

18th zenith 19thnumber of vigorous satiristsByron English Bards and Scotch Reviewers ; Don Juan ( epic satire on society); The Vision of Judgment ( George IIIbase and mean) Dickens, Thackeray ( hypocrisy, materialism, greed, snobbery in the society) Carlyle, Ruskin, Mathew Arnold G B Shaw, Huxley, Orwell

This made me reflect upon the fair skins of our English ladies, who appear so beautiful to us, only because they are of our own size, and their defects not to be seen through a magnifying glass, where we find by experiment that the smoothest and whitest skins look rough and course, and ill colored My little friend GrildrigI cannot but conclude the bulk of your natives to be the most pernicious race of little odious Vermin that Nature has ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the earth. All animals are equal but some are more equal than others