Poetic terms
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POETIC TERMS. ALLUSION. A reference to a historical figure, place, or event. ALLUSION. “O CAPTAIN! my Captain! our fearful trip is done; The ship has weather'd every rack, the prize we sought is won; The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,

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A reference to a historical figure, place, or event.


“O CAPTAIN! my Captain! our fearful trip is done;

The ship has weather'd every rack, the prize we sought is won;

The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,

While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:

But O heart! heart! heart!

O the bleeding drops of red,

Where on the deck my Captain lies,

Fallen cold and dead.”

~Walt Whitman, “O Captain! My Captain!”


A broad comparison between two basically different things that have some points in common. Usually takes form in a simile or metaphor.


A direct comparison between two basically different things. A simile is introduced by the words “like” or “as”.


“And when they all were seated,/ A Service like a Drum —/ Kept beating — beating — till I thought/ My Mind was going numb”

~Emily Dickinson, “I felt a Funeral, in my Brain”


An implied comparison between two basically different things. Is not introduced with the words “like” or “as”.


“Call us what you will, we are made such by love;

         Call her one, me another fly,

         We'are tapers too, and at our own cost die,

And we in us find the'eagle and the dove.

                The phœnix riddle hath more wit

                By us; we two being one, are it.

So, to one neutral thing both sexes fit,

         We die and rise the same, and prove

         Mysterious by this love.”

~John Donne, “The Canonization”


A great exaggeration to emphasize strong feeling.


“By the rude bridge that arched the flood,Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,Here once the embattled farmers stood,And fired the shot heard round the world.”

~Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Concord Hymn”


Human characteristics are given to non-human animals, objects, or ideas.


“The fog comes

on little cat feet.

It sits looking

over harbour and city

on silent haunches

And then moves on.”

~ Carl Sandburg, “Fog”


An absent person or inanimate object is directly spoken to as though they were present.


“Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shed

Your leaves, nor ever bid the Spring adieu”

~John Keats “Ode on a Grecian Urn”


A part stands for the whole or vice versa.


“Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears” ~William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar


The use of concrete details that appeal to the five senses.


I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each/ I do not think that they will sing to me/ I have seen them riding seaward on the waves/ Combing the white hair of the waves blown back/ When the wind blows the water white and black/ We have lingered in the chambers of the sea/ By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown/ Till human voices wake us, and we drown.” ~T.S. Eliot, “Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”


A contrast between what is said and what is meant. Also, when things turn out different than what is expected.


“Water, water, every where, And all the boards did shrink; Water, water, every where, Nor any drop to drink.”

~Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”


The overall atmosphere or prevailing emotional feeling of a work.


Explain the mood of these poems:

“Do not stand at my grave and weep,

I am not there, I do not sleep.

I am in a thousand winds that blow,

I am the softly falling snow.”

~Mary Elizabeth Frye “Do Not Stand at my Grave and Weep”

“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I love thee to the depth and breadth and height

My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight

For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.”

~Robert Barrett Browning, “Sonnets from the Portuguese, 43”


The vantage point from which an author presents the action in a work.


The repetition of identical sounds at the ends of lines of poetry.


“Nature's first green is gold,Her hardest hue to hold.Her early leaf's a flower;But only so an hour.Then leaf subsides to leaf.So Eden sank to grief,So dawn goes down to day.Nothing gold can stay.”

~Robert Frost, “Nothing Gold Can Stay”


The repetition of identical sounds within a line of poetry.


“I bring fresh showers for the thirsting flowers,        From the seas and the streams; I bear light shade for the leaves when laid       In their noonday dreams. From my wings are shaken the dews that waken…”

~Percy Bysshe Shelley “The Cloud”


The time (both the time of day and period in history) and place in which the action of a literary work takes place.


“Tiger! Tiger! burning bright

In the forests of the night”

~William Blake,

“The Tiger”


The repeating of a sound, word, phrase, or more in a given literary work.


“While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,/ As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door./ 'Tis some visitor,' I muttered, `tapping at my chamber door - / Only this, and nothing more.’”

~Edgar Allen Poe, “The Raven”


The repetition of consonant sounds at the beginnings of words.


“Glory be to God for dappled things –

   For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;

      For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;

Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;

   Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;

      And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.”

~Gerard Manley Hopkins, “Pied Beauty”


The repetition of similar vowel sounds followed by different consonants.


“. . .that hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.”

~Alfred, Lord Tennyson “Ulysses”


The repetition of consonant sounds that are preceded by different vowel sounds.


“We real cool. We

Left school. We

Lurk late. We

Strike straight. We

Sing sin. We

Thin gin. We

Jazz June.

We Die soon.”

~Gwendolyn Brooks “We Real Cool”


The use of words whose sounds suggest the sounds made by objects or activities.


“…While the stars that oversprinkle All the heavens, seem to twinkle With a crystalline delight; Keeping time, time, time, In a sort of Runic rhyme, To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells From the bells, bells, bells, bells, Bells, bells, bells - From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.”

~Edgar Allen Poe, “The Bells”


The main idea or underlying meaning of a literary work.


What is the theme in this poem?:

“I shall be telling this with a sighSomewhere ages and ages hence:Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-I took the one less traveled by,And that has made all the difference.”

~Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken”

Now, take a moment and create your own examples for 10 of these literary/poetic devices.

You may work with a partner! Add this to your notes.



  • A pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables.

  • Meter occurs when the stressed and unstressed syllables of the words in a poem are arranged in a repeating pattern.

  • When poets write in meter, they count out the number of stressed (strong) syllables and unstressed (weak) syllables for each line. They they repeat the pattern throughout the poem.

METER cont.

  • Foot - unit of meter. The types of feet are determined by the arrangement of stressed and unstressed syllables.


    • Iambic - unstressed, stressed

      What light | through yon | der win | dow breaks

    • Trochaic - stressed, unstressed

      Fire | burn and | cauldron | bubble

    • Anapestic - unstressed, unstressed, stressed

      With the sheep | in the fold | and the cows | in their stalls

    • Dactylic - stressed, unstressed, unstressed

      love again | song again | nest again | young again


  • Unlike metered poetry, free verse poetry does NOT have any repeating patterns of stressed and unstressed syllables.

  • Does NOT have rhyme.

  • Free verse poetry is very conversational - sounds like someone talking with you.

  • A more modern type of poetry.


  • Written in lines of iambic pentameter, but does NOT use end rhyme.

from Julius Ceasar

Cowards die many times before their deaths;

The valiant never taste of death but once.

Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,

It seems to me most strange that men should fear;

Seeing that death, a necessary end,

Will come when it will come.


  • A short poem

  • Usually written in first person point of view

  • Expresses an emotion or an idea or describes a scene

  • Doesn’t tell a story and is often musical


“Agonize for me

daughter of a sinful birth:

Antigone, dead.”

A Japanese poem written in three lines

Five Syllables

Seven Syllables

Five Syllables

“An old silent pond . . .

A frog jumps into the pond.

Splash! Silence again.”


A five line poem containing 22 syllables

Two Syllables

Four Syllables

Six Syllables

Eight Syllables

Two Syllables

How frail

Above the bulk

Of crashing water hangs

Autumnal, evanescent, wan

The moon.


A fourteen line poem with a specific rhyme scheme.

The poem is written in three quatrains and ends with a couplet.

The rhyme scheme is

abab cdcd efef gg

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

Thou art more lovely and more temperate.

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,

And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.

Sometimes too hot the eye of heaven shines,

And often is his gold complexion dimmed;

And every fair from fair sometimes declines,

By chance or nature’s changing course untrimmed.

But thy eternal summer shall not fade

Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st;

Nor shall Death brag thou wanderest in his shade,

When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st

So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,

So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.


  • Rhyme scheme divides the poem's 14 lines into two parts, an octet (first eight lines) and a sestet (last six lines).

  • The rhyme scheme for the octet is typically abbaabba. There are a few possibilities for the sestet, including cdecde, cdcdcd, and cdcdee.

My heart I gave thee, not to do it pain;

But to preserve, it was to thee taken.

I served thee, not to be forsaken,

But that I should be rewarded again.

I was content thy servant to remain

But not to be paid under this fashion.

Now since in thee is none other reason,

Displease thee not if that I do refrain,

Unsatiate of my woe and thy desire,

Assured by craft to excuse thy fault.

But since it please thee to feign a default,

Farewell, I say, parting from the fire:

For he that believeth bearing in hand,

Plougheth in water and soweth in the sand.


  • Terzarima is poetry written in three-line stanzas

  • Linked by end-rhymes patterned aba, bcb, cdc, ded, efe, etc.

I have been one acquainted with the night.

I have walked out in rain — and back in rain.

I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.

I have passed by the watchman on his beat

And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.


A poem that tells a story.

Generally longer than the lyric styles of poetry b/c the poet needs to establish characters and a plot.

Examples of Narrative Poems:

“The Raven”

“The Highwayman”

“Casey at the Bat”

“The Walrus and the Carpenter”


In concrete poems, the words are arranged to create a picture that relates to the content of the poem.


Is like


Which are

Swift and elusive

Dodging realization

Sparks, like words on the

Paper, leap and dance in the

Flickering firelight. The fiery

Tongues, formless and shifting

Shapes, tease the imagination.

Yet for those who see,

Through their mind’s

Eye, they burn

Up the page.


A short narrative poem with stanzas of two or four lines and usually a refrain. The story of a ballad can originate from a wide range of subject matter but most frequently deals with folk-lore or popular legends. They are written in straight-forward verse, seldom with detail, but always with graphic simplicity and force.


There was an Old Man in a tree,

Who was horribly bored by a Bee;

When they said, 'Does it buzz?’

He replied, 'Yes, it does!'’

It's a regular brute of a Bee!'

A limerick is a kind of a witty, humorous, or nonsense poem

a strict rhyme scheme (aabba)

Usually 5 lines


A lengthy narrative poem

Usually about a serious subject containing details of heroic deeds and events significant to a culture or nation.

The Odyssey



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