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POETIC TECHNIQUES. RHYTHM. The regular, measured flow of words and phrases in verse or prose. This is usually achieved in poetry by the arrangement of stressed and unstressed syllables. STANZA.

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  • The regular, measured flow of words and phrases in verse or prose. This is usually achieved in poetry by the arrangement of stressed and unstressed syllables.
  • Recurrent groupings of two or more lines in a poem, usually in terms of length, meter and rhyme scheme, but sometimes to thought as well as form, in which case it corresponds to the paragraph in prose.


  • A name given to any poetry or metrical composition OR ONE LINE of poetry.
  • NOTE: Do not confuse VERSE with STANZA.

BLANK VERSE: Blank verse is unrhymed iambic pentameter.

  • FREE VERSE: Verse with irregular rhythm, and usually no rhyme, or rhyme with no regular pattern.
  • A COUPLET: A pair of consecutive lines that rhyme, and have identical rhythm.
  • The repetition of consonant sounds at the beginning of neighbouring words.
  • E.g. “The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew,

The furrow followed free.” (Coleridge, ‘The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner’)

“that sends light rustle rushes to their leaves” (Frost, ‘Directive’)

  • The repetition of vowel sounds in neighbouring words. It is often used as a substitute for rhyme at the end of lines.
  • NOTE: MINE and LINE rhyme, but MINE and LIME are assonant.
  • E.g. “Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind” (Keats, ‘Ode to Autumn’)
  • The repetition of the whole end sounds of words, including the final vowel and consonant sounds. The sound must be preceded by different consonants for true rhyme. Letters are used to indicate the rhyming scheme or pattern.
  • E.g. “The sun does arise

And make happy the skies” (Blake, ‘The Echoing Green’

  • The device in which the sound of a word echoes its sense.
  • E.g. “Blow bugles, blow, set the wild echoes flying” (Tennyson, ‘Blow, Bugle, Blow’)


  • A comparison using “like” or “as”.
  • E.g. “This city now doth, like a garment, wear

The beauty of the morning…” (Wordsworth, ‘Composed upon Westminster Bridge’)


  • A direct comparison omitting “like” or “as”.
  • E.g. “There is a garden in her face” (Thomas Campion)
  • The device in which an inanimate object or idea, or an abstract concept is given human qualities.
  • E.g. “I have been half in love with easeful Death,

Called him soft names in many a mused rhyme” (Keats, ‘Ode to a Nightingale’)

  • A sustained metaphor or simile, likening one state of affairs to another in a series of comparisons.
  • E.g. The analogy of the kingdom to a beehive in Act I of Shakespeare’s Henry V.
  • A metaphor involving exaggeration.
  • E.g. “Mothers shall but smile when they behold their infants quartered by the hands of war.” (Mark Antony in Julius Caesar)
  • NOTE: Also known as CONCEIT.
  • The device in which something is said to be less than it is.
  • E.g. Mercutio: (dying of his wound): “…a scratch!” (Romeo and Juliet)


  • A tale using animals to point to a moral about human life.
  • E.g. George Orwell’s Animal Farm.


  • A parable points to a religious moral with a simple tale of man’s everyday affairs.
  • E.g. The parable of the Prodigal Son.
  • NOTE: Parable, Fable and Allegory are types of SYMBOLISM.
  • A story pointing to a moral about religious, human, or political life by using characters who personify abstract qualities such as Vice, Gluttony, Desire, etc. Allegory thus involves extended metaphor, and fable is simply a kind of allegory.
  • NOTE: The Medieval Morality Play is an excellent example, and you will note many examples of allegory in melodrama and comedy of manners.
  • The use of one object to suggest or represent another. It is a broad term covering fable, allegory and parable,
  • E.g. The cross is a symbol of Christianity.
  • The colour black suggests death.
  • The dove is a symbol of peace.
  • Literary, Historical, Biblical, Mythical
  • When the poet refers indirectly to something presumably known to the reader.
  • E.g. “And a Good Friday was had by all” is a biblical allusion to the day Christ was crucified.
general terms
  • EUPHEMISM: The stating of an unpleasant fact in indirect terms to avoid bluntness or excessive hurt.
  • E.g. “He passed away” instead of “He died”
  • IMAGERY: Imagery refers to the collection of word-pictures or images found in a work. Images often follow a pattern which collectively symbolises something in that work.
  • E.g. The recurrent images of Denmark as an unweeded garden. And images of sickness and decay in Shakespeare’s Hamlet emphasise the state of the kingdom at the time.
  • DIDACTIC: A didactic work is one which sets out to teach.
  • E.g. Shelley’s poem ‘Ozymandias’
general terms1
  • EPIGRAM: A pithy, concise statement.
  • E.g. “Lord Loam… is one of mind and two of matter…” (Ernest in J.M. Barrie’s The Admirable Crichton)
  • PARADOX: A statement that seems to be self-contradictory, but contains a basis of truth.
  • E.g. “There is a house that is no more a house” (Frost, ‘Directive’)
  • OXYMORON: An oxymoron is a concise paradox – usually consisting of two contradictory or opposite words run together.
  • E.g. “Oh brawling love! Oh loving hate!” (Romeo and Juliet)
general terms2
  • PERSONA: The ‘mask’ or ‘person’ adopted by the poet to tell the poem.
  • DRAMATIC MONOLOGUE: A single person who is not the poet himself, utters the entire poem in a specific situation at a critical moment addressed to another person.
  • PUNCTUATION: . , ; ! “__” … - = Pauses. Lack of punctuation = enjambment.
  • SPACING: Placement and shape of lines.
  • REPETITION: Words are repeated.
  • ITALICS: Use of italics to stress a word.
  • IRONY: Opposite of what is expected.
  • LYRIC: A poem where a single speaker expresses a state of mind or process of thought
  • and feeling (non-narrative poems).
  • JUXTAPOSITION: Two events occurring side by side.