Glossary of poetry terms with examples from John Keats poems

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♦ Acrostic (Greek akrostichis – extreme verse.) – a form of word puzzle; the verse, which first letters of all the lines form a phrase or word, often the name of the author or the person to whom the verses are devoted. Acrostic was invented in ancient times (V century B.C.) by Sicilian poet Epicharmus Comicus of Syracuse, who fixed in such a manner the authorship of his texts. Acrostics were written by poets of ancient Greece; in the poetry of the Middle Ages acrostics interspersed in the sacred texts as encrypted signatures, spells or secret messages, the canons were written in the forms of acrostic in the Byzantine hymnography. A tradition of the genre has continued during the Renaissance.

 John Keats has written acrostic devoted to his sister – Georgiana Keats.

        Example: Acroctic – Georgiana Augusta Keats



♦ Alexandrine – is a couplets system, distich, iambic hexameter with plain rhymes. Alexandrine is a French verse of twelve syllables with a caesura in the middle and, respectively, with obligatory stresses on the sixth and twelfth syllables; it’s a line rhyme to form a couplet. According to one version, it got its name from the ancient poetic work of the 12th century “Novel of Alexander the Great”, wrote by this verse. According to another version Alexandrine was named by the school in Alexandria, Egypt, where iambic hexameter was the most popular verse meter. The first documented examples are from the 11th century. (“Charlemagne’s Journey to Jerusalem and Constantinople”). Alexandrine became the dominant verse of French classical tragedy (Corneille, 1606 84; Racine, 1639 99). Victor Hugo and others Romantic poets in their contest against the classicism violated caesura’s restraint, making freer placement of accents in the lines.

           Example from Imitation of Spenser:

    “….In strife to throw upon the shore a gem
    Outvieing all the buds in Flora’s diadem.”


♦ Alcaic stanza – named after the ancient Greek poet Alcaeus (7 -… 6 centuries BC). Latin poet Horace has introduced it in the Roman versification, therefore sometimes called “the Horatian” stanza. In Germany, it was used mostly Klopstock and Hölderlin. Stanza has four verses – the first and second represent Alcaeus hendecasillabus (11 syllables). The third verse is composed of nine syllables (enneasyllabus), the fourth consists of ten syllables (decasillabus).


  1. — —́ ⌣ —́ — | | —́ ⌣ ⌣ —́ ⌣ —́
  1. — —́ ⌣ —́ — | | —́ ⌣ ⌣ —́ ⌣ —́
  1. — —́ ⌣ —́ ⌣ —́ ⌣ —́ ⌣
  2. —́ ⌣ ⌣ —́ ⌣ ⌣ —́ ⌣ —́ ⌣


♦ Allegory (Greek allegoria – indirectness) – the figurative images of abstract thoughts, ideas or concepts through similar images (lion – power, strength; justice – a woman with weights). Unlike metaphor, in the allegory figurative sense expressed by the phrase, the whole idea, or even a small opus (fable, parable). In the literature, many of the allegorical figures taken from folklore and myths.


♦ Alliteration – is a repetition of the identical (same or similar) consonant sounds in poetic speech (sometimes prose) to enhance the expressiveness of artistic speech; one kind of tone-painting.

Alliteration – is an ancient stylistic device to enhance the expressiveness of the verse by consonant repeats. Alliteration, as well as the poetic work itself, is perceived by hearing rather than vision. This technique is found in folk poetry and literature of all peoples of the world. Homer, Hesiod, Horace, Virgil, and many later poets of Europe – Dante, Petrarch, Shakespeare, Ronsard, used Alliteration. A sense of proportion and artistic tact poet determine the choice of the nature and relevance of alliteration in verse; terms of use it does not and can not.

          Example from To Autumn

    “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness!
    Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
    Conspiring with him how to load and bless
    With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;”

            (Keats used the alliteration of ‘m’ and ‘s’)


♦ Allusion (lat. Allusio – a joke, hint) – is a stylistic figure; hint by similar-sounding words or references to well-known real fact, historical episode, literary work.

  Example from  Ode to Psyche 

   Allusion to Cupid & Psyche:

    ” O Gooddess! hear these tunealess numbers, wrung…..

    …..At tender eye-dawn of aurorean love:
    The wingèd boy I knew;
    But who wast thou, O happy, happy dove?
    His Psyche true!….”


♦ Amplification (Latin amplificatio – extension) – a stylistic technique; an addition of homogeneous elements of speech – definitions, synonyms, comparisons, adjectives, metaphors, contrasts, etc. It is used in the literature and oratory for delivery expressive emotional colouring to text (speech).


♦ Amphibole (Greek amfibolia – confusion) – ambiguity; phrase or sentence which is due to improper construction can be misunderstood or reads both ways.


♦ Amphibrach (Greek amphibrachys – Both sides short) – triple poetic foot with the accent on the second syllable / ~ ‘ ~ /.


♦ Anacrusis (Greek “anakrusis” – repulsion, anticipation) – unstressed syllables at the beginning of the first verse to the stressed syllables (ictus). So, anacrusis is monosyllables in iambic, as well as in amphibrach, and in anapaest anacrusis is disyllabic. Trochee and dactyl have not anacrusis.

Example from In a Drear-Nighted December:

                      (With) a sleety whistle through them (I, 6)



♦ Anapaest – (from Greek anapaistos – reverse to dactyl, reflected back) is a poetic meter formed by triple foot with a strong place on the 3rd syllable; with the accent on the initial syllable of lines.


♦ Anaphora (Greek anaphora – repeating, carrying back) – stylistic figure; repetition of initial sounds (sound anaphora), words (lexical anaphora), sentences (syntactic anaphora) at the beginning of the adjacent verses within the stanza. Also, the repetition of any syntactic constructions in adjacent verses (strophic anaphora).  Sound anaphora based on alliteration and (or) assonance.

Example (lexical anaphora) from Ode on a Grecian Urn :

        What leaf-fringed legend haunts about thy shape
        Of deities or mortals, or of both,
         In Tempe or the dales of Arcady?
         What men or gods are these? What maidens loth?
         What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?
         What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecsta

Example (syntactic anaphora) from You say you love; but with a voice

    You say you love; but with a voice
    Chaster than a nun’s, who singeth
    The soft vespers to herself
    While the chime-bell ringeth—
    O love me truly!

    You say you love; but with a smile
    Cold as sunrise in September,
    As you were Saint Cupid’s nun,
    And kept his weeks of Ember—
    O love me truly!

    You say you love; but then your lips
    Coral tinted teach no blisses,
    More than coral in the sea—
    They never pout for kisses—
    O love me truly!



♦ Antithesis (Greek Antithesis – contraposition) – stylistic figure; a comparison or oppositeness of contrasting ideas or images in the art of speech.


Example  from A Song of Opposites:

    Dancing music, music sad,
    Both together, sane and mad;
    Muses bright and muses pale;
    Sombre Saturn, Momus hale; –
     Laugh and sigh, and laugh again;
     Oh the sweetness of the pain!



♦  Antiphrasis – is a stylistic figure; use of the word(s) in the opposite sense, often with irony or mockery (“Hero”, “eagle”, “wise man” …).


Example  from The Cap And Bells:


    ‘Why, Hum, you’re getting quite poetical!
     Those ‘nows’ you managed in a special style.’






To be continued……


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