ELEMENTS OF POETRY ANALYSIS
THE PURPOSE OF ANALYSIS
Analyzing poetry is an activity which has concerned many readers for many years. We are concerned with explaining the methods and techniques of taking a poem apart in order to arrive at a greater understanding of both its construction and its meaning.
DIFFERENT POEMS REQUIRE DIFFERENT APPROACHES
Different poems or different kinds of poems, must be approached in different ways. No one could accurately or usefully analyze one poems to another we must think the best method to fit in the poems, how to decide which key to use for a particular lock
FORM AND CONTENT
A poem , in other words, will have both a basic structure and a particular experience to relate. There are various kinds of poetic forms which describe not only the whole poem but its various parts as well. The content of a poem in recent times has come to mean the “experience” which the poem crystallizes or distills.
DICTION AND VERSIFICATION
The irreducible content of poem is of course collections of words. Each word in poem is selected for a particular reason, often because it’s various connotation or implications. The ways in which the words are arranged and made to rhyme leads us to verification, which is the art of metrica composition the putting together of words to make poems.
THE LIMITS OF ANALYSIS
There is virtually no limitation placed on the analysis of petry. One can go quite far when trying to arrive at the meaning of a poem. One reaches a point where one can not find evidence for proving what the poet meant when he wrote certain lines. One then has to be resourceful, to use the imagination, and in particular to search for the least obvious, yet possible, meaning.
THE MANY TYPES OF POETRY
Some poems are written purely to entertain us, others solely for the purpose of moral persuasion, we are urged perhaps to right actions or wrong action. Many poems try to be both entertaining and instructive , both amusing and edifying at the same time.
POINTS OF VIEW
We may decide that the poem is nevertheless successful ehen considered from some other point of view. But it is very important that we always explain this distinction. At every step in poetic analysis we must be sure that we are letting ouer reader know presicely what we are discussing and why
Some people wrongly assume that a critic of petry is says harsh things about them. A critic is simply one who reads and attempt to explain poetry. One could offer only the highest praise for a poet or poem and be an excellent critic. Being a critic, is being creative and conscientious reader.
TWO LEVELS OF MEANING : THE LITERAL AND THE SYMBOLIC
When we talk about analyzing poetry, we must always understand about literal and symbolic meaning. literal means straightforward or factual meanwhile symbolic means the use of one thing to represent something else
THE VARIETY OF THE READER’S RESPONS
No poem is so completed. By this mean that poet always leaves some work for his reader. A poem only prompts us, stimulate us to further consideration. True, we may wander too far from the intention of the poet but as long we make some responses we are functioning as critic. One reader’s judgement may cause another reader to express dissent and this is usually desirable.
GRASPING THE CENTRAL IMAGE
Analysis, in other words, is a process of intellectual discussion of a whole into its ingredients in order to understand and appreciate the integrity and meaning of the whole—poem.
DISCOVERING THE POET IN THE POEM
One reason we undertake the analysis of poetry is to discover what is “characteristic” of a particular poet. Usually as we labor toward what is characteristic we need to make trial hypotheses, find exceptions, then move on to new hypotheses.
POETRY AND LIFE
To become appreciative readers of poetry, in any case, it is necessary that we work for both concrete and subtle analysis of the poems we read. As readers like Matthew Arnold and T.S. Eliot have repeatedly pointed out, we arrive at a greater understanding of people and of our society by arriving at an understanding of poetry; there is indeed a relationship between “the literature we read and the life we lead”
POETRY AS ART
It is not easy to respond to art as one might think, but we must confront the art of writing poetry as an art. As with meaning, art operates on different levels. There is the basic art—metrical composition—which is the foundation for any poem. The art of using words to make a poem—diction, tone, imagery—operates upon this basic foundation.
We are really engaged in the art of analyzing poetry as long as we respond to both the content and the art of a poem, dissecting it into its various parts, all in the effort of arriving at the greater understanding of the poem, the poet, poetry, and life. The analysis of poetry calls for responding to art with art. Analysis is comprehensive—but so is poem. And in learning to practice the art of analyzing poetry, let us pursue a goal of excellence. Only then will the poets be satisfied.
RHYTHM AND METRICS
RHYTHM IN POETRY: Rhythm in poetry is created by the patterns of repeated sounds—in terms of both duration and quality and ideas.
Investigation of versification
All poetry is written in some particular meter; that is, poems are made from a collection of lines which have a certain number of syllables, some of lines which are accented (receive stress) and some of which are not (receive no stress).When stress is placed on a word, accent result. But the reader should try to “feel” the accent as it creates a rhythm. Here’s some example in order to hear the rhythm from some stanza of “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” :
The sun came up upon the left
Out of the sea came he!
And he shone bright, and on the right,
Went down into the sea
- POETIC FEET
The line that seems to be divided into a number of repeated units combining the same number of accented and unaccented syllables, this unit is known as a poetic foot; each line of poetry therefore has a certain number of poetic feet. As the pattern of one foot is repeated or varied in the next, a pattern for the entire line and then for the poem is established. Feet containing different numbers of syllables, accented and unaccented, have different names. The following are the most common:
- IAMBIC: The iambic foot (an iamb) is composed of one unstressed syllable followed by one stressed syllable.
- TROCHAIC: The trochaic foot (a trochee) is the reverse of an iambic foot. The trochaic foot, in other words, is made up of two syllables, the first one stressed and the second one unstressed.
- DACTLYIC: Not all poetic feet have two syllables. The dactylic foot (a dactyl), for example, is composed of one stressed syllable followed by two unstressed syllables.
- ANAPESTIC: The reserve of a dactylic foot is anapestic foot (an anapest); in other words, it is compos of two unstressed syllables followed by one that is stressed.
- SPONDAIC: A fifth kind of foot has two stressed a no unstressed syllables; the emphasis, in other words, is one plane. This is called a spondaic foot (a spondee). Most frequently, the spondaic foot occurs in isolation near beginning of a line which has another metrical pattern.
- METRICAL LINES
The number of feet containe in any given line determines its name. A line having only on foot is referred to as monometer (mono, meaning one, plus meter). Similarly, a line of two feet is called dimeter, threefeet, trimeter. A complete table follows :
NUMBER OF FEET IN LINE : NAME OF LINE
- COMPLETE DESCRIPTIONS OF POETIC LINES
When we know the names of the poetic feet and the names for lines having certain number of feet, we can name a line properly, referring to both the kind of foot, and the number of feet. To return to our opening line, for example, “ How vainly men themselves amaze“ we can see that it has four feet written in iambic treasure; thus the line is written in iambic tetrameter.
- RAISING AND FAILLING METER
After identifying and naming the metrical elements of a poem, we can make more generalized statements about the way the rhythm works. When the unaccented syllables come first, for example, (as in iambic and anapestic feet), the verse is said to be written in rising meter as we are moving up toward the emphasis; conversely, when the stressed syllable is followed by the unstressed syllables (as in trochaic and dactylic feet), the verse is said to be written in a failing meter, as we are sliding back and away from the emphasis.
- MASCULINE AND FEMININE ENDINGS
If a line ends with an extra or additional, unaccented syllable, it is said to have a “soft “or feminine ending. If the line ends in a hard, accented syllables, (not additional) it has a masculine ending.
- THE CAESURA
The pause in a line is referred to as a caesura and is often best discovered by reading the poem aloud.
Example : (caesura after the word “Milton”)
Milton ! Thou shouldst be living at this hour
- END-STOPPED LINE; RUN-ON LINE
A further distinction must be made between a line of poetry which pauses most naturally at the end of a line, usually with a completed clause or with the ending of a sentence, and a line of poetry which runs on past the end of the line into the next one before pausing naturally.
- BLANK VERSE
Unrhymed iambic pentameter. The form was developed by the Italians and introduced into English literature during Renaissance. Since there is no rhyme used, the units of thought form the stanzaic divisions. Thought the use of techniques like enjambement , end-stopped lines, etc. the poet is able to write verse units without rhyme .
Rhyme, usually occurs at line endings in poetry and consist of words which have the same sound; the letters preceding the vowel, must, however, be unlike in sound. For instance: ‘night’ and ‘sight’ are true rhymes.
PERFECT RHYME AND HALF-RHYME
Perfect rhymes or exact rhyme, occur when the stressed vowels following differing consonant sound are identical. The sound, not the spelling, determines whether or not the sounds are identical. For example, slow and grow, fleet and street, buying and crying, bring and sing.
Half-ryme or approximate rhyme occur when the final.consonant sound of rhyming words are identical. The stress vowel sounds and any preceding consonant sound differ.
The following lines from Keats’ famous “Ode on a Grecian Urn” exhibit a pair of perfect rhymes and pair of imperfect rhymes:
Thou still unravish’d bride of quietness, 1
Thou foster-child of Silence and slom Time (half-rhymes) 2
Sylvan historian, who canst thus express 3 (perfect rhyme)
A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme: 4
The “ess” sound is identical in the first and third line, while the “ime” sound is identical in the second and fourth. The first and third lines are half-rhymes, since only the final consonant sound are identical. The second and fourth lines are perfect rhymes; the stressed vowel sounds are identical and the following consonant sounds are both the same. The following poem exhibit two pair of half-rhyme, or approximate rhyme:
Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on
Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear’d
Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone:
We can see that “heard” and “dear’d” are not identical sound; nor are “on” and “tone.” The initial consonants, and the vowel sound differ, but in each pair, the final consonant sound is identical. It is not irregular, incidentally, for a poet to combine perfect and imperfect rhymes. Sometimes the meaning calls for an effect best achieved by an imperfectly rhyming pair of sounds.
MASCULINE AND FEMININE RHYME
Masculine rhyme occur when the final syllables of the rhyming words are stressed. After the difference in the initial consonants, the words are identical in sound.
E.g: contort and purport
Feminine rhyme is the rhyming of stresses syllables followed by identical unstressed syllables.
E.g: treasure and pleasure.
The following excerpt from Matthew Arnold’s “The Scholar-Gipsy” illustrate these two types. The first, the masculine rhyme, “inquired”-“desired,” and the second, the feminine rhyme, “flowers”-“bowers.”
But once, years after, in the country lanes,
Two scholars, whom at college erst he knew,
Met him, and of his way of life inquired.
Whereat he answered that the Gipsy crew, masculine rhyme
His mates, had arts to rule as they desired
The workings of mens brains;
And leaning backwards in a pensive dream,
And fostering in thy lap a heap of flowers
Plucked in shy fields and distant wychwood bowers, feminine rhyme
And thine eyes resting on the moonlit stream:
Most poems written with end-rhyme. End-rhyme means that the rhyming sound are found at the ends of the lines, as in the above lines by Arnold. Meanwhile internal rhyme means that the rhyming words are found within the line, often a word in the middle of a line rhyming with the last word or sound in the line. The opening of Tennyson’s poem, “Blow, Bugle, Blow,” illustrate internal rhyme:
The splendour falls on castle walls
And snowy summits old in story:
The long light shakes across the lakes
And the wild cataract leaps in glory.
Through the example of “story” and “glory,” that using internal rhyme does not in any way prevent a poet from using end rhyme as well.
We label the first sound “a,” the next “b,” then “c,” “d,” etc to describe the pattern of rhyme in a poem or stanza. We use the same letter originally use to label the sound that reappears. The following poem from the lines of first Arnold excerpt would be labelled:
But once, years after, in the country lanes, a
Two scholars, whom at college erst he knew, b
Met him, and of his way of life inquired. c
Whereat he answered that the Gipsy crew, b
His mates, had arts to rule as they desired c
The workings of mens brains; a
We would then name the entire stanza in this way, and summarize the rhyme of the stanza by saying that the pattern of rhyme is abcbca, etc. This is known as the stanza’s rhyme-scheme. Simply, we can say the rhyme-scheme is the pattern of rhyme.
Initial-rhyme, usually referred to as alliteration. Here the same sound starts several words. Consider the following lines from Swinburn’s “Chorus from ‘Atlanta’ “:
For winter’s rains and ruins are over, repetition of the “r” sound
And all the season of snow and sins; repetition of the “s” sound
The day dividing lover and lover, repetition of both the “d” and the “l” sound
The light that loses, the night that wins. repetition of the “l” sound
Alliteration is the repetition of the same sound at frequent intervals. Another example is from the first and second line of first stanza in The Ancient Mariner poem.
The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew,
The furrow followed free.
The repeated ‘b’s and ‘f’s here make the lines run quickly and give the impression of a ship travelling at high speed.
ASSONANCE AND CONSONANCE
Assonance is the use of identical vowel sounds surrounded by different kinds of consonant sound in words in close proximity each other.
E.g: “bird” and “thirst”
The ‘er’ sound is identical in both words while at the same time enclosed by different consonant sounds.
Consonance is the reverse of assonance. Thus in consonance, consonant sounds are the same but there are different vowel sounds. For example, the words “wood” and “weed” have identical consonant sounds but different vowel sounds and thus they are consonant.
Onomatopoeia is the technique of using a word whose sound suggest its meaning. Onomatopoeia occurs in words which imitate sounds and thus suggest the object described. Words like cuckoo, crackle, hum, buzz, swish, crash, jangle, etc are often cite as example, but some onomatopoeia is less obvious for example ‘shiver’ or ‘quake’. The following are some example of onomatopeia in a poem.
Gr-r-r—there go, my heart’s abhorrence! (from the first line of Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister poem by Robert Browning)
Ding-dong, bell. (from the ninth line of Full Fathom Five poem by William Shakespeare)
Stanzas are the major divisions made in a poem in a regular or consistent way. In shor, a stanza is a group of lines and therefore a recognizable unit in a poem, ordinarily, each stanza follows a particular rhyme scheme. Some of the more common stanzas are couplet, triplet, quatrain, sestet, rhyme royal, octave, sonnet, spenserian stanza, and ottava rima.
A couplet is a stanza composed of only two lines which usually rhyme. In other words, a couplet is one line couplet to another. An heroic couplet, is a stanza composed of two rhyming lines of iambic pentameter; in the following lines, Dryden describes a contemporary by using two heroic couplets:
A man so varioues, that he seem’d to be
Not one, but all mankind’s epitome:
Stiff in opinions, always in the wrong;
Was everything by stars, and nothing long.
- TRIPLET (OR TERCET)
A triplet is a stanza composed of three lines, usually with one repeated rhyme, or a rhyme scheme of aaa. The following triplet is by Herrick:
Whenas in silks my Julia goes
Then, then (methinks) how sweetly flows
That liquefaction of her clothes.
A quatrain is a stanza composed of four lines, either rhyming or not rhyming. As with the heroic couplet, the quatrain is written in alternating rhymes of iambic pentameter. In heneral, a qutrain is any four-line stanza, as the following one by Marvell:
My love is of a birth as rare
As ‘tis for object strange and high:
It was begotten by despair
A sestet is a stanza composed of si lines. A sestet is usually the second part of a sonnet. As all sonnets have foutrteen lines, they are often divided into an octave and a sestet. The most common rhyme-sheme of a sestet is abcabc, an example of a sestet can be seen in the last lines of Milton’s sonnet, “When I Consider How My Light Is Spent”:
That murmur, soon replies, God doth not need a
Either man’s work or his own gifts, who best b
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best; his state c
Is kingly. Thousand at his bidding speed a
And post o’er land and ocean without rest: b
They also serve who only stand and wait c
- RHYME ROYAL
A rhyme royal is a stanza composed of seven lines written in iambic pentameter and rhyming ababbcc, the following is the eample of rhyme royal stanza:
In May that moder is of monthes glade,
That fresshe flowers blewe and white and rede
Beeb quike again, that winter ded made,
And full of baume is fleting every mede,
Whan Phebusb dooth his brighte bemas sprede
Right in the White Bole, it so bitidde,
As I shal singe, on Mayes day the thridde.
An octave is a stanza composed of eight lines; an octave is the name given to the first eight lines of a sonnet, the last six being a sestet.
The sonnet is a fourteen-line poem written in iambic pentameter. The Italian (Petrarchan) sonnet is divided into an octave and a sestet; the octave rhymes abba, abba; the sestet, cde, cde, or variations thereof. The English (Shakespearian) sonnet is usually written in three quatrians and a couplet. The sonnet form is an excellent example of the close interrelationship of form and content.
- SPENSERIAN STANZA :
A Spenserian stanza is stanza composed of nine lines, the first eight of which are written in iambic pentameter while the last or ninth line is written in iambic hexameter. The final line, in other words, has one extra foot. Although originally used only by Spenser (in his Fearie Queence), the Spenserian stanza has found wide usage by other poets, notably Burns, and Keats. The following Spenserian stanza is from Shellev’s The Revolt of Islam:
I could not choose but gaze; a fascination
Dwelt in that moon, and sky, and clouds, which drew
My fancy thither, and expectation
Of what I know not, I remained: —the hue
Of the white moon, amid that heaven so blue,
Suddenly stained whit shadow did appear;
A speck, a cloud, a shape, approaching grew,
Like a great ship in the sun’s sinking sphere
Beheld afar at sea, and swift it came anear.
- OTTAVA RIMA
Ottava rima is stanza composed of eight lines rhyming abababcc and written in iambic pentameter. Like spensrian stanza, the ottava rima is a particular, specialize stanzaic form.
- g. : But words are things, and small drop of ink
Falling like dew, apon a thought, produces
That which make thousand, perhaps million, think;
Tis strange, the shortest letter which man uses
instead of speech. May form a lasting link
Of ages; to what straits old Time reduces
Frail man, when paper-even a rag like this,
Survives himself, his tomb, and all that’s his!