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An Analysis of Poetic Forms With Examples

written by: Trent Lorcher • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 11/29/2013

An analysis of poetic forms gives insight to a poem's meaning. These examples of form in poetry with an analysis of poetry form will make you the poetry expert at your next literary gathering. Find couplet examples, terza rima examples, quatrain examples, cinquain examples and many more.

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    Examples of Poetry Form: No Fixed-Line Length

    An analysis of poetic forms and form in poetry begins with the most famous.Poetic Forms 

    Blank Verse consists of unrhymed iambic pentameter--a stanza that contains lines, 10 syllables in length, with a pattern of unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllables.

    Example: You blocks! You stones! You worse than senseless things! (Julius Caesar, Act I, Scene i)

    Analysis: Shakespeare's plays are written almost entirely in iambic pentameter. This scene from Julius Caesar stands out, insomuch that Flavius and Marullus, the two Roman noblemen speak in iambic pentameter. The common folk speak in prose, or common writing. Other examples include sonnets, fourteen line poems written in iambic pentameter with a specific rhyme scheme (unlike blank verse).

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    Examples of Poetry Form: Couplets and Three-line Stanzas

    Understanding these common poetic forms and forms in poetry will make you look really smart.

    Couplets: There are very few poems that consist of only a couplet; couplet examples, however, abound. Many poems use couplets as their base form.

    Couplet Examples: "The Tyger" by William Blake; Shakespearean Sonnets contain couplet examples.

    Analysis: In Blake's "The Tyger," the successive couplet examples produce a sing-song rhythm, similar to nursery rhymes. Shakespeare finishes his sonnets with a couplet, providing a solution to the problem posed in the first 12 lines.

    Terza Rima: Some poems with three-line stanzas contain a simple rhyme scheme--a a a, b b b, c c c--Lord Alfred Tennyson's "The Eagle," for example. Terza Rima rhymes as follows: a b a, b c b, c d c.

    Terza Rima Example: "Acquainted with the Night" by Robert Frost is one of the more famous terza rima examples.

    Analysis: The rhyming of the second line of the preceding stanza with lines one and three of the next stanza forms continuity and establishes momentum. Frost's poem describes a continuing experience, being alone at night, and the poem's form matches its theme. In this example, the momentum builds until its ending couplet wraps everything up, much in the same way a Shakesperean Sonnet does.

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    Examples of Poetry Form: Four and Five-line Stanzas

    Understanding these common poetic forms and forms in poetry will make you look really smart.

    Quatrain: A quatrain is a four-line stanza. Common rhyme schemes are a b a b, x a x a, and a b b a.

    Quatrain Examples: "She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways" by William Wordsworth, "In Memoriam" by Lord Alfred Tennyson, and "She sweeps with many-coloured brooms" by Emily Dickinson contain famous quatrain examples.

    Analysis: Wordsworth's "She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways" uses ballad stanzas, the most popular quatrain containing an a b a b rhyme scheme with alternating lines of iambic tetrameter. Ballads are usually reserved for folk heroes and legends, a form chosen by Wordsworth to memorialize the mysterious Lucy.

    Cinquain: A cinquain is a five-line stanza. No standard form stands out. Most cinquain examples take a quatrain and add a rhyming line.

    Cinquain Examples: "To Helen" by Edgar Allan Poe, and "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost are two famous cinquain examples.

    Analysis: Poe celebrates the beauty of Helen of Troy. Each cinquain in the poem uses a different rhyme scheme, reflecting the various opinions held of her.

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    Examples of Poetry Form: Six and Seven-line Stanzas

    Understanding these common poetic forms and forms in poetry will make you look really smart.

    Six-line Stanzas: Six-line stanzas usually contain simple rhyme schemes--a b a b c c, for example. The Scottish stanza, popularized by Robert Burns, is a six-line stanza with an a a a b a b rhyme scheme

    Examples: "To a Mouse" by Robert Burns, "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" by William Wordsworth, "The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe

    Analysis: Burns most famous poem owes much of its fame to John Steinbeck, who alludes to it in Of Mice and Men. Note the b rhyming lines are shorter than the a's providing emphasis. I'll let you decide why Burns chooses to emphasize the 4th and 6th line of each stanza.

    Rhyme Royal: The most common form of seven-line stanzas, rhyme royal is believed to have first been used by Geoffrey Chaucer in The Canterbury Tales. The term rhyme royal most likely comes from the poet king of Scotland who used rhyme royal extensively. It is usually written in iambic pentameter and has a rhyme scheme of a b a b b c c.

    Rhyme Royal Example: "The Shield of Achiiles" by W.H. Auden

    Analysis: What better way to acknowledge the greatest of Greek warriors with a stanza named after royalty. The poem, instead of celebrating the greatness of Achilles, laments the ugliness of war. Note the difference in stanzas that describe war as it is with the stanzas that tell war how it appears in classical literature.

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    Examples of Poetry Form: Eight and Nine-line Stanzas

    Understanding these common poetic forms and forms in poetry will make you look really smart.

    Ottava Rima: The most popular eight-line stanza is ottava rima, it consists of eight lines of iambic pentameter with a rhyme scheme of a b a b a b c c.

    Ottava Rima Examples: "Don Juan" by Lord Byron, "The Statues" by William Butler Yeats

    Analysis: Lord Byron uses ottava rima's rhyme scheme for a build up in lines 1-6 and a humorous counter in the ending couplet.

    Spenserian Stanza: This nine line stanza with a rhyme scheme of a b a b b c b c c was created for Edmund Spenser's Faerie Queen and was a favorite of the romantic poets. It consists of eight lines of iambic pentameter with a ninth line Alexandrine (iambic pentameter + 1 additional iamb).

    Examples: The Faerie Queen by Edmund Spenser, "The Eve of St. Agnes" by John Keats, "Adonais" by Percy Shelley

    Analysis: The structure and rhyme scheme of the Spenserian Stanza calls for a build up in lines 1-4, a pivot in line five, and a pause in line nine for emphasis.

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    Further Reading

    For an analysis of poems with metaphors, similes, personification, imagery, and other figures of speech, check out this Bright Hub Education lesson plan.