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Tinker

Spenserian Stanza

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Explore the Craft of Writing Poetry
English Verse

The Spenserian Stanza was created by Sir Edmund Spenser, 16th century English poet, for his Faerie Queene. The stanza has the feel of a scrunched, combination, Italian and Shakespearean mini-sonnet. Frances Mayes suggests the stanza makes an effective visual and rhythmic break in a long poem.

The elements of the Spenserian Stanza are:

  1. a narrative. It tells a story centered around a single theme, often in a time frame that includes a beginning, middle and end. It is usually written in the 3rd person.
  2. stanzaic, written in any number of 9 line stanzas.
  3. metered, most often iambic. L1-L8 are usually pentameter and L9 is always an Alexandrine line a hexameter (6 feet) with a caesura division creating 2 commonly, equal hemistiches (half lines). According to the New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, the Alexandrine line with it's even number of stresses brings a balance or harmony to the end of the stanza.
  4. rhymed. There is a fluid interlocking rhyme scheme a b a b b c b c c that moves the stanza forward while a rhyming couplet brings the stanza to conclusion.

    The opening stanza from the Faerie Queen, Canto I by Edmund Spencer 1596
    1.
    A Gentle Knight was pricking on the plaine,
    Y cladd in mightie armes and silver shielde,
    Wherein old dints of deepe wounds did remaine,
    The cruell markes of many' a bloudy fielde;
    Yet armes till that time did he never wield:
    His angry steede did chide his foaming bitt,
    As much disdayning to the curbe to yield:
    Full iolly knight he seemd, and faire did sitt,
    As one for knightly giusts and fierce encounters fitt.

Puddles by Judi Van Gorder

The Tudor house is from another time,
well kept, esteemed and sporting fresh white paint,                               
inside the hall occurs a heinous crime,
without alert and hardly a complaint.
The priceless Persian rug was elegant,
the rich design the pride of the estate;
a gift arrived, a pup without restraint
whose wiggle made old hearts rejuvenate,
too late, the damage sure, she squats to urinate.
A Murder of Crows by Geoffrey Le Voguer

With scant cognition of the corpse's stench:
Black heads together, they begin to mutter
Like magistrates that sit upon the Bench.
Whilst those beneath them mitigate and stutter
Over a fortuitously come by supper.
Who'll get the soft parts, who will get the rind.
And judgement passed: incongruously flutter
About their bloody feast; paying no mind
To what the creature was, only what's left behind.

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