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Tinker

II. Two Line Construction

2 posts in this topic

Explore the Craft of Writing Poetry

The Frame 

Two Line Construction
Couplet and distich are two line units of poetry. The term couplet infers the two lines are written adjacent to other stanzas but it can be a stand alone poem. Distich technically is a stand-alone poem of two lines, a term that is a rarely used.

Much of Arabic poetry is built around a two line poetic unit which is termed the sher. Asian poetry also employs the two line unit in syllabic or quantitative verse.

The Couplet If the word is the cornerstone and the line is the foundation, the couplet is the frame of Western poetry. The couplet is two lines, grouped together as a thought or sense unit. The structure is often distinguished by meter, rhyme and or syntax. The two line unit is conducive to exhibiting balance, close contrast or parallels. The tightness of the lines and closeness of the rhyme make the couplet a natural host for formal conclusion, summation or an epigram.

Since the 12th century the couplet has been one of the principal units of European verse either as an independent poem or an element of the stanza. Quatrains, sestets, octaves naturally employ some variation of the couplet. When couplets form their own stanza the white of the page surrounding the couplet gives importance or emphasis to the thought in two lines.

The more popular Western couplets are varied:

  • An Alexandrine couplet is a unit of two, rhymed Alexandrine lines. Sources indicate the couplet may be best represented in Alexandre le Grand by French dramatist and poet, Jean Racine, 1665 but I was unsuccessful in finding an English translation to provide here.

    My yesterday a dream, tomorrow God allow;
    today I grasp what may, not then or when but now. ---judi van gorder

  • A Closed couplet
     
  • A Complete Couplet
     
  • A couplet envelope is a sixain made up of 3 rhyming couplets the first and last of which "envelope" the second couplet, rhyme scheme aabbaa. I think a more logical term for this frame would be an envelope sestet or envelop sixain.
     
  • The Didactic couplet is verse meant to instruct in a metered, rhymed distich. Most often the couplet is written in iambic dimeter, rhymed aa. There are various subgenres of Didactic Verse, not all use the Didactic couplet.

    In love we yearn,
    in lust we burn. ---jvg

  • A Fourteener couplet is made up of two Fourteener lines. The line is written in 2 parts separated by caesura. It is patterned in iambic heptameter and grew to popularity in 16th century English poetry. Most often the caesura occurs sometime after the 3rd metric foot.
    When written as a couplet, Fourteener lines. are usually rhymed and take on the effect of a Common Measure quatrain with rhyme scheme abxb.

    The silver Moon with all her vales, and Hills of mightiest fame,
    Do they betray us when they're see? And are they but a name?
                                                         William Wordsworth, Star Gazer

  • A Heroic couplet
     
  • The Hudibrastic Couplet
     
  • The Nasher couplet
     
  • An octosyllabic couplet or short couplet
     
  • An open couplet
     
  • The Primer couplet is a subgenre of the Didactic couplet, instructional verse. It is a specific form, rhyming aa. Usually, primer couplets are rhymed aphorisms.

    Obadiah
    Jumped in the fire,
    Fire was hot,
    He jumped in the pot,
    The pot was so little
    He jumped in the kettle,
    The kettle was so black
    He jumped in the crack.....

  • The Rhopalic Couplet is a poetic unit of 2 rhopalic lines, each word progresses adding 1 more syllable than the preceeding word in the line. The lines can either be parallel or the order can be reversed in the second line. The lines need not be rhymed.

    x xx xxx xxxx
    x xx xxx xxxx 
       or
    x xx xxx xxxx
    xxxx xxx xx x

  • A short couplet is the same as an octosyllabic couplet. See octosyllabic couplet
     
  • A split couplet is a unit of two, uneven lines. L1 is iambic pentameter and L2 is iambic dimeter. The lines can be rhymed or unrhymed.

    With their triumphs and their glories and the rest,
    Love is best.
                         Browning's Love Among the Ruins

  • The uneven couplet is paired lines of different length at the discretion of the poet, rhymed or unrhymed, metered or unmetered.

    broken branches
    bowed ----jvg

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