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Explore the Craft of Writing Poetry The Frame Four Line Construction A poetic unit of four lines is termed a quatrain or a tetrastich. Quatrain infers the unit is written adjacent to other stanzas but like the couplet, it can be a stand-alone poem. The term tetrastich infers a stand-alone poem of four lines but the term is rarely used. Sir, I admit your general rule, That every poet is a fool, But you yourself may serve to show it, That every fool is not a poet. --Samuel Taylor Coleridge Quatrain is a French word referring to a four-line stanzaic unit, arranged in any variation. In its multiple variations, it is the most prevalent unit of English Verse and probably of all the world. The Vedic forms, as well as Sanskrit, Chinese and Korean forms are predominantly written in 4 line units. If I were to include all of the four line stanzaic forms on this page I would probably have to list over half of the forms I found in my research. Therefore I included only a few of the more common and post the rest under the forums for their national or regional origin. In English, the quatrain is often written in iambic tetrameter but most often the meter of the quatrain is dependent on the verse form and poet's preference. Alternating rhyme quatrain is a 4 line unit with alternating abab rhyme which changes from stanza to stanza. (abab cdcd efef etc.) Line length and meter is at the discretion of the poet. When written in iambic pentameter it is called the Sicilian quatrain. (Note: an octave made up of 2 alternating rhymed quatrains would have a rhyme scheme of ababcdcd vs an octave with alternating rhyme abababab) Line length and meter at the discretion of the poet. To a Waterfowl by William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878) Whither, midst falling dew, While glow the heavens with the last steps of day Far, through their rosy depths, dost thou pursue Thy solitary way? Vainly the fowler's eye Might mark thy distant flight to do thee wrong As, darkly seen against the crimson sky, Thy figure floats along. Seek'st thou the plashy brink Of weedy lake, or marge of river wide, Or where the rocking billows rise and sing On the chafed ocean side? There is a Power whose care Teaches thy way along that pathless coast– The desert and illimitable air– Lone wandering, but not lost. All day thy wings have fanned, At that far height, the cold, thin atmosphere, Yet stoop not, weary, to the welcome land, Though the dark night is near. And soon that toil shall end; Soon shalt thou find a summer home, and rest, And scream among thy fellows; reeds shall bend, Soon, o'er thy sheltered nest. Thou'rt gone, the abyss of heaven Hath swallowed up thy form; yet, on my heart Deeply has sunk the lesson thou hast given, And shall not soon depart. He who, from zone to zone, Guides through the boundless sky thy certain flight, In the long way that I must tread alone, Will lead my steps aright. Envelope Quatrain is a rhymed 4 line unit, "the envelope" refers to the rhyme scheme abba. The bb is enveloped by the aa. An envelope can also be axxa with x being unrhymed. Line length and meter at the discretion of the poet. Goodnight, Mac Adoo by Judi Van Gorder The noisy bird has tucked her head and mutely gone to sleep, she slowly switches feet upon her perch, her aviary bed. Epigram quatrain from the Greek epigraphein, meaning "to write on, inscribe" that was originally inscriptions on stone. The epigram developed into a 4 line unit of narrative verse which is a brief clever often satirical saying. Rhyme and meter are optional. Two quatrains can be written for an epigram but it is rare to exceed that number. Oscar Wilde by Dorothy Parker (1893- 1967) If, with the literate, I am Impelled to try an epigram, I never seek to take the credit, We all assume that Oscar said it. Epitaph quatrain epitaphion "a funeral oration" is a 4 line unit in narrative verse, originally to be inscribed on a tombstone. It should be a moving expression of grief, it can be light or even cynical. Rhyme and meter optional. Found at Epitaphs: Choosing Tombstones Beneath this simple stone That marks his resting place Our precious darling sleeps alone In the Lord's long embrace. Heroic stanza is a quatrain made up of two heroic couplets. Lines written in iambic pentameter, rhyme scheme aabb. Dough by Tõnis Veenpere This is what she told me that we need: the winter foods, the wood for heating, seed. But I have something else in mind instead. I'll harvest stars, we'll bake them into bread. In Memoriam Stanza Dipodic Quatrain Variant rhymed quatrain is a 4 line unit that carries random rhyme. Each quatrain has rhyme but without a set pattern such as aaxa, xaaa, axaa, or xaxa with x being unrhymed. Line length and meter at the discretion of the poet. ,
Explore the Craft of Writing African Verse Insult Poetry is a genre of verse, the purpose of which is to deliver good humored insults. To write good insult poetry the images must be specific, clever and personal. The object of the poem is a real person or place or event and the insults should be specific, occasionally revealing small truths in an exaggerated or funny manner. The poem is best begun with an introductory phrase which should have a chant like quality enhanced by repetition. Otherwise the frame or structure of the verse is at the discretion of the poet. The earliest recorded Insult Poem was found in Africa though Insult Poetry can be found in many cultures. It is suggested in the Handbook of Poetic Forms by Ron Padgett that the African-American custom, "playing the dozens" in which mostly young African-American men engage in exchanging witty insults until one of them cannot come up with one anymore…. "Yo mamma's so ugly . . . …" is a hand-me-down from African slave ancestors and is a form of Insult Poetry. The oldest recorded African Insult Poem, the author is unknown. You really resemble ----------An old man who has no teeth ----------And who wants to eat elephant hide, ----------Or a woman without a backside ----------Who sits down on a hard wooden stool. ----------You also resemble a stupid dolt ----------Who while hunting lets an antelope pass by ----------And who knows that his father is sick at home. Cologne (1809) by Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) In Koln, a town of monks and bones, ----------And pavements fanged with murderous stones, ----------And rags, and hags, and hideous wenches; ----------I counted two-and-seventy stenches, ----------All well defined, and separate stinks! ----------Ye nymphs that reign o'er sewers and sinks, ----------The river Rhine, it is well known, ----------Doth wash your city of Cologne; ----------But tell me, nymphs, ----------What power divine ----------Shall henceforth wash the river Rhine? African Poetic Genres and Forms Insult Poetry Mawaddes Muyaka Praise Poem Qe'ne Shairi Takhmis Utendi
Tinker posted a topic in The FrameExplore the Craft of Writing Poetry The Frame II. Couplet Construction Interchangeable couplets when the right conditions occur. The repetition of content herein is deliberate for clarity of division. A Closed Couplet is any Complete Couplet in which meter and syntax are sealed at the end. The frame is end-stopped. When the lines are written in iambic pentameter and linked by rhyme it is also a Heroic Couplet. Know then thyself, presume not God to scan, The proper study of Mankind is Man. --- Pope's Essay on Man (note: this is also a Complete Couplet because it expresses a complete thought and a Heroic Couplet because it is written in iambic pentameter and is rhymed.) Lifeless in appearance, sluggish dazed Spring approaches - - - ---William Carlos Williams Spring and All? (note: This is a Closed Couplet because it is end-stopped and a Complete Couplet because it is a complete thought, but because of the lack of rhyme and the prescribed meter it is not a Heroic Couplet. ) The Complete Couplet is a poetic unit of 2 lines that express a complete thought within itself. Meter and rhyme are at the poet's discretion. It need not be end-stopped to be complete. What is an epigram: a dwarfish whole, Its body brevity, and wit it soul. --Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 1772-1834 (note: Because the meter and syntax are end-stopped this is also a closed couplet. Because this example is written in iambic pentameter and linked with rhyme the couplet is also a Heroic Couplet.) Like my daughter I play shy ---A.K. Ramanujan Extended Family (note: Because of the lack of rhyme and meter this is not a Heroic couplet and because of the lack of end stop it is not a Closed Couplet. The syntax makes it complete within itself and the spacing around the couplet sets it apart. A Closed Couplet must be complete but a Complete Couplet need not be closed.) The Heroic Couplet is a complete poetic thought unit of 2 iambic pentameter lines linked by rhyme. It is also a complete couplet and a closed couplet but it is the meter and linking rhyme that sets it apart as a "heroic couplet". Shakespeare popularized the declamatory Heroic Couplet. "But if thou live remembered not to be, Die single and thine image dies with thee." --- William Shakespeare, Sonnet 2 (note: a complete couplet and a closed couplet are only heroic couplets when they are written in iambic pentameter and are linked by rhyme.)