Jump to content
Poetry Magnum Opus

Didactic Verse


Recommended Posts

Explore the Craft of Writing
Greek Verse

Didactic Verse (from Greek didaktikos which implies both teaching and learning) is a genre of poetry with the clear intention to instruct and from which it is assumed the reader will learn. This genre has been around since before the invention of the alphabets. Moralistic, theological, political and societal concerns have been addressed in didactic verse framed by as many verse forms as subjects addressed. One of the more popular frames is the Didactic Couplet.

If it is True, What the Prophets Write by William Blake (1757-1827)

If it is true, what the Prophets write,
That the heathen gods are all stocks and stones,
Shall we, for the sake of being polite,
Feed them with the juice of our marrow-bones?

And if Bezaleel and Aholiab drew
What the finger of God pointed to their view,
Shall we suffer the Roman and Grecian rods
To compel us to worship them as gods?

They stole them from the temple of the Lord
And worshipp'd them that they might make inspirèd art abhorred;
The wood and stone were call'd the holy things,
And their sublime intent given to their kings.

ll the atonements of Jehovah spurned,
And criminals to sacrifices turn'd.

A few subgenres of didactic verse are:

  • Ensenhamen is an Occitan, didactic, often lyrical verse of the 12 century primarily the property of the troubadours. Although no structure seems consistent, the verse covered subjects from proper table manners, to the comportment of a lady, and even to sexual ethics.
  • The Epistle (Latin epistola meaning letter), is a genre of didactic verse which is a poem of voice and character. The frame of the verse is at the discretion of the poet. The poem as a letter, can be addressed to a real or imaginary person or group of persons and the character writing the letter can be real or imaginary. The tone can be formal or be very personal and the poem itself can be several pages or a short note..
    Robert Burns and Alexander Pope often used this genre. Many Epistles are found in the New Testament of the Bible. Here is the opening of the Letter of James:

    1:1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are in the Dispersion:
    1:2 Count it all joy, my brothers when
    you fall into various temptations,
    1:3 knowing that the testing of your faith
    produces endurance. 1:4 Let endurance
    have its perfect work, that you may be perfect
    and complete, lacking in nothing.
    1:5 But if any of you lacks wisdom,
    let him ask of God, who gives to all
    liberally and without reproach;
    and it will be given to him.
    1:6 But let him ask in faith,
    without any doubting,
    for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea,
    driven by the wind and tossed.
    1:7 For let that man not think
    that he will receive anything from the Lord.
    1:8 He is a double-minded man,
    unstable in all his ways.

  • Georgic Verse is "how to" poetry, originally concerning animal husbandry and other farm work. More modern georgic verse provides instructions in the arts and sciences, these teachings are usually in the form of rhymed verse. The Primer Couplet and Skeltonic Verse fall under this subgenre.
    Virgil's Georgics II (29 B.C.)

    Thus far the tilth of fields and stars of heaven;
    Now will I sing thee, Bacchus, and, with thee,
    The forest's young plantations and the fruit
    Of slow-maturing olive. Hither haste,
    O Father of the wine-press; all things here
    Teem with the bounties of thy hand; for thee
    With viny autumn laden blooms the field,
    And foams the vintage high with brimming vats;
    Hither, O Father of the wine-press, come,
    And stripped of buskin stain thy bared limbs
    In the new must with me.First, nature's law

    For generating trees is manifold;
    For some of their own force spontaneous spring,
    No hand of man compelling, and possess
    The plains and river-windings far and wide
    As pliant osier and the bending broom,
    Poplar, and willows in wan companies
    With green leaf glimmering gray; and some there be
    From chance-dropped seed that rear them, as the tall
    Chestnuts, and, mightiest of the branching wood,
    Jove's Aesculus, and oaks, oracular
    Deemed by the Greeks of old. With some sprouts forth
    A forest of dense suckers from the root,
    As elms and cherries; so, too, a pigmy plant,
    Beneath its mother's mighty shade upshoots
    The bay-tree of Parnassus. Such the modes
    Nature imparted first; hence all the race
    Of forest-trees and shrubs and sacred groves
    Springs into verdure.


    Other means there are,

    Which use by method for itself acquired.
    One, sliving suckers from the tender frame
    Of the tree-mother, plants them in the trench;
    One buries the bare stumps within his field,
    Truncheons cleft four-wise, or sharp-pointed stakes;
    Some forest-trees the layer's bent arch await,
    And slips yet quick within the parent-soil;
    No root need others, nor doth the pruner's hand
    Shrink to restore the topmost shoot to earth
    That gave it being. Nay, marvellous to tell,
    Lopped of its limbs, the olive, a mere stock,
    Still thrusts its root out from the sapless wood,
    And oft the branches of one kind we see
    Change to another's with no loss to rue,
    Pear-tree transformed the ingrafted apple yield,
    And stony cornels on the plum-tree blush.
    Come then, and learn what tilth to each belongs
    According to their kinds, ye husbandmen,
    And tame with culture the wild fruits, lest earth
    Lie idle. O blithe to make all Ismarus
    One forest of the wine-god, and to clothe
    With olives huge Tabernus! And be thou
    At hand, and with me ply the voyage of toil
    I am bound on, O my glory, O thou that art
    Justly the chiefest portion of my fame,
    Maecenas, and on this wide ocean launched
    Spread sail like wings to waft thee. Not that I
    With my poor verse would comprehend the whole,
    Nay, though a hundred tongues, a hundred mouths
    Were mine, a voice of iron; be thou at hand,
    Skirt but the nearer coast-line; see the shore
    Is in our grasp; not now with feigned song
    Through winding bouts and tedious preludings
    Shall I detain thee.

    For example of a more modern day Georgic verse, John Hollander wrote Rhymes Reason in which he describes various verse forms in verse.

    The ballad stanza's four short lines
    --- Are very often heard;
    The second and the fourth lines rhyme
    --- But not the first and third.

  • The Riddle is a very popular folk verse form that made its way to respected literature because of its general appeal. It is short lyrical verse that takes the form of a question with the answer in the hints within the body of the poem. It includes metaphor, word play and paradox. Literary Riddles are often longer poems.

    It was fascinating when researching to find that not only were versified riddles popular in 12th century, Old English, but the ancient Norse Edda Measures included riddles as well as there are poetic riddles in Arabic, Japanese and Viet Namese showing a vast diversity of cultures enjoying the same poetic genre.

    An Old English Riddle by Anonymous

    "I never was, am always to be,
    No one ever saw me, nor ever will
    And yet I am the confidence of all
    To live and breathe on this terrestrial ball."
    (The answer: I am tomorrow)

  • Clue-Line is a modern day "riddle" using rhymed couplets and one dummy line to provide the clues to a key word. Found at Ars' Poetica, each line should provide some clue to the thematic keyword. The elements of the Clue-Line are:
    1. stanzaic, written in any number of rhymed couplets.
    2. metered at the discretion of the poet.
    3. composed with each line providing a clue to the "thematic keyword".
    4. composed with a dummy line in the last couplet that does not provide a clue.

~~ © ~~ Poems by Judi Van Gorder ~~

For permission to use this work you can write to Tinker1111@icloud.com

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Guidelines.