Literary Terms used in Literature

literary terms


A literary art form that uses verse, which is concerned with meter, sound, and rhythm. Poetry can be narrative which tells a story and lyric which expresses an idea and feelings. Poetry uses language such as imagery, figure of speech, and rhythm to compress meaning.

what is a stanza?

A stanza in poetry is a set of lines that are grouped together in a poem. Stanza is used by poets to influence a poem's structure, rhythm, shape, and organization.

Types of stanza


Monosotich is a line stanza in poetry. A monosotitch can stand alone in a poem. It can be used to break up the rhythm of the poem.


A couplet is a unit of two lines of poetry, that use the same meter, form lines, or are separated from other lines by a double line break. Shakespeare used all the couplets in his poetry, especially in his sonnet.

Heroic Couplet

A heroic couplet is a rhythmed couplet of iambic pentameter. The origin of the heroic couplet is unknown but Geoffery Chocer first time used a heroic Couplet in his poetry. The heroic couplet became the principal meter used in the drama about the mid-17th century. Heroic Couplet was perfected by John Dryden and Alexander Pope in the late 17th and early 18th century.


A stanza made of three lines is called terecet. In a tercet all three lines are rythemed or the first and third lines are rythemed. It is called the ABA pattern.


A Quatrain has four lines where the second and fourth lines are rythemed. A Quatrain is a line stanza it can stand alone as a poem of four lines or it can make part of a longer poem.


A Quintain consists of five lines. A common form of Quintain is the limerick, a goofy short poem. 


A sestet, sometimes also called sustain, is a stanza with a total of sex lines The sestet can often be found in the second half of an Italian sonnet which is made of two stanzas an ocatve and sestet. A sonnet has fourteen lines first 8 lines are called octaves and the second 6 lines are sestet.


A septet also called Ryme Royal, it has seven lines. Jeffory Chocer in Canterbury Tales used Septet. It is also called the Chasrian stanza. It is introduced by Jeffery Chocer. It is seve lines stanza ad its rythme sceme is ABABBCC.


A stanza consisting of 8 lines in imbiac pentametre is called Octave.It is found in the Italian Sonnet first part of 8 lines. It can also be found somewhere else.

Spenserian stanza

A Spenserian stanza is composed of nine lines, the first eight lines written in iambic pentameter and the last line as alexandrine. The rhyme scheme of the Spenserian stanza is ABABBCBCC. The middle six lines are linked through the three interlocking rhymes. Edmond Spenser popularized this form in the 16th century in his Epic poem The Faire Queen. The Spenserian stanza is used by many poets including Lord Byron and John Keats.


Alexandrian is a 12-line iambic line adopted by French Heroic verse. The last line of each stanza in Thomas Hardy's The Convergence of the Twain. and P.B. Shelly's To a Skylark is an Alexandria.

Metre Poetry and Free Verse

Many poems have metres but not all poems. Poetry can be divided into three parts.

Formal Verse

Poetry that has a strict meter and rhyme scheme is called Free verse.

Blank Verse

Poetry that has a strict meter but no rhyme scheme is called blank verse.

Free Verse

Poetry that has no meter or rhyme scheme is called free verse.

Blank Verse

Poetry that has that does not rhyme scheme but has a consistent meter, usually, Imbiac Pentametre is called Blank Verse. In Shakesper's plays high born characters speak in Blank verse or unrhymed Imbiac Pentameter. In Imbaic Pentametre each line has ten syllables untress and stress.

The most common feet found in meter poetry

Imbs Unstressed - Stressed
Trochees: Stressed - Unstressed
Spondees: Stressed - Stressed
Dactyls: Stressed- Unstressed - Unstressed
Anapests: Unstressed - Unstressed - Stressed

The most common no of feet found in poetry

Monometre (one feet)
Diameter (Two feet)
Trymeter (Three feet)
Tetrametere (Four feet)
Pentametre (Five feet)
Hexametre (Six feet)
Heptamete (Seven feet)
Octametere (Eight feet)



Mock Epic
Dramatic Monologue

Non Narrative

Ode Sonnet

Lyriclyric is a short poem written for singing.

Non-narrative poetry

Non-narrative poetry does not tell any story or describe the characters and their actions. It describes the speaker's state of mind and emotions.


An Elegy is typically a poem of lament that expresses the gloomy thoughts of a person who is no more.
It is commonly written in praise of the deceased and has an air of melancholiness around of various types such as personal, impersonal, and pastoral.

Pastoral Elgy

This poetic term was initiated by the Sicilia Greek poet, Theocritus, and was later carried on by the Roman Virgil. It belongs to the life of shepherd and roral life. It has the simplicity and serenity of rural areas.


Edmond Spenser The Shepherd Calendar 1579
Milton's Lycides 1637
Spencer's Astrphel
Shelley's Adonais 1821
Arnold's Thyrsis and Scholar Gypsy
Tyensonis In Momorium 1850


Sonet is a lyric poet of 14 Imbiac Pentameter lies, linked by an intricate rhyme scheme.


Italian / Petrachan
Shakespeare / English

Italian or Petarachen Sonet

Named for the Italian Renaissance poet Francesco Petrarch, Perrarchen's Sonnet consists of an eight-line octave with a rhyme scheme ABBA followed by a six-line sestet with a rhyme scheme CDE or CDC.

English or Shakespearean Sonnet

Named for William Shakespeare and it is different for Italian Sonnet. Shakesperean Sonnet pattern consists of three to four lines Quatrain and a concluding couplet with a rhyme scheme  ABAB CDCD EFEF GG.

Sepenserean Sonnet

Named for English poet Edmond Spenser contemporary of William Shakespeare, Spenserean Sonnet has variations from Shakespearean sonnet and has a more challenging rhyme scheme ABAB BCBC CDCD EE

Miltonic Sonnet

Named for the English poet John Milton. Miltonic Sonnet has the same rhyme scheme as Petarchan Sonnet. ABBAABBA CDECDE.

Curtal Sonnet

The Curtal Sonnet was invented by G.M. Hopkins. It has ten complete lines and a half line of Petrarhan Sonnet.

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