Evolution of Poetry II – Forms of Poetry

series 3final

This is the second article to the three series discussing the rubrics of the world of poetry. In the preceding article, we had mentioned the evolution of this oldest yet developing genre of literature. (Click here to read the previous article.) This article shall highlight various forms of the same.

Various forms of verse are accredited to various cultures. While some cultures relish rhyming scheme, some enjoy a more formalized structure of ghazals. From the old Japanese style of hokku and Tanka, to the more modern free verse, poetry has always been a pilot. Among the most common and famous forms of poetry is the Sonnet. Early sonneteers were Italian and the form had become formal mode of poetic expression by the thirteenth century. Giacomo Da Lentini, an Italian poet of that century propounded a style that strictly contained fourteen lines and a strict rhyme scheme and structure, later known to be called sonnet. Sonnet includes two components- the argument or the problem called octave and the resolution part called sestet. It is the ninth line that marks a shift in the mood and tone, moving from problem to resolution. abba abba rhyming pattern for the octave and cde cde or cdc cdc for the sestet became the standard pattern for the Italian sonnets. Later, sonnets came to be distinguished on the basis of poets, so we have Petrarchan sonnets, Shakespearean sonnets, Spenserian sonnets. General practice has English sonnets (on the basis of Shakespearean sonnets) and Italian sonnets (on the basis of Petrarch). John Milton chooses Italian rhyming scheme for On His Blindness

When I consider how my light is spent (a)
Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide, (b)
And that one talent which is death to hide, (b)
Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent (a)
To serve therewith my Maker, and present (a)
My true account, lest he returning chide; (b)
“Doth God exact day-labor, light denied?” (b)
I fondly ask; but Patience to prevent (a)
That murmur, soon replies, “God doth not need (c)
Either man’s work or his own gifts; who best (d)
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state (e)
Is Kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed (c)
And post o’er land and ocean without rest; (d)
They also serve who only stand and wait.” (e)

So sonnets is a very renowned poetic form involving great amount of variety in its rhymes- typically using iambic pentameter- but clinging on to a strict adherence to its structure. Odes are another famous form of poetry that was first developed by the ancient writers like Pindar and Horace and it appears in almost all the cultures. It is an elaborate verse dedicated to an event, person or a thing and in the process of unfolding, paints its features and marks its attribute(s). Pindaric ode, Horatian ode and irregular ode are the major types that odes are generally categorized in. Strophe is the first part/stanza of an ode followed by its response in the antistrophe and this thesis and anti-thesis resolve and unite in the closing lines called epode. But odes have developed and observe a varied structure. Even in Arabic culture, odes have a long history of existence by the name qasida (translated as ode).

Another beautiful form of poetry is Ghazal. Highly musical and divine, this form of poetry generally muses and celebrates love (both divine and human) that is generally unattainable or metaphysical. It is perhaps the most famous form in Arabic, Urdu and Persian etc. Rumi and Hafez are the most venerated ghazal writers. Ghazal’s structure is particular- each line needs to have an identical meter and the second line ends with a refrain^.

In the other parts of the world, poetry has different forms with independent attributes. In the Classical Chinese poetry, Shi is the most important styled verse where rhyming is important.  In Japanese poetry- called wakaTanka and Haiku are major forms of formal verse. Both are unrhymed poems. Tanka is a short poem exploring personal themes and is still widely written. Haiku is a peculiar poem written in a single long line containing three sections or divisions. Lastly, another form of the nineteenth century poems in English poetry is the Villanelle. It’s a 19 line long poem of five three- line groups and an ending para. Refrain at the end of the triplets is optional but common. Having an a-b alternating rhyme scheme, villanelle was a very commonly used form of poetry by W. H. Auden and Dylan Thomas.


Aditi Bhola

Team StoryMirror


(To read the next article of the same series, click here.)




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