Stanza

Stanza

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Encyclopedia
In poetry, a stanza is a unit within a larger poem. In modern poetry, the term is often equivalent with strophe
Strophe
A strophe forms the first part of the ode in Ancient Greek tragedy, followed by the antistrophe and epode. In its original Greek setting, "strophe, antistrophe and epode were a kind of stanza framed only for the music," as John Milton wrote in the preface to Samson Agonistes, with the strophe...

; in popular vocal music, a stanza is typically referred to as a "verse" (distinct from the refrain
Refrain
A refrain is the line or lines that are repeated in music or in verse; the "chorus" of a song...

, or "chorus").

A stanza consists of a grouping of line
Line (poetry)
A line is a unit of language into which a poem or play is divided, which operates on principles which are distinct from and not necessarily coincident with grammatical structures, such as the sentence or clauses in sentences...

s, set off by a space, that usually has a set pattern of meter
Meter (poetry)
In poetry, metre is the basic rhythmic structure of a verse or lines in verse. Many traditional verse forms prescribe a specific verse metre, or a certain set of metres alternating in a particular order. The study of metres and forms of versification is known as prosody...

 and rhyme.

In traditional English-language
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 poems, stanzas can be identified and grouped together because they share a rhyme scheme
Rhyme scheme
A rhyme scheme is the pattern of rhyme between lines of a poem or song. It is usually referred to by using letters to indicate which lines rhyme. In other words, it is the pattern of end rhymes or lines...

 or a fixed number of lines (as in distich/couplet
Couplet
A couplet is a pair of lines of meter in poetry. It usually consists of two lines that rhyme and have the same meter.While traditionally couplets rhyme, not all do. A poem may use white space to mark out couplets if they do not rhyme. Couplets with a meter of iambic pentameter are called heroic...

, tercet
Tercet
A tercet is composed of three lines of poetry, forming a stanza or a complete poem. English-language haiku is an example of an unrhymed tercet poem...

, quatrain
Quatrain
A quatrain is a stanza, or a complete poem, consisting of four lines of verse. Existing in various forms, the quatrain appears in poems from the poetic traditions of various ancient civilizations including Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, and China; and, continues into the 21st century, where it is...

, cinquain/quintain
Cinquain
Cinquain is a class of poetic forms that employ a 5-line pattern. Earlier used to describe any five-line form, it now refers to one of several forms that are defined by specific rules and guidelines.-Crapsey cinquain:...

, sestet
Sestet
A sestet is the name given to the second division of an Italian sonnet , which must consist of an octave, of eight lines, succeeded by a sestet, of six lines. The first documented user of this poetical form was the Italian poet, Petrarch. In the usual course the rhymes are arranged abc abc, but...

). In much modern poetry, stanzas may be arbitrarily presented on the printed page because of publishing conventions that employ such features as white space or punctuation.

Stanza names


Stanzas can be given a specific name depending on their structure and rhyme pattern.

List of stanza names according to number of lines:
  • 2 lines = Couplet
    Couplet
    A couplet is a pair of lines of meter in poetry. It usually consists of two lines that rhyme and have the same meter.While traditionally couplets rhyme, not all do. A poem may use white space to mark out couplets if they do not rhyme. Couplets with a meter of iambic pentameter are called heroic...

  • 3 lines = Tercet
    Tercet
    A tercet is composed of three lines of poetry, forming a stanza or a complete poem. English-language haiku is an example of an unrhymed tercet poem...

  • 4 lines = Quatrain
    Quatrain
    A quatrain is a stanza, or a complete poem, consisting of four lines of verse. Existing in various forms, the quatrain appears in poems from the poetic traditions of various ancient civilizations including Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, and China; and, continues into the 21st century, where it is...

  • 5 lines = Cinquain
    Cinquain
    Cinquain is a class of poetic forms that employ a 5-line pattern. Earlier used to describe any five-line form, it now refers to one of several forms that are defined by specific rules and guidelines.-Crapsey cinquain:...

    , Quintain (poetry)
    Quintain (poetry)
    Quintain means any poetic form containing 5 lines such as tanka, cinquain, and limerick.- Example : All, all a-lonely: Three little children sitting on the sand, All, all a-lonely, Three little children sitting in the sand, All, all a-lonely...

  • 6 lines = Sestet
    Sestet
    A sestet is the name given to the second division of an Italian sonnet , which must consist of an octave, of eight lines, succeeded by a sestet, of six lines. The first documented user of this poetical form was the Italian poet, Petrarch. In the usual course the rhymes are arranged abc abc, but...

  • 7 lines = Septet
  • 8 lines = Octave
    Octave (poetry)
    An octave is a verse form consisting of eight lines of iambic pentameter or of hendecasyllables . The most common rhyme scheme for an octave is abba abba....



Other stanza names:
  • Ballad stanza
    Ballad Stanza
    In poetry, a Ballad stanza is the four-line stanza, known as a quatrain, most often found in the folk ballad. This form consists of alternating four- and three-stress lines. Usually only the second and fourth lines rhyme . Assonance in place of rhyme is common...

  • Burns stanza
    Burns stanza
    The Burns stanza is a verse form named after the Scottish poet Robert Burns. It was not, however, invented by Burns, and prior to his use of it was known as the standard Habbie, after the piper Habbie Simpson...

     or Scottish stanza
  • Ottava rima
    Ottava rima
    Ottava rima is a rhyming stanza form of Italian origin. Originally used for long poems on heroic themes, it later came to be popular in the writing of mock-heroic works. Its earliest known use is in the writings of Giovanni Boccaccio....

  • Sicilian octave
    Sicilian octave
    The Sicilian octave is a verse form consisting of eight lines of eleven syllables each, called a hendecasyllable. The form is common in late medieval Italian poetry. In English poetry, iambic pentameter is often used instead of syllabics...

  • Spenserian stanza
    Spenserian stanza
    The Spenserian stanza is a fixed verse form invented by Edmund Spenser for his epic poem The Faerie Queene. Each stanza contains nine lines in total: eight lines in iambic pentameter followed by a single 'Alexandrine' line in iambic hexameter. The rhyme scheme of these lines is...

  • Balassi stanza
  • Onegin stanza
    Onegin stanza
    Onegin stanza refers to the verse form invented by Alexander Pushkin for his interpersonal epic Eugene Onegin...

  • Terza rima
    Terza rima
    Terza rima is a rhyming verse stanza form that consists of an interlocking three-line rhyme scheme. It was first used by the Italian poet Dante Alighieri.-Form:Terza rima is a three-line stanza using chain rhyme in the pattern A-B-A, B-C-B, C-D-C, D-E-D...


Examples


One of the most common manifestations of stanzaic form in poetry in English (and in other Western European languages) is represented in texts for church hymns, such as the first three stanzas (of nine) from a poem by Isaac Watts
Isaac Watts
Isaac Watts was an English hymnwriter, theologian and logician. A prolific and popular hymnwriter, he was recognised as the "Father of English Hymnody", credited with some 750 hymns...

 (from 1719) cited immediately below (in this case, each stanza is to be sung to the same hymn tune
Hymn tune
A hymn tune is the melody of a musical composition to which a hymn text is sung. Musically speaking, a hymn is generally understood to have four-part harmony, a fast harmonic rhythm , and no refrain or chorus....

, composed earlier by William Croft in 1708):
Our God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home.

Beneath the shadow of Thy throne
Thy saints have dwelt secure;
Sufficient is Thine arm alone,
And our defense is sure.

Before the hills in order stood,
Or earth received her frame,
From everlasting Thou art God,
To endless years the same. [etc.]


Less obvious manifestations of stanzaic form can be found as well, as in Shakespeare's sonnets, which, while printed as whole units in themselves, can be broken into stanzas with the same rhyme scheme followed by a final couplet, as in the example of Sonnet 116:

Let me not to the marriage of true minds |\
Admit impediments. Love is not love | \
Which alters when it alteration finds, | / All one stanza
Or bends with the remover to remove: |/
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark, |\
That looks on tempests and is never shaken; | \
It is the star to every wandering bark, | / All one stanza
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken. |/
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks |\
Within his bending sickle's compass come; | \
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, | / All one stanza
But bears it out even to the edge of doom. |/
If this be error and upon me proved, |\
I never writ, nor no man ever loved. |/ A couplet