By Muhammad Faseeh ul Hassan

Poetry is a comprehensive term which can be taken to cover ant kind of metrical composition. However, it is usually employed with reservations, and often in contra-distinction to verse. It can also be defined as: literature that evokes a concentrated imaginative awareness of experience or a specific emotional response through language chosen and arranged for its meaning, sound, and rhythm.

Poetry takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.

-WILLIAM WORDSWORTH: Lyrical Ballads.

Poetry is the first major literary genre. All types of poetry share specific characteristics. In fact, poetry is a form of text that follows a meter and rhythm, with each line and syllable. It is further subdivided into different genres, such an epic poem, narrative, romantic, dramatic, and lyric. Dramatic poetry includes melodrama, tragedy, and comedy, while other poems includes ode, sonnet, elegy, ballad, song, and epic.

Background

The Deluge tablet, carved in stone, of the Gilgamesh epic in Akkadian, circa 2nd millennium BC.

The earliest poetry is believed to have been recited or sung, employed as a way of remembering oral history, genealogy, and law. Poetry is often closely related to musical traditions and other types of song such as chants. Many ancient works, from the Vedas (1500 – 1000 BC) to the Odyssey (800 – 675 BC), appear to have been composed in poetic form to aid memorization and oral transmission, in prehistoric and ancient societies. Poetry appears among the earliest records of most literate cultures, with poetic fragments found on early monoliths, runestones and stelae.

Popular examples of epic poems include Paradise Lost, by John Milton, The Iliad and The Odyssey, by Homer. Examples of romantic poems include Red Red Rose, by Robert Burns. All these poetic forms share specific features, such as they do not follow paragraphs or sentences; they use stanzas and lines instead. Some forms follow very strict rules of length, and number of stanzas and lines, such as villanelle, sonnet, and haiku. Others may be free-form, like Feelings, Now, by Katherine Foreman, which is devoid of any regular meter and rhyme scheme.

Selected Poems

Whose woods these are I think I know.  
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake 
The darkest evening of the year.  

He gives his harness bells a shake 
To ask if there is some mistake. 
The only other sound’s the sweep 
Of easy wind and downy flake. 

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,  
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep

By Robert Frost
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

By William Wordsworth


Elements Of Poetry

Imagery is the concrete representation of a sense impression, feeling, or idea that triggers our imaginative ere-enactment of a sensory experience. Images may be visual (something seen), aural (something heard), tactile (something felt), olfactory (something smelled), or gustatory (something tasted).

Rhyme is the repetition of identical or similar concluding syllables in different words, most often at the ends of lines. Rhyme is predominantly a function of sound rather than spelling; thus, words that end with the same vowel sounds rhyme, for instance, day, prey, bouquet, weigh, and words with the same consonant ending rhyme, for instance vain, rein, lane. The rhyme scheme of a poem, describes the pattern of end rhymes.

Stanza is a grouping of lines, set off by a space, which usually has a set pattern of meter and rhyme. Stanzas in poetry are similar to paragraphs in prose. Both stanzas and paragraphs include connected thoughts, and are set off by a space.

On the basis of a fixed number of lines and rhyming scheme, traditional English language poems have the following kinds of stanzas:

  • Couplet (2 lines)
  • Tercet (3 Lines)
  • Quatrain (4 lines)
  • Quintain (5 lines)
  • Sestet (6 lines)

Figurative language is a form of language use in which the writers and speakers mean something other than the literal meaning of their words. Two figures of speech that are particularly important for poetry are simile and metaphor.

A simile involves a comparison between unlike things using like or as. For instance, “My love is like a red, red rose.” A metaphor is a comparison between essentially unlike things without a word such as like or as. For example, “My love is a red, red rose.”

Alliteration is a repetition of the same consonant sounds in a sequence of words, usually at the beginning of a word or stressed syllable: “descending dew drops;” “luscious lemons.” Alliteration is based on the sounds of letters, rather than the spelling of words; for example, “keen” and “car” alliterate, but “car” and “cite” do not.

Poetry is the record of the best and happiest moments of the happiest and the best minds.

P.B.SHELLEY: The Defense of Poetry,1821

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