Do You Ever Wonder What The Poetic Term “Syntax” Means?

Do you ever wonder what the poetic term “syntax” means? If you ever have to read poetry, especially for an educational class where analysis is part of your course work, then syntax is one of many aspects of writing, literature, and written genres or forms like poetry that you are going to wind up studying. Thus, being curious about the definition and practical nature of the term, as it relates to poetry, is quite understandable.

It’s even more understandable if you write poetry. Your desire to write poems is probably just a creative instinct that flows out of you naturally, and the words likely flow just as easily. However, learning all you can about your craft at a critical or academic and technical level is likely to help your poetry and understanding of the art form.

Syntax is generally the sets of processes, principles, and rules that dictate sentence structure within a language or form of literature. Punctuation and word order are of particular importance.

The word “syntax” itself is traced back all the way to Ancient Greece, from a word loosely translated as “coordination” formed from the base parts of “together” and “an ordering.” The concept of syntax as a school of thought is often traced back simultaneously to Greece for Western languages and to Ancient India for Asian and Eastern languages and their related dialects.

In the realm of poetry, the order of words in a sentence can emphasize or empower or even demote the energy of particular words, particularly subjects and verbs. Some poets even deliberately fracture their chosen syntax beyond what is usually acceptable in the language they are writing in, betting on the reader being able to understand points made outside of the boundaries of conventional syntax.

What Does Spondee Mean?

A poet needs to be a master of language. Poets should have a deep understanding of words and how to use them. That’s why poets should take the time to familiarize themselves with terms like spondee.

What Does Spondee Mean?

A spondee is a beat within a poetic line. That beat should consist of two accented syllables. An equal amount of stress should be placed on both syllables in the word. Examples of words that contain spondee include “faithful,” “railroad,” “baseball,” “rainbow,” and “highway.”

When Is Spondee Used?

Spondee is used in a wide range of poems. It commonly appears in poems that use five metrical feet. You’ll see it in trochaic meter, iambic meter, and dactylic meter. You may also occasionally see it in poetic forms.

Most poets do not write entire poems in spondaic meter. Instead, they combine it with other forms. Spondee allows a poet to create extremely interesting metric patterns that can make a poem more appealing to listen to.

Poets That Use Spondee

Spondee has been used by many great and famous poets throughout history. For example, spondee is used in the famous poem “The Song of Hiawatha,” which was written by Henry Wordsworth Longfellow. Spondee also appears in poems by Alfred Lord Tennyson and Gerard Manley Hopkins. It even appears in the work of William Shakespeare!

Spondee is still used by a number of modern poems. Read poems carefully and keep a watchful eye out for spondee and spondaic meter. You’ll be able to find a number of examples.

Spondee is something that every poet should have an understanding of. As a poet, the more you know about words and their rhythms, the better. Researching spondee will allow you to select the ideal words for your poetry. You’ll be able to create poems that will be remembered.

What Is The Meaning Of The Poetic Term Anapest?

An anapest can be defined as a metrical foot consisting of three syllables, the first two are unstressed followed by one stressed syllable, often referred to as “reverse dactyl” as it follows the rapid pace of the dactyl where the emphasis is placed on the first syllable. Examples of anapest in the English language are words such as “contradict” and “understand”, both of which contain three syllables with the accent on the last syllable. Anapestic words are more common in languages other than English such as French, and many phrases that are borrowed from the French language such as “art nouveau” and “haute couture” contain anapestic words.

Examples of the use of anapests in poetry include “The Sick Rose” by William Blake, “The Unknown Citizen” by W.H. Auden and “Twas The Night Before Christmas” by Clement C. Moore – which is almost entirely made up of anapests. An Anapestic tetrameter in poetry contains four anapestic metrical feet in each line, each foot having two syllables that are unstressed with the stress on the final syllable. Foot refers to the most basic unit of a poem’s meter and is a combination of stressed and unstressed syllables making up a line of the meter.

The word “anapest”, also written “anapaest” has an identical definition to “antidactylus” and means “struck back” in Greek. A dactyl is a metric foot where the stress is on the first syllable followed by two that are unstressed, which is why an anapest is considered to be a reversed dactyl.
Three forms of anapestic meter:

1. Anapestic Trimeter with 3 metrical anapestic feet each with three syllables giving each line a total of 9 syllables;
2. Anapestic Tetrameter with 4 metrical anapestic feet each having 3 syllables in anapestic form with a total of 12 syllables in each line;
3. Anapestic Hexameter the least common anapest – contains 6 anapestic feet with 3 syllables each giving a total of 18 syllables per line.

Some idioms in the English language are common examples of anapest such as the phrases: “get a life”, “costs an arm and a leg”, “feeling under the weather”, “at the drop of a hat” and the song by Cole Porter: “In the Still of the Night”. Popular poetic forms of Limerick often contain playful anapestic meter.

What is a Couplet?

Poetry is literary work that employs special rhythm and style with emphasis placed on feelings and ideas. There are different ways of engaging in writing poetry, and all of these styles are artistic and quite beautiful. One that is used quite frequently is the Couplet.

What does the poetic term of Couplet mean?

Simply put, a Couplet is two lines of poetic verse in the same meter or rhythm. These two lines rhyme, and form one unit. A Couplet is short and sweet, giving across its idea and emotion with these two lines of verse. Just the word “couple” within the term points to how a Couplet operates; two things that form one.

A place where an individual would find a myriad of Couplets is within the works of William Shakespeare. Shakespeare would often end his sonnets with a Couplet that would summarize the main ideas within his poem. Another famous writer of Couplets was Alexander Pope, often using closed Couplets to get his ideas across.

What is the purpose of a Couplet?

Simply put, a Couplet aims to make a point and a lasting impression with the idea contained within it. However, it is important to not overuse the Couplet, so that when it is used, its effectiveness is not lost. Rather than being numbing to the mind, a Couplet should be thought-provoking, adding to its beauty and the power of verse.

What is an example of a Couplet?

Some famous Couplets from Shakespeare include:

  • “Blessed are you whose worthiness gives scope,/Being had, to triumph; being lacked, to hope.”
  • “So, till the judgment that yourself arise,/You live in this, and dwell in lovers’ eyes.”
  • “Tir’d with all these, from these would I be gone,/Save that, to die, I leave my love alone.”
  • “You still shall live, such virtue hath my pen,/Where breath most breathes, even in the mouths of men.”
  • “How like Eve’s apple doth thy beauty grow,/If thy sweet virtue answer, not thy show!”

In conclusion, a Couplet joins two powerful verses that aim to make a lasting point with the reader, not forsaking the beauty and art of poetic expression.

The Meaning of the Poetic Term Caesura

A quick way to describe the term caesura is that it works something like a verbal comma. It is a word of Latin origin which means cut or hewn. In poetry, it is a break in the verse where one phrase comes to an end and another begins.

Caesuras also occur in music. There they, too, represent a break similar to that which occurs in poetry. When used in music they offer pauses where singers have time to catch their breath. In poetry, the speaker also gets a chance to pause to take a breath. In Greek or Latin verse it occurs technically at breaks in the words in a metrical foot.

A simple way to put it is that everyone breathes in between speaking. When they say one phrase, they pause, take a breath and say the next phrase. These pauses are natural and occur in the rhythm of anyone’s speech but no one speaks that they “Went to the store comma and then went home.” A simple pause in the speech indicates this.

The caesura must be implemented in poetry for dramatic effect as well as out of necessity in between a line or sentence. The notation for a pause like this is a comma in most modern poetry. In medieval times a virgule or single line denoted such a pause.

In music, a similar notation in the form of two slanted lines is used to mark pauses in between words or bars where a breath is needed. The marking would technically also indicate that a musician or singer take a quarter rest although in poetry it is usually a single breath.

The epic poem of Beowulf is a great example of the use of this device. Each line ends in a caesura or poetic pause as illustrated in the first passage below:

LO, praise of the prowess of people-kings
of spear-armed Danes, in days long sped,
we have heard, and what honor the athelings won!
Oft Scyld the Scefing from squadroned foes,
from many a tribe, the mead-bench tore,
awing the earls. Since erst he lay
friendless, a foundling, fate repaid him:
for he waxed under welkin, in wealth he throve,
till before him the folk, both far and near,
who house by the whale-path, heard his mandate,
gave him gifts: a good king he!
To him an heir was afterward born,
a son in his halls, whom heaven sent
to favor the folk, feeling their woe
that erst they had lacked an earl for leader
so long a while; the Lord endowed him,
the Wielder of Wonder, with world’s renown.
Famed was this Beowulf: far flew the boast of him,
son of Scyld, in the Scandian lands.
So becomes it a youth to quit him well
with his father’s friends, by fee and gift,
that to aid him, aged, in after days,
come warriors willing, should war draw nigh,
liegemen loyal: by lauded deeds
shall an earl have honor in every clan.
Forth he fared at the fated moment,
sturdy Scyld to the shelter of God.
Then they bore him over to ocean’s billow,
loving clansmen, as late he charged them,
while wielded words the winsome Scyld,
the leader beloved who long had ruled….
In the roadstead rocked a ring-dight vessel,
ice-flecked, outbound, atheling’s barge:
there laid they down their darling lord
on the breast of the boat, the breaker-of-rings,
by the mast the mighty one. Many a treasure
fetched from far was freighted with him.
No ship have I known so nobly dight
with weapons of war and weeds of battle,
with breastplate and blade: on his bosom lay
a heaped hoard that hence should go
far o’er the flood with him floating away.
No less these loaded the lordly gifts,
thanes’ huge treasure, than those had done
who in former time forth had sent him
sole on the seas, a suckling child.
High o’er his head they hoist the standard,
a gold-wove banner; let billows take him,
gave him to ocean. Grave were their spirits,
mournful their mood. No man is able
to say in sooth, no son of the halls,
no hero ‘neath heaven, — who harbored that freight!

What Does The Poetic Device “Iamb” Mean?

One of the prominent literary devices used by poets and writers comes in the form of an “iamb.” This phrase is usually used when describing the rhythm of a poem.

The actual definition states that a poetic iamb is a literary device used as a foot with a combination of unstressed/stressed syllables. It’s all about variation, so a single line in a poem would include both unaccented (short) syllables followed by accented (long) syllables.

Types of Iambs

It’s important to note poetic works don’t have one type of iamb in them. Instead, several different types are used based on what the writer is going for in their work. These types are divided based on how many iambs there are per line.

1) Iambic Dimeter (two stressed syllables per line)
2) Iambic Trimester (three stressed syllables per line)
3) Iambic tetrameter (four stressed syllables per line)
4) Iambic Pentameter (five stressed syllables per line)
5) Iambic Hexameter (six stressed syllables per line)

One way to look at iambs per line is to think of a heartbeat. The emphasis is placed on the first syllable and the second syllable is less emphasized.

Benefits

What is the reason for these being used in poems and other literary works?

The primary benefit involves readability. With the inclusion of these iambs, they rhythm of the poem begins to take shape, guiding the reader on what syllables to put the emphasis on. It’s up to the author of the poem to decide how many iambs to be included per line, where to put the line breaks, etc. Using the iambs as a guide, new meanings to words can emerge.

Famous Use of Iambs 

Shakespeare is a renowned poet known for his use of iambic pentameter (5 heart beats per line). For example, Romeo’s famous monologue in Romeo & Juliet:

But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks?

It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.

Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,

Who is already sick and pale with grief

 

What Is Poetry?

When defining poetry, the best definition comes from Poetry.org.

“…an art form in which human language is used for its aesthetic qualities in addition to, or instead of, its notional and semantic content. It consists largely of oral or literary works in which language is used in a manner that is felt by its user and audience to differ from ordinary prose.”

This is what a lot of students who are in creative writing classes fail to understand when they move onto the poetry section of their course. Most students struggle to create rhymes and tell a coherent story from beginning to end. With poetry, that is not a necessary condition.

There are many ways to structure poetry, which we will define in later blogs dedicated to definitions. There are many literary devices that are also used in poetry, again which we will define later. But the most important thing to take away from this article is to understand that poetry is not about the meaning of the words but art in which you can create with them.

Story writing is a form of using language to create art, but poetry is about taking the words themselves and making art, whether it be by using words that “look” weird, sound weird, having matching sounds such as consonants or vowel tones. Sometimes the string of words put together does not make logical sense in terms of the meaning of the words yet upon hearing them make art.

Art itself is subjective. Writing poetry is not to please the audience but to please the author. When writing poetry start with words that resonate with you. Have you ever heard a word spoken out loud and it sent shivers down your spine? Write that word down and use it as inspiration. Find other words that make you feel a certain way. Put them into a paragraph. Congratulations, you’ve written poetry.