Glossary of Poetic Terms

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Bacchic Classical meter consisting of three syllables per foot: one short, one long, one long.
Ballad Term originating from the Portuguese word balada meaning 'dancing-song'. However, it normally refers to either a simple song e.g. Danny Boy or to a narrative poem (often with a tragic ending). Bob Dylan wrote and sang some wonderfully mournful ballads e.g. The Ballad of Hollis Brown.

The ballad stanza is a quatrain where the second and fourth lines rhyme. La Belle Dame Sans Merci by John Keats is in ballad form. It usually features alternating four-stress and three-stress lines.

Ballade A poem of French origin consisting of three stanzas of either 7, 8 or 10 lines and ending with a refrain called an envoi. The envoi is usually half as long as the stanza.
Bard Originally a term for a Celtic minstrel poet e.g. Cacofnix in Asterix the Gaul but is now used for any admired poet. Shakespeare is often referred to as 'the bard of Avon'.
Bardolatry The veneration accorded to Shakespeare.
Baroque Poetry Baroque derives from the Portuguese for imperfectly formed pearl. Baroque poetry is characterised by a highly elaborate style laced with extravagant conceits e.g. the work of the 17th century English poet Richard Crashaw.

See also Gongorism

Bathos The descent from the sublime to the ridiculous. This expression comes from Pope's satire Peri Bathous, or the Art of Sinking (1727).
Bawdy Verse X-rated poetry written anonymously for the purpose of recital e.g. Eskimo Nell, Abdul Abul Bul Amir, The Ball of Kirriemuir and The Good Ship Venus. See fabliau.
Beat The rhythmic or musical quality of a poem. In metrical verse, this is determined by the regular pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables. However, free verse often features a beat e.g. the work of Walt Whitman. Beat is one of the main things distinguishing poetry from prose.
Beat Poets/Poetry Group of American poets - including Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Kenneth Rexroth - who were disaffected by contemporary society. The word 'beat' comes from 'beat' as in music, 'beat' as in defeated and 'beat' as in to beatify or make blessed. Beat poetry had a big impact upon the lyrics of singers such as Bob Dylan, Patti Smith and Tom Waits.
Black Mountain Poets Group of poets associated with Black Mountain College, North Carolina - including Charles Olson, Robert Duncan, Robert Creeley and Denise Levertov. They were anti-academic in their approach and sought to challenge traditional poetic forms.
Blank Verse Verse that does not employ a rhyme scheme. Blank verse, however, is not the same as free verse because it employs a meter e.g. Paradise Lost by John Milton which is written in iambic pentameters.
Blazon Poetry which catalogues the virtues or attributes of women e.g. the tenth stanza of Spenser's Epithalamion.
Blues, The Music of African-American origin which features a repeated 12-bar pattern and employs lyrics which focus upon the harsh realities of negro life.
Bob and Wheel Device used at the end of the main stanzas in alliterative verse such as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The 'bob' is a short, one-stress line followed by the 'wheel' - which is a quatrain rhyming a-b-a-b   e.g.

        And more.
He has lived here since long ago
And filled the field with gore.
You cannot counter his blow,
It strikes so sudden and sore.

Bombast Pompous or overblown language.
Bouts-rimés Game originating in France where players compete to write the best poem using a set of pre-selected rhymes. It was frequently played by Christina and Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
Brachycatalectic A line lacking two syllables or a foot. See acatalectic.

Breve In prosody, a breve is the mark placed over a syllable in a line of verse to indicate that it is short or unstressed. See also macron and meter.
Bridge The contrasting section of music/lyrics which often occurs after the second chorus of a song.
Broken Rhyme Occurs where a word is split in order to get a rhyme. More common in light verse than serious verse.

Bucolic Alternative term for eclogue.
Bunkum Verbal hogwash.

Burden Chorus or refrain of a song/poem.
Burlesque Caricature or parody of a literary or dramatic work e.g. Hudibras by Samuel Butler or Baucis and Philemon by Jonathan Swift.
Burns' Stanza Many of Burns' most famous poems were written using a six line, tail-rhyme stanza with an a-a-a-b-a-b scheme; the fourth and sixth lines being shorter than the rest e.g. To a Mouse

Wee, sleekit, cowrin', tim'rous beastie,
Oh, what a panic's in thy breastie!
Thou needna start awa' sae hasty,
       Wi' bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin and chase thee,
        Wi' murd'ring pattle!

Byr a Thoddaid Welsh syllabic verse form.
Byronic Stanza See ottava rima.

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