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stanza


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A group of verse lines, popularly called a ‘verse’, of which the length, metrical scheme, and rhyming pattern correspond with those of at least one other such group of verse lines in a poem, often with those of all. Poems are described as stanzaic if they are composed of such matching groups, spatially separated when written or printed. In length, stanzas of English verse are most commonly of four lines (see quatrain), but various forms of five‐line (quintain), six‐line (sestet), seven‐line (septet), eight‐line (octave), and longer stanzas are also found. Possible permutations of metre and rhyme are numerous: metrically, stanzas divide between those in which lines are of uniform length and those combining longer with shorter lines. Stanzaic rhyme schemes are summarized by a customary alphabetic notation in which each rhymed or unrhymed line‐ending is allotted a letter in sequence, recurrence of the same letter indicating rhymed lines: thus a b c b for the standard quatrain ‘ballad stanza’ in which only the second and fourth lines rhyme, but a b a b for the quatrain of alternate rhymes often found in hymns. Most stanza forms are nameless, but exceptions among those longer than the quatrain include the six‐line ‘Burns stanza’ of which the fourth and sixth are of two stresses while the remainder are four‐stress lines, with the rhyme scheme a a a b a b; the ‘rhyme royal’ stanza of seven iambic pentameters rhyming a b b a b b c c; the Italianate octave known as ottava rima; and the nine‐line Spenserian stanza.

Subjects: Literature.


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