Glossary O

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Universal Elements of Poetry

octave - A poem or stanza of eight lines or when each line of a poem consists of eight words or syllables. Best example is E. A. Robinson, poet laureate, who wrote a series of verse called Octaves. This is also the division of the Italian sonnet where the first eight lines are grouped together in rhyme, syntax, imagery, argument and other groupings.

ode - One of two types of lyric poetry, the other being the elegy. This type of lyric poem deals with the praise or exultation of a person, object, or event always in a dignified and serious tone. The original or Pindaric attributed to the Theban Pindar was a Greek drama accompanied by song and dance. It followed a fixed three-step pattern of the strophe (specific dance steps), the antistrophe (the dance steps in reverse) and the epode (dancers stand still). The later English versions are quite varied in length and lines and have special characteristics. See Pindaric, Shakespearian, Horatian, stanzaic.

Ben Jonson introduced the form to England where it was characterized as a dignified lyric to an iambic beat of any number of lines. This is an example of an irregular Pindaric ode with chorus by John Dryden A Song for St. Cecilia's Day written in 1687. St. Cecilia is the patron saint of music. It has seven stanzas and an eighth or final stanza as a grand chorus:

Stanza 1
From harmony, from Heav'nly harmony
This universal frame began.
When Nature underneath a heap
Of jarring atoms lay,
And could not heave her head,
The tuneful voice was heard from high,
Arise ye more than dead.
Then cold, and hot, and moist, and dry,
In order to their stations leap,
And music's pow'r obey.
From harmony, from Heav'nly harmony
This universal frame began:
From harmony to harmony
Through all the compass of the notes it ran,
The diapason closing full in man.

Stanza 2
What passion cannot music raise and quell!
When Jubal struck the corded shell,
His list'ning brethren stood around
And wond'ring, on their faces fell
To worship that celestial sound:
Less than a god they thought there could not dwell
Within the hollow of that shell
That spoke so sweetly and so well.
What passion cannot music raise and quell!

Stanza 3
The trumpet's loud clangor
Excites us to arms
With shrill notes of anger
And mortal alarms.
The double double double beat
Of the thund'ring drum
Cries, hark the foes come;
Charge, charge, 'tis too late to retreat.

Stanza 4
The soft complaining flute
In dying notes discovers
The woes of hopeless lovers,
Whose dirge is whisper'd by the warbling lute.

Stanza 5
Sharp violins proclaim
Their jealous pangs, and desperation,
Fury, frantic indignation,
Depth of pains and height of passion,
For the fair, disdainful dame.

Stanza 6
But oh! what art can teach
What human voice can reach
The sacred organ's praise?
Notes inspiring holy love,
Notes that wing their Heav'nly ways
To mend the choirs above.

Stanza 7
Orpheus could lead the savage race;
And trees unrooted left their place;
Sequacious of the lyre:
But bright Cecilia rais'd the wonder high'r;
When to her organ, vocal breath was giv'n,
An angel heard, and straight appear'd
Mistaking earth for Heav'n.


As from the pow'r of sacred lays
The spheres began to move,
And sung the great Creator's praise
To all the bless'd above;
So when the last and dreadful hour
This crumbling pageant shall devour,
The trumpet shall be heard on high,
The dead shall live, the living die,
And music shall untune the sky.

off-rhyme - See half-rhyme: words that rhyme but only partially.

onomatopoeia - Sound symbolism where a word is used that imitates the actual sound to which it refers like “sizzle” Ex. Tennyson Northern Farmer: New Style:

Doesn’t thou ‘ear my ‘erses legs, as they canters away?
Proputty, proputty, proputty–that’s what I ‘ears ‘em say.
Proputty, proputty, proputty–Sam, thou’s an ass for thy pains:
Theer’s moor sense n’ one o’ ‘is legs, nor in all thy brains.

ottava rima - This form is an Italian stanza of eight sylalabic lines rhyming abababcc in iambic pentameter. It was first used by Boccaccio in Italy in the fourteenth century and later by Lodovido Ariosto (1474-1533) and Torquato Tasso (1544-1595). While in Venice Tasso began to write his epic in ottava rima La Gerusalemme Liberata. It is about the First Crusade which recovered Jerusalem from the Turks in 1099. Here is an example in translation of To His Mistress in Absence by Torquato Tasso:

Far from thy dearest self, the scope
Of all my aims,
I waste in secret flames;
And only live because I hope.
O when will Fate restore
The joys, in whose bright fire
My expectation shall expire,
That I may live because I hope no more.

Byron wrote his satire Don Juan in ottava rima and dedicated it to Robert Southey, who had just been given the poet laureate. Byron included this short quote from Horace: "Tis hard to venture where our betters fail Or lend fresh interest to a twice-told tale and Whate'er the critic says or poet sings, tis no slight task to write on common things." from Difficile est proprie communia dicere. HOR. Epist. ad Pison I. It is an open comment on the politicized honor of the poet laureate. After Byron the ottava rima became a kind of mock heroic.

Bob Southey! You're a poet--Poet-laureate,
And representative of all the race;
Although 'tis true that you turn'd out a Tory at
Last--yours has lately been a common case;
And now, my Epic Renegade! what are ye at?
With all the Lakers, in and out of place?
A nest of tuneful persons, to my eye
Like "four and twenty Blackbirds in a pye;

"Which pye being open'd they began to sing"
(This old song and new simile holds good),
"A dainty dish to set before the King,"
Or Regent, who admires such kind of food;
And Coleridge, too, has lately taken wing,
But like a hawk encumber'd with his hood,
Explaining Metaphysics to the nation--
I wish he would explain his Explanation.

You, Bob! are rather insolent, you know,
At being disappointed in your wish
To supersede all warblers here below,
And be the only Blackbird in the dish;
And then you overstrain yourself, or so,
And tumble downward like the flying fish
Gasping on deck, because you soar too high, Bob,
And fall, for lack of moisture quite a-dry, Bob!

And Wordsworth, in a rather long "Excursion"
(I think the quarto holds five hundred pages),
Has given a sample from the vasty version
Of his new system to perplex the sages;
'Tis poetry--at least by his assertion,
And may appear so when the dog-star rages--
And he who understands it would be able
To add a story to the Tower of Babel.

You--Gentlemen! by dint of long seclusion
From better company, have kept your own
At Keswick, and, through still continu'd fusion
Of one another's minds, at last have grown
To deem as a most logical conclusion,
That Poesy has wreaths for you alone:
There is a narrowness in such a notion,
Which makes me wish you'd change your lakes for Ocean.

I would not imitate the petty thought,
Nor coin my self-love to so base a vice,
For all the glory your conversion brought,
Since gold alone should not have been its price.
You have your salary; was't for that you wrought?
And Wordsworth has his place in the Excise.
You're shabby fellows--true--but poets still,
And duly seated on the Immortal Hill.

Your bays may hide the baldness of your brows--
Perhaps some virtuous blushes--let them go--
To you I envy neither fruit nor boughs--
And for the fame you would engross below,
The field is universal, and allows
Scope to all such as feel the inherent glow:
Scott, Rogers, Campbell, Moore and Crabbe, will try
'Gainst you the question with posterity.

For me, who, wandering with pedestrian Muses,
Contend not with you on the winged steed,
I wish your fate may yield ye, when she chooses,
The fame you envy, and the skill you need;
And, recollect, a poet nothing loses
In giving to his brethren their full meed
Of merit, and complaint of present days
Is not the certain path to future praise.

He that reserves his laurels for posterity
(Who does not often claim the bright reversion)
Has generally no great crop to spare it, he
Being only injur'd by his own assertion;
And although here and there some glorious rarity
Arise like Titan from the sea's immersion,
The major part of such appellants go
To--God knows where--for no one else can know.

If, fallen in evil days on evil tongues,
Milton appeal'd to the Avenger, Time,
If Time, the Avenger, execrates his wrongs,
And makes the word "Miltonic" mean "sublime,"
He deign'd not to belie his soul in songs,
Nor turn his very talent to a crime;
He did not loathe the Sire to laud the Son,
But clos'd the tyrant-hater he begun.

Think'st thou, could he--the blind Old Man--arise
Like Samuel from the grave, to freeze once more
The blood of monarchs with his prophecies
Or be alive again--again all hoar
With time and trials, and those helpless eyes,
And heartless daughters--worn--and pale--and poor;
Would he adore a sultan? he obey
The intellectual eunuch Castlereagh?

Cold-blooded, smooth-fac'd, placid miscreant!
Dabbling its sleek young hands in Erin's gore,
And thus for wider carnage taught to pant,
Transferr'd to gorge upon a sister shore,
The vulgarest tool that Tyranny could want,
With just enough of talent, and no more,
To lengthen fetters by another fix'd,
And offer poison long already mix'd.

An orator of such set trash of phrase
Ineffably--legitimately vile,
That even its grossest flatterers dare not praise,
Nor foes--all nations--condescend to smile,
Not even a sprightly blunder's spark can blaze
From that Ixion grindstone's ceaseless toil,
That turns and turns to give the world a notion
Of endless torments and perpetual motion.

A bungler even in its disgusting trade,
And botching, patching, leaving still behind
Something of which its masters are afraid,
States to be curb'd, and thoughts to be confin'd,
Conspiracy or Congress to be made--
Cobbling at manacles for all mankind--
A tinkering slave-maker, who mends old chains,
With God and Man's abhorrence for its gains.

If we may judge of matter by the mind,
Emasculated to the marrow It
Hath but two objects, how to serve, and bind,
Deeming the chain it wears even men may fit,
Eutropius of its many masters, blind
To worth as freedom, wisdom as to Wit,
Fearless--because no feeling dwells in ice,
Its very courage stagnates to a vice.

Where shall I turn me not to view its bonds,
For I will never feel them?--Italy!
Thy late reviving Roman soul desponds
Beneath the lie this State-thing breath'd o'er thee--
Thy clanking chain, and Erin's yet green wounds,
Have voices--tongues to cry aloud for me.
Europe has slaves--allies--kings--armies still,
And Southey lives to sing them very ill.

Meantime--Sir Laureate--I proceed to dedicate,
In honest simple verse, this song to you,
And, if in flattering strains I do not predicate,
'Tis that I still retain my "buff and blue";
My politics as yet are all to educate:
Apostasy's so fashionable, too,
To keep one creed's a task grown quite Herculean;
Is it not so, my Tory, ultra-Julian?

There are many more excellent examples of the ottava rima. If you wish more you should read Byron's Isabella or the Pot of Basil. Here is an excerpt from Don Juan. In this poem Byron makes a gentle mockery of the epic poem:

I want a hero: an uncommon want,
When every year and month sends forth a new one,
Till, after cloying the gazettes with cant,
The age discovers he is not the true one;
Of such as these I should not care to vaunt,
I'll therefore take our ancient friend Don Juan,
We all have seen him, in the pantomime,
Sent to the Devil somewhat ere his time.

Vernon, the butcher Cumberland, Wolfe, Hawke,
Prince Ferdinand, Granby, Burgoyne, Keppel, Howe,
Evil and good, have had their tithe of talk,
And filled their sign-posts then, like Wellesley now;
Each in their turn like Banquo's monarchs stalk,
Followers of fame, "nine farrow" of that sow:
France, too, had Buonaparté and Dumourier
Recorded in the Moniteur and Courier.

Nelson was once Britannia's god of War,
And still should be so, but the tide is turn'd;
There's no more to be said of Trafalgar,
'Tis with our hero quietly inurn'd;
Because the army's grown more popular,
At which the naval people are concern'd;
Besides, the Prince is all for the land-service,
Forgetting Duncan, Nelson, Howe, and Jervis.

Brave men were living before Agamemnon
And since, exceeding valorous and sage,
A good deal like him too, though quite the same none;
But then they shone not on the poet's page,
And so have been forgotten: I condemn none,
But can't find any in the present age
Fit for my poem (that is, for my new one);
So, as I said, I'll take my friend Don Juan.

Most epic poets plunge "in medias res"
(Horace makes this the heroic turnpike road),
And then your hero tells, whene'er you please,
What went before--by way of episode,
While seated after dinner at his ease,
Beside his mistress in some soft abode,
Palace, or garden, paradise, or cavern,
Which serves the happy couple for a tavern.

Thou shalt believe in Milton, Dryden, Pope;
Thou shalt not set up Wordsworth, Coleridge, Southey;
Because the first is craz'd beyond all hope,
The second drunk, the third so quaint and mouthy:
With Crabbe it may be difficult to cope,
And Campbell's Hippocrene is somewhat drouthy:
Thou shalt not steal from Samuel Rogers, nor
Commit--flirtation with the muse of Moore.

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