Glossary T

A   B   C   D   E   F   G   H   I   J   K   L   M   N   O   P   Q   R   S   T   U   V   W   X   Y   Z

Universal Elements of Poetry

tanka - Japanese poetry form of five lines with a total of thirty-one syllables in this order. First line - 5; second line - 7; third line - 5; fourth line - 7; fifth line - 7. Both Adelaide Crapsey and Emily Dickinson wrote in this form. Ex. Japanese 6th century:

Since he is too young
To know the way, I would plead:
“pray, accept this gift,
O Underworld messenger,
And bear the child pick-a-back.”

Auden altered the form by substituting the number of words in each line for the number of words per line. As in this example. For Friends Only:

Ours, yet not ours, being set apart
As a shrine to friendship,
Empty and silent most of the year,
Ths room awaits from you
What you alone, as visitor, can bring,
A weekend of personal life.

tautology - In a word, redundancy. A more precise definition would be to employ two or more words or phrases for one and the same meaning in the same sentence. For example:

“In the Attic Commonwealth, it was the privilege and birthright of every citizen and poet, to rail aloud and in public. Or to expose upon the stage by name any person they pleased, though of the greatest figure, whether a Creon, an Hyperbolus, an Alcibiades, or a Demosthenes: but on the other side, the least reflecting word let fall against the people in general, was immediately caught up, and revenged upon the authors, however considerable for their quality or their merits.” Jonathan Swift Tale of the Tub – The Preface

Another with apologies to himself, Archishop of Canterbury and for models of correct pulpit style. For you to find:

“It is hard to personate and act a part long; for where truth is not at the bottom, nature will always be endeavouring to return, and will peep out and betray herself one time or other. Therefore, if any man think it convienient to seem good, let him be so indeed, and then his goodness will appear to everybody’s satisfaction…it is much the plainer and easier, much the safer and more secure way of dealing in the world; it has less trouble and difficulty, of entanglement and perplexity, of danger and hazard in it; it is the shortest and nearest way…The arts of deceit and cunning…” John Tillotson, Archbishop of Canterbury Sermon on The Reasonableness of a Resurrection


“Ideas quickly fade and often vanish quite out of the understanding, leaving no more footsteps or remaining characters of themselves than shadows do flying over a field of corn…Pictures drawn in our mind are laid in fading colours, and unless sometimes refreshed, vanish and disappear…Man, tho’ he have great variety of thoughts, and such from which others, as well as himself, might receive profit and delight…yet they are all within his own breast, invisible and hidden from others…” John Locke Essay Concerning Human Understanding

And another

“It is the fate of those who toil at the lower employments of life to be rather driven by the fear of evil than attracted by the prospect of good; to be exposed to censure without hope of praise; to be disgraced by mis-applause and diligence without reward.” Samuel Johnson Dictionary of the English Language – Preface

“The blueness of the aether was exceedingly heightened and enlivened by the season of the year.” Joseph Addison A Letter from Italy

tercet - A three line stanza may be grouped to create a longer verse. Ex. Percy Shelley’s Ode to the West Wind:

Scatter, as from an unextinguished hearth
Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!
Be through my lips to unawakened earth.

terza-rima - An Italian verse form consisting of three-line stanzas of tercets where the second line of each rhymes with the first and third lines of the second. Thus aba, bcb, cdc, ded…and so on. In English poems the choice of meter is usually iambic pentameter. Most of 19th century Romantics wrote selections in this form. Later poets like W. H. Auden, in his long dramatic monologue The Sea and the Mirror (1944), and the Modernist, Archibald MacLeish deviated from the strictest form. In Conquistador (1932) see Ode to the West Wind Percy Bysshe Shelley.

tetrameter - A measured line with four feet. Ex. A. E. Housman Eight O’Clock

He stood and heard the steeple.
Sprinkle the quarters on the morning town.
One, two, three, four to market-place and people
It tossed them down.

Strapped, noosed, nighing his hour.

He stood and counted them and cursed his luck
And then the clock collected in the tower
Its strength and struck.

topos - A motif that is recurring in prose and poetry such as mythological figures and myths, biblical events.

tone - In poetry it is the writer’s attitude toward the subject , the writer does this through the use of emotional words. In drama the reader has the added advantage of the actor’s voice with the influence of prosody to help the audience grasp the emotion of the words. In literature, characters offer their own emotional attitudes through actions and words. In poetry one cannot really hope to grasp the message unless he is able to identify the emotion behind the words. Is it cheerful, depressing, mocking, irreverent, excited, mournful? Clues are established through imagery, metaphor, irony, understatement, rhythm, connotation, onomatopoeia. Tone is the “individual intensity of insight and feeling” through the use of connotative words. Read this example:

“I saw on the slant hill a putrid lamb,
Propped with daisies, the sleep looked deep,
The face nudged in the green pillow
But the guts were out for crows to eat.” Richard Eberhart (1904-2005)

Tone as a device is particularly effective when the subject is singular. The suggestion for determining “tone” is careful reading – every word is important. Since the era of Descartes western philosophy continues to be predominantly dualistic, so some writers favor contrasts as a way of establishing tone.

In the following example the poet chose truth/lies as contrast. Interesting how he uses the phrase “and yet” to signify a change:

“My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Cruel is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet sell I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go.
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground.
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.” Shakespeare My Mistress’ Eyes Sonnet

Our last one compares different kinds of “love and is an another example of “tone shift:”

There’s the wonderful love of a beautiful maid,
And the love of a staunch true man,
And the love of a baby that’s unafraid
All have existed since time began.
But the most wonderful love, the love of all loves,
Even greater that the love for Mother,
Is the infinite, tenderest, passionate love
Of one dead drunk for another.

Notice that the subjects of the examples are singular.

Tottel’s Miscellany - In 1557 Richad Tottel, working from his shop at Temple Bar on Fleet Street in London, broke from publishing works on Law and Law Practice to produce the first collection of English poetry. A milestone in that poems of English poets were now available to the general public. The full title reads Songs and Sonettes written by the Ryght Honorable Lord Henry Howard, late Earle of Surrey, Thomas Wyatt the Elder and others.

trimeter - A three foot line. Ex. Robert Frost. Rose Pogonias:

A saturated meadow
Sun-shaped and jewel-small
A circle scarcely wider
Than the trees around were tall;
Where winds were quite excluded
And the air was stifling sweet
With the breath of many flowers
A temple of the heat

triolet - Taken from middle-French, clover leaf. This is a French verse form of eight lines in which the first is repeated as the fourth and seventh and the second as the eighth. Thus the first line is repeated three times. The rhyme scheme is ABa, Aab, AB. Invented in the 13th century as a favorite of Jean Froissart, and Adenet le Roi, in the 17th century by Jan de la Fontaine. And in the 19th century by Alphonse Daudet. Later. The German poet, Frederich Rassmann, identified three types of triolet: the original; a second type with loose use of number of rhymes and lines, and another which is best described as a single strophe. A good example of the English triolet is Thomas Hardy’s Birds at Winter:

Around the house the flakes fly faster,
And all the berries now are gone
From holly and cotoneaster
Around the house. The flakes fly faster
Shutting indoors the crumb out caster
We used to see upon the lawn
Around the house. The flakes fly faster
And all the berries now are gone!

Rose Crossed the Road

I intended an Ode,
And it turned to a Sonnet,
It began a la mode,
I intended an Ode;
But Rose crossed the road
In her latest new bonnet;
I intended an Ode;
And it turned to a Sonnet.

Triton - From Greek mythology the son of Poseidon and Amphitrite. He is usually described as living in a golden palace in the sea. Represented as a man in the upper body with a lower body terminating in a dolphin’s tail. Source The World is too much with me Wordsworth

trochee - From the Greek “τρόγoζ” or wheel probably meaning rolling. It is the reverse of the iamb one stressed syllable followed by an unstressed one. Ex. William Blake The Tyger.

trope - See metaphor. The trope is a substitution of one thing for another based on three categories. The first is based on resemblance which may be assumed, implied, or stated (positive, negative, or by degrees) called the “metaphor” the comparison and thing compared only one object is named, thus one in terms of the other. Thus instead of writing “sun” in its place “eye of heaven” assuming the connection between sun and the eye of heaven.

“All in a moment through the gloom were seen
Ten thousand banners rise into the air,
With orient colours waving; with them rose
A forest huge of spears, and thronging helms
Appear'd, and serried shields in thick array” Milton Book I Paradise Lost

“Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree's shade
Where heaves the turf in many a mouldering heap,
Each in his narrow cell for ever laid,
The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep.” Thomas Gray Elegy Written in Country Courtyard

The Trope in Poetry

A poetic creation does not grow by metrical law alone it must have style It is poetic style that makes the poem agreeable to the ear; pleasurable to the mind; and vivid to the eye. The poet achieves these three elements through the trope which is simply “a substitution of one thing for another.” In making a choice the poet may opt for tropes of resemblance as in a metaphor or simile. The poet may offer the metaphor in an assumed or implied manner while his choice of simile may occur as a stated positive, negative, or comparative. Of a lesser nature are tropes of connection, whether logical as in metonomy or spatial as in synecdoche. If the trope is of great length it is noted as allegory.

The word “metaphor” is from the Greek meaning “transfer to a new sense”. It is considered to be the top of the line of tropes in that only the comparison is named. When both are named we have a simile accompanied by the words “like” or “as”. Thus we have for the sun, “as the eye of heaven”; for stars, “like blessed candles of the night”.

One can find examples from all literary periods.

From Old French this rondel The Wanderer 1872

Love comes back to his vacant dwelling
The old, old Love, that we knew of yore!
We see him stand by the open door,
With his great eyes sad, and his bosom swelling.

From Dry Loaf by Wallace Stephens 1923

“It was the battering of drums I heard
It was hunger, it was the hunger that cried
And the waves, the waves were soldiers moving
Marching and marching in a tragic line
Below me, on the asphalt, under the trees.”

From Her Feet Robert Herrick

Her pretty feet
Like snails did creep
A little out an then,
As if they played at bo-peep,
Did soon draw in again.

From John Donne

…her pure and eloquent blood
Spoke in her cheeks, and so distinctly wrought,
That one might almost say, her body thought.”


“The good die first,
And they whose hearts are dry as summer’s dust”

From Sir Walter Scott’s Lay of the Last Minstrel

“The bird of midnight hoots with dreary tone” metaphor
“Like wreathing icicles congeal’d by frost!” simile

And from another Scottish poet John Leyden

“The blossoms from the tree of fame,
And purpled deep their tints with gore,
Flush from brown ruins scarred with age,
That frown o’er haunted Hermitage.”

Very early in the 17th century the metaphysical poets spoke of “man” metaphorically for ex. “man’s life to a flower” and “man” to The Pulley from George Herbert. Henry Vaughan’s didactic Man is compared with “bees” “birds” “flowers”.

“Farewell dear flowers, sweetly your time ye spent,
Fit while ye lived for smell or ornament,
And after death for cures.
I follow straight, without complaints or grief;
Since if my scent be good, I care not if
It be as short as yours.” Life George Herbert

The metaphor need not be a couplet, quatrain or single line. There are some fine poetry where the metaphor is carried that the full extent of the work as in Andrew Marvell’s The Garden. Here “the man in the garden is a metaphor for the Neo-Platonic concept of the ‘great chain of being’” and occurs through all nine stanzas.

Not all tropes are equal in quality and when the trope is unsupported by imagination the poet’s style is damaged, the poem is injured, and the reader is left perplexed. This not so rare event is called catachresis – meaning a literal impossibility. As in “The mercury sank in the mouth of the dying day” W.H. Auden

The trope defeats the purpose of the poem when the choice is either too familiar or too remote; too scholastic or too plebian or too elegant or too gross;

“this Peak, so high
Above us, and so distant in its height,
Is visible; and often seems to send
Its own deep quiet to restore our hearts.
The meteors make of it a favorite haunt:
The star of Jove, so beautiful and large
In the mid heavens, is never half so fair
As when he shines above it.”

Here the poet assumes readers know that “the star of Jove” is one of the five wandering planets (Jove/Zeus).

From George Herbert’s Jordan where “Curling with metaphors, a plain intention” where the sense itself is “a finely curled metaphor”.

“When first my lines of heav’nly joys made mention,
Such was their luster, they did so excel,
That I sought out quaint words and trim invention
My thoughts began to burnish, sprout, and swell,
Curling with metaphors a plain intention.
Decking the sense as if it were to sell.”

Or when the trope is marred over time and becomes overused, mechanical or distorted.

For example: “the Iron Horse” for a train and memorialized by Emily Dickinson:

“I like to see it lap the Mile
And lick the valleys up
And stop to feed itself at Tanks
And then – prodigious step

Around a pile of Mountains
And supercilious peer
In Shanties by the sides of roads
And then a quarry pare…”


Stillness round my form
Was like the stillness in the air
Between the heaves of storm.” from I Heard a Fly Buzz When I Died Emily Dickinson

Another fault of the trope is when it is debased by vulgarity or by overuse:

“The dawn finds them filling empty cans
In some sweet-smelling dusty country lane,
Where a brook chatters over rusty pans.” The Widow in the Bye Street John Masefield

Brooks may chatter in poetry but more often across a “myriad of water-lilies” as in a Monet painting.

William Browne (1591-1643) of the Spenserian school of pastoral poets questions the strength of his own tropes within the verse itself as in Britannia’s Pastorals

And rapt with wonder, thus admiring say:
Thrice happy plains (if plains thrice happy may be)…
And woo’d the rivers from their springs to hear him,
Heaven rest thy soul (if so a swain may pray)…

Or finally the writer has opted for rhyme over reason:

“Time that is intolerant
Of the brave and innocent
And indifferent in a week
To a beautiful physique.” W.H. .Auden

“The relish of the muse consists in rhyme:
One verse must meet another like a chime.”

We close with this quotation from Alexander Pope in Essay on Criticism, 1711

False eloquence, like the prismatic glass,
Its gaudy colours spreads on ev’ry place;
The face of nature we no more survey,
All glares alike, without distinction gay;
But true expression, like th’ unchanging sun,
Clears, and improves whte’er it shines upon;
It cilds all objects, but it alters none.
Expression is the dress of thought, and still
Appears more decent, as more suitable.
A vile conceit in pompous words express’d,
Is like a clown in regal purple dress’d:
For diff’rent styles with diff’rent subjects sort,
As sev’ral garbs with country, town, and court.

A   B   C   D   E   F   G   H   I   J   K   L   M   N   O   P   Q   R   S   T   U   V   W   X   Y   Z