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Poetry Terms Beginning With 'B'

Poetry Terms - b. This is a comprehensive resource of poetry terms beginning with the letter b.



Bacchic

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Classical meter consisting of three syllables per foot: one short, one long, one long.


Bard

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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

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The veneration accorded to Shakespeare.


Barley-Break

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Definition

An old English country game frequently mentioned by the poets of the 17th and 18th centuries. It was played by three pairs composed of one of each sex, who were stationed in three bases or plots, contiguous to each other. The couple occupying the middle base, called hell or prison, endeavoured to catch the other two, who, when chased, might break to avoid being caught. If one was overtaken, he and his companion were condemned to hell. From this game was taken the expression "the last couple in hell," often used in old plays.

Barley-Break

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Definition

An old English country game frequently mentioned by the poets of the 17th and 18th centuries. It was played by three pairs composed of one of each sex, who were stationed in three bases or plots, contiguous to each other. The couple occupying the middle base, called hell or prison, endeavoured to catch the other two, who, when chased, might break to avoid being caught. If one was overtaken, he and his companion were condemned to hell. From this game was taken the expression "the last couple in hell," often used in old plays.


Baroque Poetry

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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.

Bathos

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.


Blazon

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Poetry which catalogues the virtues or attributes of women e.g. the tenth stanza of Spenser's Epithalamion.

Blues, The

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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

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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.

Bodhi Vamsa

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BODHI VAMSA, a prose poem in elaborate Sanskritized Pali, composed by Upatissa in the reign of Mahinda IV. of Ceylon about a.d. 980. It is an adaptation of a previously existing work in Sinhalese on the same subject, and describes the bringing of a branch of the celebrated Bo or Bodhi tree (i.e. Wisdom Tree, under which the Buddha had attained wisdom) to Ceylon in the 3rd century b.c. The Bodhi Vamsa quotes verses from the Mahavamsa, but draws a great deal of its material from other sources; and it has occasionally preserved details of the older tradition not found in any other sources known to us.


Bombast

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Pompous or overblown language.

Bouts-Rimés

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BOUTS-RIMÉS, literally (from the French) “rhymed ends,” the name given in all literatures to a kind of verses of which no better definition can be found than was made by Addison, in the Spectator, when he described them as “lists of words that rhyme to one another, drawn up by another hand, and given to a poet, who was to make a poem to the rhymes in the same order that they were placed upon the list.” The more odd and perplexing the rhymes are, the more ingenuity is required to give a semblance of common-sense to the production. For instance, the rhymes breeze, elephant, squeeze, pant, scant, please, hope, pope are submitted, and the following stanza is the result:—

Escaping from the Indian breeze,

The vast, sententious elephant

Through groves of sandal loves to squeeze

And in their fragrant shade to pant;

Although the shelter there be scant,

The vivid odours soothe and please,

And while he yields to dreams of hope,

Adoring beasts surround their Pope.

The invention of bouts-rimés is attributed to a minor French poet of the 17th century, Dulot, of whom little else is remembered. According to theMenagiana, about the year 1648, Dulot was complaining one day that he had been robbed of a number of valuable papers, and, in particular, of three hundred sonnets. Surprise being expressed at his having written so many, Dulot explained that they were all “blank sonnets,” that is to say, that he had put down the rhymes and nothing else. The idea struck every one as amusing, and what Dulot had done seriously was taken up as a jest. Bouts-rimés became the fashion, and in 1654 no less a person than Sarrasin composed a satire against them, entitled La Défaite des bouts-rimés, which enjoyed a great success. Nevertheless, they continued to be abundantly composed in France throughout the 17th century and a great part of the 18th century. In 1701 Etienne Mallemans (d. 1716) published a collection of serious sonnets, all written to rhymes selected for him by the duchess of Maine. Neither Piron, nor Marmontel, nor La Motte disdained this ingenious exercise, and early in the 19th century the fashion was revived. The most curious incident, however, in the history of bouts-rimés is the fact that the elder Alexandre Dumas, in 1864, took them under his protection. He issued an invitation to all the poets of France to display their skill by composing to sets of rhymes selected for the purpose by the poet, Joseph Méry (1798-1866). No fewer than 350 writers responded to the appeal, and Dumas published the result, as a volume, in 1865.

W.M. Rossetti, in the memoir of his brother prefixed to D.G. Rossetti’s Collected Works (1886), mentions that, especially in 1848 and 1849, he and Dante Gabriel Rossetti constantly practised their pens in writing sonnets to bouts-rimés, each giving the other the rhymes for a sonnet, and Dante Gabriel writing off these exercises in verse-making at the rate of a sonnet in five or eight minutes. Most of W.M. Rossetti’s poems in The Germ werebouts-rimés experiments. Many of Dante Gabriel’s, a little touched up, remained in his brother’s possession, but were not included in the Collected Works.

Example

Escaping from the Indian breeze,

The vast, sententious elephant

Through groves of sandal loves to squeeze

And in their fragrant shade to pant;

Although the shelter there be scant,

The vivid odours soothe and please,

And while he yields to dreams of hope,

Adoring beasts surround their Pope.


Breve

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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

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The contrasting section of music/lyrics which often occurs after the second chorus of a song.


Bucolic

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BUCOLICS (from the Gr. "pertaining to a herdsman"), a term occasionally used for rural or pastoral poetry. The expression has been traced back in English to the beginning of the 14th century, being used to describe the "Eclogues" of Virgil. The most celebrated collection of bucolics in antiquity is that of Theocritus, of which about thirty, in the Doric dialect, and mainly written in hexameter verse, have been preserved. This was the name, as is believed, originally given by Virgil to his pastoral poems, with the direct object of challenging comparison with the writings of Theocritus. In modern times the term "bucolics" has not often been specifically given by the poets to their pastorals; the main exception being that of Ronsard, who collected his eclogues under the title of "Les Bucoliques." In general practice the word is almost a synonym for pastoral poetry, but has come to bear a slightly more agricultural than shepherd signification, so that the "Georgics" of Virgil has grown to seem almost more "bucolic" than his "Eclogues." (See also Pastoral.)

Burden

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Chorus or refrain of a song/poem.


Burns' Stanza

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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

Byr a Thoddaid

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Welsh syllabic verse form.


Byronic Stanza

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See ottava rima.