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Heroic Couplet

Definition

A heroic couplet is a type of poem that has a rhyming pair of iambic pentameter lines; which is a line usually containing ten syllables. Heroic couplet poetry is more often written as a way of expressing a harrowing tale of adventure in a strong and impacting way. This form of poetry has been frequently used for narrative verse, epigrams, and satires.

Heroic couplets are one of the favored forms of reciting tales and powerful meanings with its two rhyming lines. The iambic pentameter gives a beautiful flow and the expression behind the words hold more energy and passion. They became a form of poetry to express the dramatic and fantastic world and lives of people, fictitious or real.

Example

A frequently-cited example illustrating the use of heroic couplets is this passage from Cooper's Hill by John Denham, part of his description of the Thames:

O could I flow like thee, and make thy stream
My great example, as it is my theme!
Though deep, yet clear, though gentle, yet not dull,
Strong without rage, without o'erflowing full.

Another example from John Dryden's translation of Virgil's "The Aeneid":

Soon had their hosts in bloody battle join'd;
But westward to the sea the sun declin'd.
Intrench'd before the town both armies lie,
While Night with sable wings involves the sky.

Origin and History

The origin of heroic couplets is unknown, but the first widely recognized use was by a man named Geoffrey Chaucer of the 14th century. Since then, more poets have taken pen to paper choosing heroic couplets as their way to express the grandeur that they write about. 

A traditional form for English poetry, commonly used for epic and narrative poetry; it refers to poems constructed from a sequence of rhyming pairs of iambic pentameter lines.


[n] a couplet written in an elevated style

Example

A frequently-cited example illustrating the use of heroic couplets is this passage from Cooper's Hill by John Denham, part of his description of the Thames:

O could I flow like thee, and make thy stream
My great example, as it is my theme!
Though deep, yet clear, though gentle, yet not dull,
Strong without rage, without o'erflowing full.

Related Information

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