Poetry Terms Beginning With 'B'

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


Poetry Terminology by Letter


Bacchic

Definition

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

Ballad

Definition

A story in a song, usually a narrative song or poem. Any form of story may be told as a ballad (not to be confused with a ballade), ranging from accounts of historical events to fairy tales in verse form. It is usually with foreshortened alternating four- and three-stress lines ('ballad meter') and simple repeating rhymes, and often with a refrain.

A popular kind of narrative poem, adapted for recitation or singing; esp., a sentimental or romantic poem in short stanzas.

Example

ANNABEL LEE

by Edgar Allan Poe
(1849)

It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of ANNABEL LEE;--
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.
She was a child and I was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea,
But we loved with a love that was more than love--
I and my Annabel Lee--
With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
Coveted her and me.

And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud by night
Chilling my Annabel Lee;
So that her high-born kinsman came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
In this kingdom by the sea.

The angels, not half so happy in Heaven,
Went envying her and me:--
Yes! that was the reason (as all men know,
In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of a cloud, chilling
And killing my Annabel Lee.

But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we--
Of many far wiser than we-
And neither the angels in Heaven above,
Nor the demons down under the sea,
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee:--

For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise but I see the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling, my darling, my life and my bride,
In her sepulchre there by the sea--
In her tomb by the side of the sea.

Ballade

Definition

The ballade is a verse form typically consisting of three eight-line stanzas, each with a consistent metre and a particular rhyme scheme. The last line in the stanza is a refrain, and the stanzas are followed by a four-line concluding stanza (an envoi) usually addressed to a prince. (The ballade should not be confused with the ballad.) The rhyme scheme is therefore usually 'ababbcbC ababbcbC ababbcbC bcbC', where the capital 'C' is a refrain. There are many variations to the ballade, and it is in many ways similar to the ode and chant royal. There are instances of a double ballade and double-refrain ballade. Some ballades have five stanzas; a ballade supreme has ten-line stanzas rhyming ababbccdcD, with the envoi ccdcD or ccdccD. A seven-line ballade, or ballade royal, consists of four stanzas of rhyme royal, all using the same three rhymes, all ending in a refrain, without an envoi.

A form of French versification, sometimes imitated in English, in which three or four rhymes recur through three stanzas of eight or ten lines each, the stanzas concluding with a refrain, and the whole poem with an envoy.

Example

A Ballade Of Theatricals by G.K. Chesterton (1912)
 Though all the critics' canons grow—
Far seedier than the actors' own—
Although the cottage-door's too low—
Although the fairy's twenty stone—
Although, just like the telephone,
She comes by wire and not by wings,
Though all the mechanism's known—
Believe me, there are real things.
Yes, real people— even so—
Even in a theatre, truth is known,
Though the agnostic will not know,
And though the gnostic will not own,
There is a thing called skin and bone,
And many a man that struts and sings
Has been as stony-broke as stone…
Believe me, there are real things
There is an hour when all men go;
An hour when man is all alone.
When idle minstrels in a row
Went down with all the bugles blown—
When brass and hymn and drum went down,
Down in death's throat with thunderings—
Ah, though the unreal things have grown,
Believe me, there are real things.
Prince, though your hair is not your own
And half your face held on by strings,
And if you sat, you'd smash your throne—
Believe me, there are real things.

Bard

Definition

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

Definition

The veneration accorded to Shakespeare.

Barley-Break

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

Definition

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

Definition

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

Definition

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

Definition

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

Definition

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.

Beat Poets/Poetry

Definition

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.

Bio

Definition

A poem written about one self's life, personality traits, and ambitions.

Example

Line 1: First name
Line 2: Four traits that describe you
Line 3: Brother/ Sister of ... (may substitute son/daughter of)
Line 4: Lover of ... (Give names of three people or ideas)
Line 5: Who feels ... (Give three feelings)
Line 6: Who fears ... (Give three items)
Line 7: Who would like to see ... (Give three items)
Line 8: Resident of ... (Give city and state)
Line 9: Last name only

Example: Devin Dusseau

Devin
Mother, daughter, friend, teacher
Sister of Deanna, Denise, and Danny
Lover of Grace, flowers, and Michigan Football
Who feels pain, love, and excitement
Who fears failure, loss, and large spiders
Who would like to see Florence, Hawaii, and Brazil
Resident of Adrian, Michigan
Dusseau


Black Mountain Poets

Definition

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.

Blank verse

Definition

A type of poetry, distinguished by having a regular meter, but no rhyme. In English, the meter most commonly used with blank verse has been iambic pentameter. The iambic pentameter form often resembles the rhythms of speech. Verse that does not employ a rhyme scheme. Blank verse, however, is not the same as free verse because it employs a meter e.g. Paradise Lost by John Milton which is written in iambic pentameters.

Example

You stars that reign'd at my nativity,
Whose influence hath alloted death and hell,
Now draw up Faustus like a foggy mist
Into the entrails of yon labouring clouds,
That when they vomit forth into the air,
My limbs may issue from their smoky mouths,
So that my soul may but ascend to Heaven.


Blazon

Definition

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

Blitz

Definition

A form of poetry created by poet Robert Keim in 2008. It is a 50-line poem of short phrases and images. The "Blitz" poem is well-named, as the fifty short lines are read in rapid-fire fashion. “The form really relies on sound and rapid "flow." ~Rob Keim.

Here are the rules:

  • Line 1 should be one short phrase or image (like “build a boat”)
  • Line 2 should be another short phrase or image using the same first word as the first word in Line 1 (something like “build a house”)
  • Lines 3 and 4 should be short phrases or images using the last word of Line 2 as their first words (so Line 3 might be “house for sale” and Line 4 might be “house for rent”)
  • Lines 5 and 6 should be short phrases or images using the last word of Line 4 as their first words, and so on until you’ve made it through 48 lines
  • Line 49 should be the last word of Line 48
  • Line 50 should be the last word of Line 47
  • The title of the poem should be three words long and follow this format: (first word of Line 3) (preposition or conjunction) (first word of line 47)
  • There should be no punctuation, except for an ellipse after the final two words in lines 49 & 50.

Blues, The

Definition

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

Definition

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

Definition

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

Definition

Pompous or overblown language.

Bouts-Rimés

Definition

Game originating in France where players compete to write the best poem using a set of pre-selected rhymes. It was frequently played by Christina and Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

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

Definition

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

Definition

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

Bucolic

Definition

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

Definition

Chorus or refrain of a song/poem.

Burlesque

Definition

Poetry that treats a serious subject ridiculously, humorously, or is simply a trivial story.

Example

NA

Burns' Stanza

Definition

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

Definition

Welsh syllabic verse form.

Byronic Stanza

Definition

See ottava rima.