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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In poetry, a stanza is a unit within a larger poem. In modern poetry, the term is often equivalent with strophe; in popular vocal music, a stanza is typically referred to as a "verse" (distinct from the refrain, or "chorus").

A stanza consists of a grouping of lines, set off by a space, that usually has a set pattern of meter and rhyme.

In traditional English-language poems, stanzas can be identified and grouped together because they share a rhyme scheme or a fixed number of lines (as in distich/couplet, tercet, quatrain, cinquain/quintain, sestet). In much modern poetry, stanzas may be arbitrarily presented on the printed page because of publishing conventions that employ such features as white space or punctuation.

Stanza names

Stanzas can be given a specific name depending on their structure and rhyme pattern.[1]

List of stanza names according to number of lines:

Other stanza names:


One of the most common manifestations of stanzaic form in poetry in English (and in other Western European languages) is represented in texts for church hymns, such as the first three stanzas (of nine) from a poem by Isaac Watts (from 1719) cited immediately below (in this case, each stanza is to be sung to the same hymn tune, composed earlier by William Croft in 1708):

Our God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home.
Beneath the shadow of Thy throne
Thy saints have dwelt secure;
Sufficient is Thine arm alone,
And our defense is sure.
Before the hills in order stood,
Or earth received her frame,
From everlasting Thou art God,
To endless years the same. [etc.]

Less obvious manifestations of stanzaic form can be found as well, as in Shakespeare's sonnets, which, while printed as whole units in themselves, can be broken into stanzas with the same rhyme scheme followed by a final couplet, as in the example of Sonnet 116:

    Let me not to the marriage of true minds             |\
    Admit impediments. Love is not love                  | \
    Which alters when it alteration finds,               | / All one stanza
    Or bends with the remover to remove:                 |/
    O no! it is an ever-fixed mark,                      |\ 
    That looks on tempests and is never shaken;          | \
    It is the star to every wandering bark,              | / All one stanza
    Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken. |/
    Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks  |\
    Within his bending sickle's compass come;            | \
    Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,      | / All one stanza
    But bears it out even to the edge of doom.           |/
    If this be error and upon me proved,                 |\
    I never write, nor no man ever loved.                |/  A couplet


Source material

Up to date as of January 22, 2010

From Wikisource

by Percy Bysshe Shelley

If I walk in Autumn's even
While the dead leaves pass,
If I look on Spring's soft heaven,—
Something is not there which was
Winter's wondrous frost and snow,
Summer's clouds, where are they now?

PD-icon.svg This work published before January 1, 1923 is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

STANZA (Low Lat. stantia, Ital. stantia or stanza), properly an apartment or storey in a house, the term being hence adopted for literary purposes to denote a complete section, of recurrent form, in a poem. A stanza is a strophe of two or more lines, usually rhyming, but always recurring, the idea of fixed repetition of form being essential to it. At the close of the 16th century the word stanza began to be used with an adjective to designate a particular species, as the "Spenserian stanza," because Spenser had invented that nine-lined form for his Faerie Queen; or "Ariosto's stanza" as Drayton described what is now known as ottava rima, because Ariosto had written prominently in it. By "stanzaic law" is meant the law which regulates the form and succession of stanzas. The stanza is a modern development of the strophe of the ancients, modified by the requirements of rhyme. (See VERSE; STROPHE; SPENSERIAN STANZA.)

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Simple English

A stanza is a related group of lines or verses in a poem. A stanza also can be a verse in paragraph form.

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