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ENGL101: Introduction to Literary Studies

Unit 2: Poetics   After the discovery of “The Epic of Gilgamesh,” we learned that poetry has been around since the third millennium, BCE (and likely well before that), and that it has survived, in one form or another, in every society since. But what is poetry? What distinguishes it from other forms of literary expression? In this unit, we will seek to clarify these questions by acquainting ourselves with the principle modes, styles, and elements of poetry in English. Along the way, we will read and explicate a number of the most widely anthologized poems in the English tradition, including poems by authors as varied as William Shakespeare and W. H. Auden.

Unit 2 Time Advisory
This unit should take approximately 36 hours to complete.

☐ Subunit 2.1: 6 hours

☐ Subunit 2.1.1: 1 hour

☐ Subunit 2.1.2: 1 hour

☐ Subunit 2.1.3: 4 hours

☐ Subunit 2.2: 4.5 hours

☐ Subunit 2.2.1: 1 hour

☐ Subunit 2.2.2: .5 hours

☐ Subunit 2.2.3: .5 hours

☐ Subunit 2.2.4: .5 hours

☐ Subunit 2.2.5: 1 hour

☐ Subunit 2.2.6: 1 hour

☐ Subunit 2.3: 7 hours

☐ Subunit 2.3.1: 1 hour

☐ Subunit 2.3.2: 2 hours

☐ Subunit 2.3.3: 2 hours

☐ Subunit 2.3.4: 2 hours

☐ Subunit 2.4: 16 hours

☐ Subunit 2.4.1: 1 hour

☐ Subunit 2.4.2: 1 hour

☐ Subunit 2.4.3: 1 hour

☐ Subunit 2.4.4: 3 hours

☐ Subunit 2.4.5: 6 hours

☐ “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”: 3 hours

☐ “Paradise Lost: Book 9”: 3 hours

☐ Subunit 2.4.6: 4 hours

☐ Subunit 2.5: 2.5 hours

Unit2 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, you will be able to: - define “poetry” and explain how various forms of poetry work; and - identify and employ various scansion techniques in the study and close analysis of a number of poetic forms.

2.1.1 Introduction to the Genre   - Reading: The Open University’s “What is Poetry?” Link: The Open University’s “What is Poetry?” (HTML)

 Instructions: Read this webpage and complete the exercises
included. These documents will provide you with a brief and somewhat
comical overview of poetry.  

 Terms of Use: This resource is licensed under a [Creative Commons
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported
License](http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/us/). It
is attributed to The Open University.

2.1.2 Poetic Imagination   - Reading: The Open University’s “Impersonation and Imagination”

Link: The Open University’s [“Impersonation and
Imagination”](http://www.open.edu/openlearn/history-the-arts/culture/literature-and-creative-writing/literature/what-poetry/content-section-4)
(HTML)  

 Instructions: Read this webpage and complete the exercises
included. This webpage includes audio clips of poets discussing
their writing and will help you understand some of the basic
concepts that inspire poets.  

 Terms of Use: This resource is licensed under a [Creative Commons
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported
License](http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/us/). It
is attributed to The Open University.

2.1.3 Poetry and Society   - Reading: Project Gutenberg’s version of Aristotle’s Poetics: “Sections I, II, III, and IV”, and Bartleby’s version of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “A Defence of Poetry”

Link: Project Gutenberg’s version of Aristotle’s *Poetics:*
[“Sections I, II, III, and
IV”](http://www.saylor.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/THE-POETICS-OF-ARISTOTLE.pdf) (PDF),
and Bartleby’s version of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s [“A Defence of
Poetry”](http://www.saylor.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/A-Defense-of-Poetry.pdf) (PDF)  

 Instructions: Scroll down and read only sections I, II, III, and IV
of *Poetics*. In this essay, written in 335 B.C.E., Aristotle argues
that poetry is, essentially, a form of imitation and that humans
enjoy and learn from artistic mimicry. It is widely thought that
*Poetics* is a response to Aristotle’s teacher, Plato, who argued in
*The Republic* that poets should be banished, because they portray a
false image of the world.  
  

Then read Shelley’s Romantic-era essay concerning the ways in which
poetry should be defined and understood. This essay was written in
1821 and published in 1840. Like Aristotle, Shelley argues that
poetry reflects a desire to reproduce rhythm, harmony, and beauty.
Taking this argument one step further, Shelley believes that poets
are visionaries who can order the world in new ways and positively
influence civil society. According to Shelley, “Poets are the
unacknowledged legislators of the
world”[<sup><sup>[1]</sup></sup>](http://www.bartleby.com/27/23.html)  

 Consider the following study questions: What does Aristotle
consider to be the primary social function of literature? How does
Shelley directly or implicitly rework some of Aristotle’s ideas?
What is the status of poets and poetry in today’s society?  

 Terms of Use: Aristotle’s *Poetics* and “A Defence of Poetry” are
both in the public domain.  

------------------------------------------------------------------------

<sup><sup>[[1]](http://www.bartleby.com/27/23.html)</sup></sup>Shelley,
Percy Bysshe. “A Defense of Poetry,” *English Essays: From Sidney to
Macaulay.  Harvard Classics*. 1909–14.
 <http://www.bartleby.com/27/23.html>

 

2.2 The Basics of Poetics: Sound and Sense   2.2.1 Poetic Techniques   - Reading: The Open University’s “Lines and Line-Breaks”, “Free Verse”, and “Stanzas and Verse”

Link: The Open University’s [“Lines and
Line-Breaks”](http://www.open.edu/openlearn/history-the-arts/culture/literature-and-creative-writing/literature/what-poetry/content-section-5.1),
[“Free
Verse”](http://www.open.edu/openlearn/history-the-arts/culture/literature-and-creative-writing/literature/what-poetry/content-section-5.2),
and [“Stanzas and
Verse”](http://www.open.edu/openlearn/history-the-arts/culture/literature-and-creative-writing/literature/what-poetry/content-section-5.3)
(HTML)  

 Instructions: Read the above three webpages and complete the
exercises included. These pages will provide you with a brief
overview of some of the most common techniques used in poetry.  We
will explore these techniques in more detail later in this unit.  

 Terms of Use: The resources above are licensed under a [Creative
Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported
License](http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/us/). They
are attributed to The Open University.

2.2.2 Poetic Rhythm and Meter   - Reading: The Open University’s “Stress and Rhythm” and “Metre”

Link: The Open University’s [“Stress and
Rhythm”](http://www.open.edu/openlearn/history-the-arts/culture/literature-and-creative-writing/literature/what-poetry/content-section-8)
and
[“Metre”](http://www.open.edu/openlearn/history-the-arts/culture/literature-and-creative-writing/literature/what-poetry/content-section-9)
(HTML)  

 Instructions: Read the above webpages and complete the exercises
included.  This page will provide you with a brief overview of a
common poetic rhythm pattern, which is known as “meter.” (Note that
the above pages use the British spelling of this term, “metre.”)
Poetry students often identify and analyze the rhythmic patterns in
poetry, a practice known as “scansion.” In this subunit, you will
get a brief introduction to scansion, which will be covered in more
detailed in the subunit that follows.  
    
 Terms of Use: This resource is licensed under a [Creative Commons
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported
License](http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/us/). It
is attributed to The Open University.

2.2.3 Scansion   - Reading: Erik Simpson’s “Scansion” Link: Erik Simpson’s “Scansion” (HTML)

 Instructions: Read the “Scansion” webpage, including the subpages
entitled “Stresses,” “Feet,” and “Caesurae.” This reading provides a
detailed overview of how to analyze the stress patterns in poetry.  

 Terms of Use: This resource is licensed under a [Creative Commons
Attribution 2.0 Unported
License](http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/). It is
attributed to Erik Simpson. 
  • Web Media: EnglishGuyinTexas’ “Poetry Metrics 1” Link: EnglishGuyinTexas’ “Poetry Metrics 1” (YouTube)

    Instructions: Watch this video on poetry metrics, which provides detailed examples of the four most common stress patterns in traditional poetry.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyrights and terms of use displayed on the webpages above.

2.2.4 Rhyme   - Reading: Poetry Foundation’s “Definition of Rhyme” and The Open University’s “Rhyme” Link: Poetry Foundation’s “Definition of Rhyme” (HTML) and The Open University’s “Rhyme” (HTML)

 Instructions: Read and study the Poetry Foundation’s definition of
rhyme to gain a better understanding of the various forms of rhyme
in English poetry. Then, read The Open University’s lesson on rhyme.
This page includes audio of poets discussing rhyme in their own
work.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above. “Rhyme” is licensed under a
[Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported
License](http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/us/). It
is attributed to The Open University.

2.2.5 Sound Patterns   - Reading: The Saylor Foundation’s “Assonance, Alliteration, and Consonance”; Poetry Foundation: Ruth Moose’s “Laundry”, William Blake’s “Ah! Sun-Flower”, and Robert Pinsky’s “Doctor Frolic” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Assonance, Alliteration, and Consonance” (PDF); Poetry Foundation: Ruth Moose’s “Laundry” (HTML), William Blake’s “Ah! Sun-Flower” (HTML), and Robert Pinsky’s “Doctor Frolic” (HTML)

 Instructions: Read the “Assonance, Alliteration, and Consonance”
article for definitions and examples of these literary devices.
 Then, print a copy of each the poems above and look for examples of
the following sound patterns.

-   “Laundry” provides an example of a poem that makes use of
    alliteration. Underline the examples of alliteration that you
    find.
-   “Ah! Sun-flower” provides an example of a poem that makes use of
    assonance. Underline the examples of assonance that you find.
-   “Doctor Frolic” provides an example of a poem that makes use of
    consonance. Underline the examples of consonance that you find.

Terms of Use: “Assonance, Alliteration, and Consonance” is licensed
under a [Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported
License](http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/). It is
attributed to The Saylor Foundation. “Ah! Sun-Flower” is in the
Public Domain. Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

2.2.6 Figurative Language: Metaphors, Similes, and Apostrophes   - Reading: Poetry Foundation’s Definition of “Metaphor”, Rutgers University: Dr. Jack Lynch’s Definitions of “Simile” and “Apostrophe”

Link: Poetry Foundation’s Definition of
[“Metaphor”](http://www.poetryfoundation.org/learning/glossary-term/Metaphor)
(HTML), Rutgers University: Dr. Jack Lynch’s Definitions of
[“Simile”](http://andromeda.rutgers.edu/~jlynch/Terms/simile.html) and
[“Apostrophe”](http://andromeda.rutgers.edu/~jlynch/Terms/apostrophe.html) (HTML)  

 Instructions: First read the Poetry Foundation’s definition of
metaphor, then follow the link at the bottom of the page, which will
take you to poems in the Poetry Foundation’s archive that make use
of metaphor as a primary poetic device. Choose one of these poems,
print it out, and underline every example of a metaphor that you
find. Then, read Dr. Jack Lynch’s definitions of “simile” and
“apostrophe.” Pay close attention to the examples provided.  

 Consider the following study question: What is the difference
between a simile and a metaphor?  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyrights and terms of use
displayed on the webpages above.

2.3 Matters of Form   2.3.1 The Basic Units: Lines, Couplets, and Stanzas   - Reading: University of Pennsylvania: Dr. Al Filreis’ Explication of Poetic “Lines”, University of Northern Iowa: Dr. Vince Gotera’s Definition of “Couplet”, and Brooklyn College: Dr. Lilia Melani’s “Stanza”

Link: University of Pennsylvania: Dr. Al Filreis’ Explication of
Poetic
[“Lines”](http://writing.upenn.edu/~afilreis/88/line.html) (HTML),
University of Northern Iowa: Dr. Vince Gotera’s Definition
of [“Couplet”](http://www.uni.edu/~gotera/CraftOfPoetry/couplet.html) (HTML),
and Brooklyn College: Dr. Lilia Melani’s [“Explication of
the](http://www.saylor.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/explication-of-stanza.pdf)[Stanza](http://www.saylor.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/explication-of-stanza.pdf)[”](http://www.saylor.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/explication-of-stanza.pdf) (PDF)


 Instructions: Read Dr. Filreis’ explanation of poetic “lines,” Dr.
Gotera’s definition of “couplet,” and Dr. Melani’s webpage
concerning the “stanza,” which also discusses poetic principles that
apply to the reading for the following subunit.  

 Terms of Use: The linked material above, “Explication of the
‘Stanza’” has been reposted by the kind permission of Dr. Lilian
Melani and can be viewed in its original
form [here](http://academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu/english/melani/cs6/stanza.html) (HTML).
Please note that this material is under copyright and cannot be
reproduced in any capacity without explicit permission from the
copyright holder.

2.3.2 Stanzaic versus Continuous Forms   - Reading: Bartleby’s versions of Walt Whitman’s “O Captain, My Captain” and “Song of Myself: Stanzas 1–10” Link: Bartleby’s versions of Walt Whitman’s “O Captain, My Captain” (PDF) and Song of Myself: Stanzas 1–10” (PDF)

 Instructions: Read Whitman’s “O Captain, My Captain” and stanzas
1–10 of his “Song of Myself” in order to gain a sense of the
difference between stanzaic versus continuous poetic forms.  

 Many literary critics and historians feel that Whitman was
America’s first great poet. Whitman’s poetry is full of passion and
personal expression, yet he also focuses on democracy and equality
of the American people. Many contemporary American poets consider
Whitman to be the greatest American poet of the nineteenth century
and in possession of a remarkable and engaging measure of humanity
and personal insight. “O Captain, My Captain” is an elegy written
after the assassination of President Lincoln. “Song of Myself” is a
celebration of Whitman’s self and through him, the self of all
others. In essence, Whitman expressed vox populi, or the voice of
the people.  

 Terms of Use: “O Captain, My Captain” and “Song of Myself” are both
in the public domain.  

2.3.3 Fixed Form I: The Sonnets   - Reading: University of Pennsylvania: Dr. Al Filreis’ “Sonnet”, William Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 18”, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s “How Do I Love Thee?” Link: University of Pennsylvania: Dr. Al Filreis’ “Sonnet” (HTML), William Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 18” (PDF), and Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s “How Do I Love Thee?” (PDF)

 Browning is also available in:  
 [Google
Books](http://books.google.com/books?id=hEogAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA280&dq=how+do+i+love+thee+browning&hl=en&ei=px8uTNfvEYG88gbb4KWkAw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4&ved=0CD0Q6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=how%20do%20i%20love%20thee%20browning&f=false)  

 Instructions: Read Dr. Filreis’ webpage, which provides
explanations of the various sonnet types, Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 18”
(an example of the Shakespearean sonnet), and Barrett Browning’s
“How Do I Love Thee” (an example of the Petrarchan sonnet).  
    
 Terms of Use: “Sonnet 18” and “How Do I Love Thee” are both in the
public domain. Please respect the copyrights and terms of use
displayed on the webpages above. 

2.3.4 Fixed Form II: Haikus, Villanelles, and the Sestina   - Reading: Poets.org’s “Poetic Form: Haiku”, Arizona State University: Dr. Alberto Ríos’ “Villanelle” and “Sestina”, Bartleby’s version of Ezra Pound’s “In a Station of the Metro”, Poets.org’s version of Elizabeth Bishop’s “One Art”, and Poet.org’s version of Ezra Pound’s “Sestina: Altaforte” Link: Poets.org’s “Poetic Form: Haiku” (HTML), Arizona State University: Dr. Alberto Ríos’ “Villanelle” (HTML) and “Sestina” (HTML), Bartleby’s version of Ezra Pound’s “In a Station of the Metro” (PDF), Poets.org’s version of Elizabeth Bishop’s “One Art” (HTML), and Poet.org’s version of Ezra Pound’s “Sestina: Altaforte” (HTML)

 Instructions: Read the poets.org’s definition of the haiku, Dr.
Ríos’ useful webpages discussing the “villanelle” and “sestina,”
Pound’s “In a Station of the Metro” (an example of a Western haiku),
Bishop’s “One Art” (an example of the villanelle), and Pound's
“Sestina: Altaforte” (an example of the sestina).  

 Terms of Use: “In a Station of a Metro” is in the public domain.
 Please respect the copyrights and terms of use displayed on the
webpages above.

2.4 Poetic Conventions   Note: In this unit, we will examine three different poetic conventions by poets that wrote in the same era—The Romantic Period.  By confining our study here to a single era, we will be able to see how contemporary poets made use of different traditions to express similar concerns.

2.4.1 The Ballad and Oral Traditions   - Reading: University of Pennsylvania: Dr. Al Filreis’ “Ballad” and Bartleby’s version of John Keats’ “La Belle Dame Sans Merce”

Link: University of Pennsylvania: Dr. Al Filreis’
[“Ballad”](http://writing.upenn.edu/~afilreis/88/ballad.html) (HTML)
and Bartleby’s version of John Keats’ [“La Belle Dame Sans
Merce”](https://web.archive.org/web/20131025021532/http://www.saylor.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/John-Keats.pdf) (PDF)  

 Keats is also available in:  
 [PDF](http://www.pinkmonkey.com/dl/library1/keat09.pdf)  
 [Google
Books](http://books.google.com/books?id=87REAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA354&dq=john+keats+la+belle+dame+sans+merci&hl=en&ei=zCMuTN6kCcGC8gblnIi_Aw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CC8Q6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=john%20keats%20la%20belle%20dame%20sans%20merci&f=false)  

 Instructions: Read Dr. Filreis’ webpage concerning the ballad and
Keats’ poem as an example of the ballad form.  

 Terms of Use: “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” is in the public domain.
Please respect the copyrights and terms of use displayed on the
webpages above.

2.4.2 The Ode: Types, Tones, and Other Traditions   - Reading: Brooklyn College: Dr. Lilia Melani’s “The Meditative Romantic Ode” and Bartleby’s version of William Wordsworth’s “Ode: Intimations of Immortality”

Link: Brooklyn College: Dr. Lilia Melani’s [“The Meditative Romantic
Ode”](http://www.saylor.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/The-Meditative-Romantic-Ode.pdf) (PDF)
and Bartleby’s version of William Wordsworth’s [“Ode: Intimations of
Immortality”](http://www.saylor.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/Ode.pdf) (PDF)  

 Wordsworth is also available in:  
 [PDF](http://www.pinkmonkey.com/dl/library1/odeioi.pdf)  
 [Google
Books](http://books.google.com/books?id=bfdGAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA52&dq=ode+intimations+of+immortality&hl=en&ei=DiUuTJTMOIT58Aar-dnwAg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=6&ved=0CEAQ6AEwBQ#v=onepage&q=ode%20intimations%20of%20immortality&f=false)  

 Instructions: Read Dr. Melani’s description of the Romantic ode and
Wordsworth’s example of the ode.  

 Terms of Use: “Ode: Intimations of Immortality” is in the public
domain. The linked material above has been reposted by the kind
permission of Dr Lilian Melani and can be viewed in its original
form
[here](http://academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu/english/melani/cs6/ode.html) (HTML).
Please note that this material is under copyright and cannot be
reproduced in any capacity without explicit permission from the
copyright holder.

2.4.3 The Elegy   - Reading: Poets.org’s “Elegy” and Thomas Gray’s “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” Link: Poets.org’s “Elegy” (HTML) and Thomas Gray’s “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” (PDF)

 Elegy is also available in:  
 [Google
Books](http://books.google.com/books?id=cdAyAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=elegy+written+in+a+country+churchyard&source=bl&ots=YyVFGojaow&sig=JPSyJe2oJ9_phrz8xIiABkzjXtM&hl=en&ei=nCYuTJeXO8H58AbI6tmpAw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=5&ved=0CC4Q6AEwBA#v=one)  
 [PDF](http://www.pinkmonkey.com/dl/library1/eleg.pdf)  

 Instructions: Read this explication of the elegy and Gray’s example
of the form.  

 Terms of Use: “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” is in the
public domain. Please respect the copyrights and terms of use
displayed on the webpages above.

2.4.4 Lyric Poetry   - Reading: Bartleby’s version of William Wordsworth’s “Preface to Lyrical Ballads” and Luminarium’s version of John Donne’s “The Flea” Link: Bartleby’s version of William Wordsworth’s “Preface to Lyrical Ballads” (PDF) and Luminarium’s version of John Donne’s “The Flea” (PDF)

 Wordsworth is also available in:  
 [Google
Books](http://books.google.com/books?id=JW83Xx6q6cIC&pg=PA5&lpg=PA5&dq=Preface+to+Lyrical+Ballads&source=bl&ots=PH4idkVyUL&sig=OpRHveggebu1Ubik7BlaxI4485w&hl=en&ei=iQouTNbnAYH88Abe8viZAw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=3&ved=0CCIQ6AEwAjg8#v=onepage&q=Preface)  

 Donne is also available in:  
 [Google
Books](http://books.google.com/books?id=oG9KAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA40&dq=john+donne+the+flea&hl=en&ei=1gsuTMH3IoP98AaY5fyOAw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4&ved=0CDYQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=john%20donne%20the%20flea&f=false)  

 Instructions: Read Wordsworth’s “Preface to Lyrical Ballads” and
Donne’s poem.  

 Terms of Use: “Preface to Lyrical Ballads” and “The Flea” are in
the public domain. Please respect the copyrights and terms of use
displayed on the webpages above.

2.4.5 Narrative Poetry   Narrative poems are poems that tell stories.  They are among the most ancient forms of storytelling and were often recited aloud or set to music.  Homer’s Odyssey, Virgil’s Aeneid, and Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales are all examples of narrative poems.  In the following subunit, you will examine two famous examples of narrative poems.

  • Reading: Bartleby’s version of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” and Dartmouth Reading Room’s version of John Milton’s “Paradise Lost: Book 9”

    Link: Bartleby’s version of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” (HTML) and Dartmouth Reading Room’s version of John Milton’s “Paradise Lost: Book 9” (HTML)

    Coleridge also available in:
    Google Books

    Kindle

    Instructions: Read Coleridge’s poem (and its accompanying gloss) and Book 9 of Milton’s epic poem.  Note that Book 9 of Milton’s “Paradise Lost” is an example of epic poetry, which is a subgenre of narrative poetry.

    Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” is widely considered to be one of the greatest epic poems of the English Romantic age. This richly symbolic story of the ancient mariner, who is seemingly cursed for killing the albatross and his resulting encounters with death in a variety of different forms, and left to forever wander and tell his story, is a richly allegorical and philosophical tale. The accompanying gloss notes – which were written by Coleridge after his composition of the original draft of the poem itself – serve to expand on a number of themes presented within the text and provide another set of ideas and a separate perspective on the events that occur within the poem.

    John Milton’s “Paradise Lost” is considered to be the greatest English epic poem. Over the course of the poem’s 10 books, Milton chronicles and reworks the Christian story of the fall of man in order, as he stated, to “justify the ways of God to man.” Milton explores a range of topics throughout the poem, including politics, faith, fate, and the nature of good and evil. In Book 9, which is presented here, Milton explores Adam and Eve’s act of disobedience in the Garden of Eden and their fall from God’s grace.

    Terms of Use: “Paradise Lost” and “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” are both in the public domain.

2.4.6 Dramatic Poetry   Dramatic poetry, as its name implies, is a poem that is intended to be enacted in a theater or that is written in the style of a play or the voice of a character speaking aloud. For example, Shakespeare’s plays are written as extended dramatic poems, and his characters speak to one another in verse. Some dramatic poems are never intended to be enacted but rather adopt the style of a live conversation or monologue. Robert Browning and Alfred, Lord Tennyson are among the best-known for this style of dramatic poem.  The genre of dramatic poetry sometimes overlaps with narrative poetry. For example, Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales is often considered an extended narrative poem; however, much of the story is told through dramatic monologue and dialogue. 

  • Reading: Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s version of William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream: Act 1, Scene 1 Link: Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s version of William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream: Act 1, Scene 1 (PDF)

    Instructions: Read Act 1, Scene 1, of Shakespeare’s play for a classic example of the genre.

    Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is probably his most famous comedic play. The plot of the play involves the festivities surrounding the marriage of the Duke of Athens and Queen of the Amazons, a group of actors, two pairs of lovers, and the manipulations of a group of fairies who reside within the forest in which the play is set. The play is considered by many critics to be Shakespeare’s most inventive, subtle, and complicated work. In the first scene of the play, which you will read here, the Duke of Athens and Queen of the Amazons discuss their impending marriage and, among a variety of other topics, the nature of love.

    Terms of Use: A Midsummer Night’s Dream is in the public domain.  

  • Reading: Poetry Foundation's version of Robert Browning’s “My Last Duchess” Link: Poetry Foundation's version of Robert Browning’s “My Last Duchess” (PDF)

    Instructions: Play the audio recording at the top of the page and read the poem as you listen.

    Consider the following study question: Why does Browning write his poem in a dramatic form?  How is the poem’s effect different from that of a narrative poem?

    Terms of Use: “My Last Duchess” is in the public domain. 

2.5 Exercise: Explicate a Poem   In this unit, you have learned about several genres of poems. You have also learned several literary terms and techniques for analyzing poems. Now it’s time to put what you’ve learned into practice by explicating a poem. Explication is a term literary scholars use to describe the process of analyzing every aspect of a poem, from its structure to its meaning.

  • Reading: University of North Carolina Writing Center: “Poetry Explications” and The Poetry Foundation's version of William Shakespeare’s “Blow, Blow, Thou Winter Wind” Link: University of North Carolina Writing Center: “Poetry Explications” (HTML) and The Poetry Foundation's version of William Shakespeare’s “Blow, Blow, Thou Winter Wind” (PDF)

    Instructions: Read “Poetry Explications” and then Shakespeare's poem. It may help to print them out. Following the instructions in the “Poetry Explications” exercise, answer the questions included in the section entitled “Preparing to Write the Explication.” Review the section on meter and scan the meter of the Shakespeare poem. Then, try writing an explication using the guide in the final section of the Explication document. The explication is intended to help you solidify your understanding of how to analyze poetry and is for your benefit only. You will not be submitting your paper. 

    Terms of Use: “Poetry Explications” is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Unported License. It is attributed to The University of North Carolina Writing Center, and the original version can be found here (HTML). William Shakespeare's "Blow, Blow, Thou Winter Wind" is in the public domain.