Short Notes: Theory of Poetry, Poetic Diction, Lyric, Sonnet, Monologue & Free Verse

Mohammed Ahsan

Short Notes: Theory of Poetry, Poetic Diction, Lyric, Sonnet, Monologue & Free Verse

Short Notes: Theory of Poetry, Poetic Diction, Lyric, Sonnet, Monologue & Free Verse

Frost's concept of poetry Or, Frost's Theory of Poetry

Frost had no rigid definition of poetry. In his essay, "The Figure a Poem Makes" Frost put forward his ideas on poetry as "certain elastic principles", and as "words that have become deeds". He considered poetry neither as pure art nor as pure preaching. Content and form of poetry were equally important for him. Form means stanzaic form, balance and equilibrium, organization of matter and meaning. These elements need to be fused in poetry along with the poetic diction of the poet.

"A momentary stay against confusion" is an important element of his theory of poetry. It is as important for Frost as "spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings" is for Wordsworth. A poem begins with some impulse, takes some direction through "a course of lucky events", and ends in clarification of life.

He considered that a poem's freshness and originality lie in its flow from delight to wisdom, the surprise of remembering something he did not know before.

Frost considered poetry to be a serious art form, though he did not undermine spontaneity, and it required conscious craftsmanship. The poet's pleasure lies in discovering words, images, metaphor and phrases native to the emotion.

Poetic Diction

The poetry of almost all ages has been written in a special language, a "poetic diction". It includes words, phrases, a stylized syntax, and types of figures not current in the ordinary conversation of the time. In modern discussion, however, the term poetic diction is usually applied to the special procedures of neoclassic writers who believed that the language of the age is never the language of poetry.

This diction was partly derived from the characteristic usage of the earlier poet like Virgil, Spenser, and Milton, and partly based on the reigning principle of decorum, according to which a poet must adapt the level and type of his diction to the mode and status of a particular genre. Prominent characteristics of much 18" century diction were its archaism and use of recurrent epithets, frequent invocations to and attractions for inanimate objects, circumlocution or periphrasis, and avoidance of low, technical, or commonplace terms.

Wordsworth protested against the 18th century poetic diction, and prescribed the use of the language used by the common men in their everyday affairs. Frost was like Wordsworth-he used the language of common man in their day-to-day affairs.


Lyric is a type of poetry which is marked by emotion, melody, imagination, and musicality. Originally, lyric poetry was sung to the accompaniment of a lyre. In the present day literature, the term encompasses poetry in which the poet expresses personal thoughts or feelings, as opposed to epic or dramatic poetry which describes external circumstances and events.

In English literature, the history of the lyric goes back to the earliest epic, Beowulf, which contains passages with lyric qualities. Deor's Lament, an Anglo-Saxon poem, is essentially lyric in purpose. Chaucer, a 14th century English poet, wrote a number of lyrics, many of which were modelled on French forms.

In Elizabethan England, the lyric was further developed by Jonson, Herrick, Sidney, Spenser, and Shakespeare. The English Romantics, Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley, and Keats, among others, wrote powerful lyric poetry. Throughout the 19 century, such major poets as Tennyson, Browning, and Swinburne also used the lyric extensively. In contemporary literature, the lyric continues to be a widely used form of poetic expression.


A sonnet is a lyric poem of fourteen lines, usually in iambic pentameter. It originated in 13th century Italy, was developed by the Italian poet Petrarch and was brought to England by Sir Thomas Wyatt in the sixteenth century. The form was greatly modified by the Earl of Surrey and by Shakespeare and, to a lesser extent by poets since Shakespeare.

The three characteristic types of sonnet in English literature are the Italian or Petrarchan, the English or Shakespearean, and the Spenserian.

The Italian form (also called the regular or classical sonnet, is divided into the octave (first eight lines) and the sestet (the last six lines). The rhyme scheme of the octave is: abba abba; of the sestet, cde, cde, or cd, cd, cd. The English sonnet characteristically has four divisions; three quatrains and a rhymed couplet. The rhyme scheme is abab cdcd efef gg. The concluding couplet is usually a comment on the preceding lines.

The Spenserian sonnet was developed by and named for Edmund Spenser, an English poet of the 16 century. It is like the English sonnet. Its rhyme scheme is abab bcbc cdcd ee.

Some poets have written a series of sonnets on a particular theme. They are called sonnet sequences or cycles. Sidney, Spenser, Shakespeare are some of such poets.

Hopkins invented a type of sonnet known as curtail sonnet. It consists of 10 lines divided into two stanzas.

In the 20th century a number of poets composed a variety of sonnets on many different themes.

"During over 700 years the narrow room of the sonnet" has been adapted to a remarkable variety of experiments.


This term "monologue" is used in a number of senses, with the basic meaning of a single person speaking alone with or without an audience. Lyrical verses, all laments and most prayers are monologues. However, four main kinds of monologues can be distinguished: (a) monodrama; (b) soliloquy; (c) solo addresses to an audience in a play; for instance, lago's explanations to the audience (in Othello) of what he is going to do; (d) dramatic monologue-a poem in which there is one imaginary speaker addressing an imaginary audience, as in Browning's poems like Andrea del Sarto, My Last Duchess, etc. Tennyson also wrote some fine dramatic monologues, like Tithonus, Ulysses, etc. Among recent poets who have exploited the possibilities of this form are Thomas Hardy, Rudyard Kipling, Yeats, T.S. Eliot, etc.

Many of Frost's poems are monologues. Acquainted with the Night, and Tree at My Window, for example.

Free Verse/Vers Libre

Vers libre is the French term for Free Verse. In poetry it is printed in short lines instead of with the continuity of prose. It has a more controlled rhythm than ordinary prose, but it lacks the regular stress pattern of traditional versification. Most free verse has also irregular line lengths and lacks rhyme. Within these broad confines, there are a great variety of measures labelled as "free verse".

Free verse is not something new. Something close to it is found in King James translation of the Bible of 1611, in the Psalms and the Song of Solomon.

O Lord my God, in thee do I put my trust:

Save me from all them that persecute me,

And deliver me.

This first sentence from Psalm 7 of the Bible is an example. In England, Blake and Arnold experimented with free verse, and Whitman startled the literary world by using lines of variable length of free verse in Leaves of Grass. The French symbolists of the 19th century, and many English and American poets of the 20th century have used it successfully. T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, W.C. Williams are some of the most famous of those poets. 

New England

New England is a region in the north-eastern part of the United States. It consists of the states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. It has an area of 66, 667 square miles. It was named by John Smith who explored its shores in 1914. It was later settled by English Puritans. The New England colonies were fuelled by self-sufficient farmers, and evolved representative governments. The area's numerous harbours soon promoted the growth of overseas commerce and a vigorous ship- building industry. In the 18 century it became a hot bed of agitation of independence from Britain, and its patriots played leading roles in the American Revolution.

It was the place where the American Renaissance or the New England Renaissance flourished from 1830s roughly until the end of the American Civil War (1861-65). During this period U.S. literature came of age as an expression of a national spirit. The literary scene. was dominated by New England Brahmin writers like Longfellow, O.W. Holmes, and J.R Lowell. The Transcendentalists like Emerson and Thoreau and writers like Hawthorne, Melville, Whitman, and Allan Poe also had great influence on the Renaissance.

Robert Frost spent most of his life-time in New England. It is the scene of most of his poems.

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