Posts Tagged ‘John Milton’

Are You a Blank Verse Poet?

Two blogs ago, we discussed “Free Verse” poetry and gave some examples of this “free” kind of literary expression.

This time, we’re looking at “Blank Verse,” which is defined as a type of poetry distinguished by having a regular meter but no rhyme. The meter, most commonly used with blank verse, is iambic pentameter. The iambic pentameter form often resembles the rhythms of speech, but blank verse is not the same as free verse because it employs a meter. Paradise Lost by John Milton and most of Shakespeare’s works are written in iambic pentameters.

Blank Verse has been described as probably the most common and influential form that English poetry has taken since the 16th C., and it is believed that about three-quarters of all English poetry is in blank verse.

So, what in the world is iambic pentameter? For a flowery detailed definition go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page, but in simple terms, it’s poetry with each line made up of five pairs of short/long, or unstressed/stressed, syllables.

Here’s an example of a classic iambic pentameter poetry line:

˘         /      ˘       /        ˘           /      ˘    /     ˘     /

To swell the gourd, and plump the ha- zel shells

Here’s another one with a slight variation of the accented and unaccented syllables. However, you will note that there are still only 10 syllables:

/      ˘      ˘        /      ˘      ˘       /     /         ˘       /

Now   is | the   win- | ter   of | our   dis- | con- tent

Let’s look at a  short excerpt from John Milton’s Paradise Lost, which displays an idea of what Blank Verse with its iambic pentameter is all about:


Paradise Lost


John Milton

Chapter 1 – Book 1

Of Man’s first disobedience, and the fruit

Of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste

Brought death into the World, and all our woe,

With loss of Eden, till one greater Man

Restore us, and regain the blissful seat,

Sing, Heavenly Muse, that, on the secret top

Of Oreb, or of Sinai, didst inspire

That shepherd who first taught the chosen seed

In the beginning how the heavens and earth

Rose out of Chaos: or, if Sion hill

Delight thee more, and Siloa’s brook that flowed

Fast by the oracle of God, I thence

Invoke thy aid to my adventurous song,

That with no middle flight intends to soar.

Note that each line has ten syllables and follows the unaccented/accented syllable pattern. So, now that you’ve been enlightened about Blank Verse, do you think you’d like to try your hand at it? If so, please try to write a ten-line Blank Verse poem and send it to me via email attachment. I’d love to see your work.

Coming soon: Rhyming Verse.

Happy writing!

P.S. Time to register for the Montrose Christian Writers Conference. You won’t be sorry! If you’re a poet, you’ll want to sign up for award-winning Shirley Stevens’ work-in-progress seminar when you’ll work with Shirley on your poetry in a small class setting with limited enrollment.

Please check http://www.montrosebible.org/OurEvents/tabid/113/page_550/1/eventid_550/58/Default.aspx  for all the details.






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