Literary Terms Questions and Answers

Literary Terms Questions and Answers




An epic is a long narrative poem on a serious subject, told in a formal and elevated style and centered on a heroic or quasi-divine figure on whose actions depends the fate of a nation or the human race. There are two kinds of epicthe primary epic and the secondary epic. The primary epic originated from oral songs and poems about a tribal or national hero during a war-like age. The best known epics of this type are the Iliad and Odyssey and the Anglo-Saxon Beowulf. The secondary epic was written by a known literary artist in deliberate imitation of the traditional epic. The best known epic of this type is Virgil’s Aeneid which served as a model for Milton’s famous literary epic Paradise Lost. The epic was ranked by Aristotle as second only to tragedy, and by many Renaissance critics as the highest of all genres.




An elegy is usually taken to be a poetic lament for one who has died or atleast a grave or reflective poem. In ancient Greek and Latin literature an elegy was a poem written in the elegiac metre. The Latin poet Ovid used it for love poetry. Following his example, the English poet John Donne wrote a series of elegies with amorous or satirical themes. Most of the famous elegies in English, however, followed the narrow and more widely accepted definition : Milton’s Lycidas, Shelley’s Adonais Tennyson’s In Memoriam are good examples. The word ‘elegy’ may also be used of any gravely meditative poem, such as Gray’s Elegy.




Traditionally, the ballad has been considered a folk-loric verse narrative which originates and is communicated orally among illiterate or partly literate people. We can distinguish certain basic characteristics of a ballad: (a) the beginning is often abrupt (b) the language is simple; (c) the story is told through dialogue and action (d) the theme is often tragic (e) there is often a refrain. There are primarily two kinds: the Ballad of Growth (also known as the Authentic Ballad) and the Ballad of Art or Literary Ballad. Some of the best known Authentic Ballads are ‘Chevy Chase, Sir Patric Spens’ and among ballads in the literary tradition are Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Keats’ La Belle Dame Merei and Kipling’s Barrack-Room Ballads. sans




A dramatic monologue is a narrative poem in which a single person, not the poet, in an intense or critical situation of life speaks out his inmost thoughts to a silent listener or listeners. The presence of the second person gives an animation to the speaker to speak his thoughts sincerely. In most dramatic monologues, some attempt is made to imitate natural speech. Browning and Tennyson have perfected the form. Tennyson’s Ulysses and Rizpah, Browning’s My last Duchess, Bishop orders his Tomb are good examples of this device.




The Greeks defined a lyric as a song to be sung to the accompaniment of a lyre. True to its Greek origin, it has certain characteristics : 


(a) it is an expression of a single emotion;

 (b) it is a musical composition, 

(c) it is a subjective poem, expressing the varying moods of the poem 

(d) it is a well-unit poem, possessing a definite structure. 


The Renaissance period was the great age of the lyric. Petrarch’ in Italy, Ronsard in France were the two major poets in this form. The principal lyric poets in this period were Sidney, Spenser and Shakespeare. Towards the end of the 18th century and during the Romantic period this art was developed by such poets as Wordsworth, Blake, Shelley and many others.




The term ‘sonnet’ derives from the Italian sonetto, a little sound’ or ‘song’.Except for the curtal sonnet the ordinary sonnet consists of fourteen lines usually in iambic pentameters with considerable variations in rhyme scheme. The three basic sonnet forms are (a) the Petrarchan, which comprises an ‘octave’ rhyming ab ba ab ba and a sestet rhyming cd ec de or some variant. (b) the Spensarian of three quatrains and a complet, rhyming ab ab bc bc cd cd ee (c) the Shakespeare again with three quatrains and a couplet rhyming ab ab cd cd ef ef gg. The sonnet comes into English language via Sir Thomas Wyatt and the Earl of Surrey early in the 16th century and it was the Petrarchan form which they imported.




The ode is a long lyric poem that is serious in subject and treatment evelvated in style and elaborate in stanzaic structure. It is in the form of a ceremonious address to a person or abstract entity.


There are two different modals in Greek the ‘choral ode’ of Pinder devoted to public praise of athletes and Horace’s more privately reflective odes in Latin.


The Progress of poesy is a good example of regular or Pindaric ode. Cowlely is usually credited with the invention in 1656 of a modified form of the Pindaric ode called ‘irregular’ or Cowleyan ode. Dryden wrote a number of poems in this form.


The Horatian odes are calm and meditative and collequial. Examples are Marvell’s. An Horatian Ode upon Cromwell’s Return from Ireland and Keats’ Ode to Autumn.




Heroic couplet is the lines of iambic pentameter rhymed in pairs : aa, bb, cc and so on. It is thought that it developed with Chaucer. Pope brought the metre to near perfection. The following is an example :


‘But now secure the painted vessel glides.


The sun-beams trembling on the floating tides.


(The Rape of the Lock 195-197)


After them Johnson, Goldsmith, Byron, Keats, Shelley Browning, Swinburne, made a table use of the heroic complet.




The ottava rima like Terza Rima, is an Italian stanza form and was introduced into England by Sir Thomas Wyatt in the 16th century. It is a stanza of eight lines in iambic pentameters, rhyming ab ab ab cc. Later Spenser and Drayton used it. Byron used it for mock-heroic effects in Don Juan. Keats in Isabella and Yeats in Sailing to Byzantium made use of it.




The Terza Rima is a stanza of thirteen (in iambic pentam eters), arranged in groups of three lines (called tercets); the rhyme-scheme is such that every rhyme occurs thrice in alternate lines, except the rhymes of the first and last lines of the stanza (canto) which occur twice only. Dante’s Divine Comedy, is written in this stanza and its musical quality is largely due to the rhymearrangement of this stanza-form. The most familiar example of terza rima is furnished by Shelley’s Ode to The West Wind; Shelley, however, makes a slight departure from the scheme of true terva rima and adds a line to the scheme of the stanza.




When the audience understand the implication and meaning of a situation on a stage or what is being said, but the characters do not, it is called dramatic irony. It is common in tragedy and comedy. The most popular example is from Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, when the audience have understood that Oedipus has killed his father and married his mother while he himself remains ignorant of this truth. In Macbeth Duncan’s comment on the treachery of Cawdor is a good example of dramatic irony. What Duncan says about Cawdor is applicable to Macbeth who have no equal as a traitor but the king does not know it.




The blank verse is verse without rhyme written in iambic pentameter. It is the standard measure of English dramatic epic, and reflective poetry. This was introduced into English by the Eal of Surrey in the 16th century in his translation of the Aeneid. It was first used in English drama in Gorboduc. Marlowe gave the blank verse its distinctive quality in ‘mighty line’. Shakespeare used it extensively in his plays and Jacobean playwrights made it a most flexible instrument. John Milton used blank verse in his epic Paradise Lost. In the 18th century, Thomson in The seasons gave a new vigour to it. Wordsworth in his Prelude Coleridge in Frost at Midnight Browning in his Ring and the Book made use of it.




Literally ‘carpe diem’ is a Latin phrase meaning ‘seize (enjoy) the day’. The phrase occurs in one of Horace’s odes.-Enjoy yourself while you can’ It is found in Greek and Latin poetry. It recurs frequently in many literatures and obviously rises from the realisation of the brevity of life and the inevitability of death. It might be assessed as the matto of epicureanism. The cavalier poets were among the last to elaborate the idea. Herrick’s poem To the Virgins, to make much of time begins: ‘Gather ye rose-buds while ye may Marvell’s To His Coy Mistress’ is also well-known for this motif.




A stanza is a division of a poem, usually made according to a pattern. However a poem is sometimes divided into stanzas according to thought as well as form, in which case the stanza is a unit similar to a par agraph in prose. Strophe is another term used for a stanza. Some common stanzaic forms are the couplet othava rima, quatrain, rhyme royal, Spenserian stanza and tercet, canto, terza Rima, Ballad stanza, triplet, distich, Quintette, sextain, sestet, Elegiac stanza, Gay’s stanza and Tennysonian stanza, Alexandrine.




 A pair of end-rhymed lines of verse that are self contained in grammatical structure and meaning. A couplet may be formal (or closed), in which case each of the two lines is end stopped . or it may be run-on (or open), with the meaning of the first line continuing to the second (this is called enjambment). Couplets are most frequently used as units of composition in long poems. But, since they lend themselves to pithy, epigrammatic statements, they are often composed as independent poems or function as parts of other verse forms. Such as the Shakespearean sonnet, which is concluded with a couplet in French narrative and dramatic poetry, the rhyming alexandrine (12 syllable line) is the dominant couplet form, and German and Dutch verse of the 17th and 18th centuries reflects the influence of the alexandrine couplet. The term couplet is also commonly substituted for stanza in French versification. A “square” couplet.


For example, is a stanza of eight lines. With each line composed of eight syllables. The preeminent English couplet is the heroic couplet, or two rhyming lines of iambic pentameter with a caesura (pause), usually medial, in each line. Introduced by Chaucer in the 14th century, the heroic couplet was perfected by John Dryden and Alexander Pope in the late 17th and early 18th centuries an example. 


Then share thy pain allow that sad relief; Ah, more than share it, give me all thy grief. -(Alexander Pope. “Eloisa to Abelard”) Couplets were also frequently introduced into the blank verse of Elizabethan and Jacobean drama for heightened dramatic emphasis at the conclusion of a long speech or in running dialogue, as in the following example;


Thank what you will, we seize into our hands His plate, his hoods his money and has lands -(William Shakespeare, Richard II)


A quatrain


It  is a stanza or a complete poem, consisting of four lines of verse . Existing in various forms, the quammin appears in poems from the poetic traditions of various ancient civilizations including . Ancient greece. Ancient Rome, and China; and, continues into the 21st century, where it is seen in works published in many languages. During Europe’s dark Ages in the Middle East and especially Iran, polymath poets such as Omar Khayyam continued to popularize this form of poetry, also known as Rubaai, well beyond their borders and time. It can be AAAA,AABB, or ABAB.




 An octave is a verse form consisting of eightlines of iambic pentameter. It is also termed Octet. The most common rhyme scheme for an octave is abba abba. An octave is the first part of a Petrarchan sonnet, which ends with a contrasting sestet. In traditional italian sonnets the octave always ends with a conclusion of one idea, giving way to another idea in the sestet.


The Sestet


 It is a stanza of six lines, especially the last six lines of a Petrarchan sonnet. The term sestet is derived from Italian Sestelto and Latin sextus meaning six.


A Refrain 


A refrain is a phrase line or group of lines repeated at intervals throughout a poem. Generally at the end of the stanza, refrains are found in the ancient Egyptian book of the dead and are common primitive tribal chants. They appear in literature as varied as ancient Hebrew. greek and latin verse popular ballads, and renaissance and romantic lyrics, three common refrains are the chorus, recited by more than one person; the burden in which a who stanza is repeated; and the repetend, in which the words are Repeated erratically throughout the poem. A refrain may be an

exact repetition, or it may exhibit slight variations in meaning or form as in the following excerpt from “Jesse James”.


Jesse had a wife to mourn him all her life, The children they are brave.


T’was a dirty little coward shotmister Howard, And laid jesse James in his grave.


It was Robert ford, the dirty title coward. I wonder how he does feel. For he ate of Jesse’s bread and he slept in jesse’s


Then he laid Jesse James in his grave.




 This refers to the use of old or antiquated, rather outdated words. Such words, of course, occur in poetry. Spenser, Coleridge, Keats and many more renowned poets are found often fond of such words, as in


“The nigher drew, to weete what moted it be…” Spenser


Here ‘nigher’, ‘weete’ and ‘mote’ are archaic words, used by the poet to create an impression of a world, far removed from the existing one. Coleridge has recourse to archaism to create a medieval atmosphere in his Christabel, Part I, as in


“For I have lain entranced, I wis.”




A particular form of metrical arrangements is known as Assonance. This form consists in the use of different consonant sounds after the same vowel sound in the closing syllables of verses, and is rarely used in English poetry. It produces an imperfect rhyme, as in the following lines:


A love that took an early root And had an early doom.


Again, in the example… 


Let me choose, and on such shore Will I plant my lowly home ,the same vowel sound is followed imperfectly by different consonant sound.




A conceit invites a comparison in which there is more of incongruity than of likeness. Ingenuity is here more striking than propriety. A profoundly intellectual stir is caused by the contrast between two utterly unlike things. A comparison becomes a conceit, when conceding likeness, the consciousness of unlikeness is strongly felt. A brief comparison is a conceit, if two things, patently unlike, or which should seldom be thought of together, are shown to be alike in such a way or in such a context that their incongruity is clear. A conceit, indeed, is “like a spark made by striking two unlike stones together.” After the flash the stones remain just the same stones.


In Donne’s Holy Sonnets No. 1 (Thou hast made me), the poet’s spiritual optimism is well borne out in the quite unusual conceit in the concluding line of the poem:


“And thou like adamant draw mine iron heart.”




 Euphony signifies a kind of poetic diction, smith, pleasant and musical of the air. The matter does not matter much here but the manner does. Auditory agreeableness forms the most important aspect and keeps the language evér smooth, simple and sonorous.




 This is just the opposite of euphony. This is a diction that is harse, rough and unmusical. Discadency is remarkably perceived in pronunciation, sense and harmony in the language. Sometimes even in celebrated poetical works cacaphony appears as an unfortunate flow. Of course, the use of this may also be delibarate and purposive for evoking fun and farce as seen in the following lines of BrowingRats!


They fought the dogs and killed the cats… Split open the keys of salted sports.


Made nests inside men’s Sunday hats.




In linguistics, an elision or deletion is the omission of one or more sounds (such as a vowel, a consonant, or a whole syllable) in a word or phrase. However, these terms are also used to refer more narrowly to cases where two words are run together by the omission of a final sound.


[1] An example is the elision of word-final /t/ in English if it is preceded and followed by a consonant: “first light” is often pronounced /fɜ:s laɪt/.


[2] Many other terms are used to refer to particular cases where sounds are omitted.




Tercet, also spelled tiercet. A unit or group of three lines of verse, usually containing rhyme, as in William Shakespeare’s “the phoenix and the turtle”. Death is now the phoenix nest, And the turtle’s loyal breast


To eternity doth rest… 


Free Verse 


This means the verse written in irregular lines and without any regular metrical pattern. Most commonly, verses are found to have a regular metrical pattern. In English poetry, the prevalent uses are ten syllabic lines with five stresses in each line. Mostly such lines are iambic pentameters with slight variations here and there.


Free verse, however, abandons any such regular pattern as also rhyme. use of the free verse is quite wide spread particularly in recent times taken as a poetical innovation. An example of free verse from Eliot’s Ash Wednesday is given below:


“Because these wings are no longer wings to fly


But merely vans to beat the air


The air which is now throughly small and


Smaller and dryer than the will


Teach us to care and not to care


Teach us to sit still.”


*******B.D- 9476138533********



Literary Terms Questions and Answers Literary Terms Questions and AnswersLiterary Terms Questions and AnswersLiterary Terms Questions and AnswersLiterary Terms Questions and AnswersLiterary Terms Questions and AnswersLiterary Terms Questions and AnswersLiterary Terms Questions and AnswersLiterary Terms Questions and Answers

Literary Terms Questions and AnswersLiterary Terms Questions and AnswersLiterary Terms Questions and AnswersLiterary Terms Questions and AnswersLiterary Terms Questions and AnswersLiterary Terms Questions and AnswersLiterary Terms Questions and AnswersLiterary Terms Questions and AnswersLiterary Terms Questions and AnswersLiterary Terms Questions and AnswersLiterary Terms Questions and AnswersLiterary Terms Questions and AnswersLiterary Terms Questions and Answers

Literary Terms Questions and AnswersLiterary Terms Questions and AnswersLiterary Terms Questions and AnswersLiterary Terms Questions and AnswersLiterary Terms Questions and AnswersLiterary Terms Questions and AnswersLiterary Terms Questions and AnswersLiterary Terms Questions and AnswersLiterary Terms Questions and AnswersLiterary Terms Questions and AnswersLiterary Terms Questions and AnswersLiterary Terms Questions and AnswersLiterary Terms Questions and AnswersLiterary Terms Questions and Answers


Share now

Leave a Comment

error: Content is protected !!
× Buy Notes & Online Tuition