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Such tendencies make you want to lay hands on a good dictionary, where the facts are.The trouble with this approach is, most dictionary definitions of poetry are so dry, limiting, vague, or otherwise unsatisfactory, they eventually send you back to beating the bushes for that elusive, beautiful pheasant you once glimpsed. Even so, it is possible to describe the general elements of poetry and to at least indicate the power, range, and magic of this ancient, ever-renewing art form.Greek and Roman lines were regular in their structure and could be classified and analyzed according to their component elements, the poetic feet in each line, which gives the line's meter.
The word "verse" comes to us from the Latin , a "turning," and denotes the turning from the end of one line to the beginning of the next line.
For the ancient Greeks and Romans, as for us today, the line was the basic unit of poetry, just as the sentence is the basic unit of prose.
Having established the meter, we may also note the end words of each line rhyme in an alternating scheme we can denote as "A-B-A-B." Those end words are "shore," "end," "before" and "contend." So, we have an example here of rhymed iambic pentameter, a charming snippet of metrical verse from the pen of William Shakespeare.
Verse is poetic composition in regular meter, whether rhymed or not.
This formal patterning, considered aside, for a moment, from poetry's higher aims or its subject matter, has long been one of the chief identifying hallmarks of poetry.
Roughly speaking, the devices by which poets achieve these patterned arrangements of language are called the elements of verse.
Here is an example of English poetry written in a regular meter: , the standard meter of English literary poetry.
An iamb is a metrical foot consisting of two syllables.
The American poet Emily Dickinson, though shrinking from offering a definition of poetry, once confided in a letter, "If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry." A well-known British poet, A. Housman, could identify poetry through a similar response.
He said that he had to keep a close watch over his thoughts when he was shaving in the morning, for if a line of poetry strayed into his memory, a shiver raced down his spine and his skin would bristle so that his razor ceased to act.