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Writing Poetry, Part 1

by The Editor Company   

 
 


WHAT is verse? How does it differ from prose? Let us put two lines of it under the microscope and find out. Try these:

Above the garden's glowing blossom belt
A columned entry shone and marble stairs.

These lines, you observe, are merely descriptive; it is not poetic thought or feeling that keeps them from being prose. Neither is it rhyme; they are unrhymed. It is something else. Notice, in reading them aloud, that they have a certain swing not found in this: "Above the belt of blossoms in the garden shone a columned entry and marble stairs." Now let us see what produces that swing. We all know that two-syllabled words have an accent on one syllable. Try marking the accents on those in these lines, thus :

A-bove' the gar'-den's glow'-ing blos'-som belt
A col'-umned en'-try shone and mar'-ble stairs.

Next let us observe the words of one syllable: "the, belt, a, shone, and, stairs." Now "the" is a word not usually spoken with emphasis; we naturally give it no more stress than we do an unaccented syllable, such as "den" in "garden." The same is true of "a," also of "and." They may all be considered as unaccented, or weak, syllables. "Shone," "belt" and "stairs," however, are more important in meaning and sound, and serve here as accented, or strong, syllables ; we naturally read them so, and may mark them as such:

A-bove' the gar'-den's glow'-ing blos'-som belt'
A col'-umned en'try shone' and mar'-ble stairs'.

Now observe the order in which the accented, or strong, syllables and the unaccented, or weak, ones come. Do you not find it a regular order, first a weak syllable, then a strong? It is this regularity of stress that gives the swing to the lines.

This, then, is what makes verse different from prose; a regular order of strong and weak syllables, which is called rhythm.