Stanzas and generic forms [187]

Abstract

Encoding of stanz

Discussion

This entry describes how to encode stanzas and generic line groups such as tercets, quatrains, etc.

If the poem is not one of the named poetic forms listed in 186, “Line Groups: Fixed poetic forms”, we tag its internal structure as follows:

1. If the poem consists of repeating units of less than eight lines, or of repeating patterns which are formed of combinations of these, tag each instance with <lg> and the appropriate type= attribute value (but see below for special cases). Note that these should typically only be used within <div type=“poem.stanzaic”. They should not be used within <div type="poem.indeterminate"> except in cases where they appear as part of an embedded poem with a regular structure within a longer verse narrative.

       <lg type="tercet">

       <lg type="quatrain">

       <lg type="quintet">

       <lg type="sestet">

       <lg type="septet">

       <lg type="octet">

2. There are a few special cases which should be distinguished from the generic forms listed above. These will typically be stanzaic forms which repeat throughout the poem, though they may (rarely) appear in a poem embedded in a longer verse narrative as described above.

       common stanza: a quatrain in iambics where the first and third lines contain four feet, the second and fourth lines have three feet; use <lg type="common">

       rime royal: seven iambic pentameter lines rhyming ABABBCC; use <lg type="rime-royal">

       ottava rima: an octet in iambic pentameter, rhyming ABABABCC; use <lg type="ottava-rima">

       Spenserian stanza: nine imabic pentameter lines rhymed ABABBCBCC. The last two lines have six metrical feet; use <lg type="spenserian">

3. If the poem consists of regularly repeating forms longer than eight lines, use <lg type="stanza"> for the unit of repetition.

If there’s no white space inside these stanzas, there should be no further internal breakdown. In a poem with eight-line repetitions, for instance, you would tag these as <lg type="octet"> but not tag the quatrains or couplets inside them, even if they are set off by indentation.

If there is internal white space within the stanza, encode further LGs only based on what is delimited by white space, using “quatrain”, “sestet”, etc. as necessary.

4. Any unit longer than eight lines which is *not* regularly repeated (for instance, a ten-line group surrounded by shorter groups) should be tagged as <lg type="indeterminate">. If there is no internal white space at all, then a single <lg type="indeterminate"> is all that is required.

5. In poems consisting of longer non-repeating or variable units separated by white space or indicated by indentation,

If blank verse or rhymed couplets, use <lg type="section"> and <lg type="para"> for the units separated by white space or indentation (“section” for long, chapter or essay-like units; “para” for shorter, paragraph-like units). Note that this is the only case where indentation is used to determine line group boundaries.

Otherwise, use <lg type="indeterminate"> for each unit separated by white space; don’t encode any further internal <lg>s.

6. In poems consisting almost entirely of couplets (rhymed line pairs), encode tercets and other non-couplets only; couplets will be auto-encoded later on.

Note that the distinction between “section”, “para” and “indeterminate” may sometimes be hard to draw. In general, “section” and “para” are intended for use in longer poems of blank verse, which are divided (like prose) into paragraphs or sections which indicate the flow of ideas. “Indeterminate” is intended for use in poems which mostly consist of small units (less than eight lines) but which contain a few slightly longer pieces. These can’t really be called “stanza”, since they don’t repeat, but they also aren’t really verse paragraphs; they are just “indeterminate”. There may also be cases where “para” and “indeterminate” both appear in the same poem, for instance in a longer narrative poem mostly consisting of verse paragraphs, but with some distinct sections in a different style.

Refrains are repeated lines which appear at the end of each stanza or group of stanzas. A refrain which is part of a stanza should be encoded within the stanza. A refrain which follows a stanza, or follows a group of stanzas, should be encoded as their sibling. Within refrains no internal <lg>s should be marked.

We no longer use the term “strophe” in our encoding. We used to use this term to refer to subdivisions of poems calling themselves “Odes”, but the variety of forms which fall into this category is so great that the term “strophe” seems inappropriate as a blanket term. Instead we will use <lg type="indeterminate"> for irregular divisions within odes, and <lg type="stanza"> for regular divisions within odes.

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