French Poetry Terms

Alexandrin
12 syllables. Sometimes divided into two lines with six syllables each. Moliere used this in “L’Ecole des Femmes.”

Anacoluthe
Turn of phrase in which one abandons one structure in order to take on another.

Anaphore
repetition of the same word or phrase. (e.g. “Maintenant que mon temps decroit comme un flambeau/Que mes taches sont terminees;/Maintenant que voici que je touche au tombeau…” – Victor Hugo, “Paroles sur la dune”)

Antithese
juxtaposition of two contradictory thoughts or expressions

Apostrophe
A way of addressing a person or personnified thing without using their name. (e.g. “- Hypocrite lecteur, – mon semblable, – mon frere!” – Baudelaire, “Au Lecteur”)

Assonance
repitition of the same vowel. Like alliteration, only vowel version

Catachrese
use of a word to mean something other than its traditional meaning (e.g. “L’or du soir qui tombe” – Victor Hugo, “Demain, des l’aube”)

Cesure
a break in the middle of a line or verse after an accented syllable that works with the train of thought.

Chiasme
Inversion of a theme in a parallel structure. (e.g. “Un roi chantait en bas, en haut mourait un Dieu” – Victor Hugo, “Booz endormi”)

Comparaison
Simile/Analogy that uses words such as “comme,” “tel,” and “ainsi que” (“like,” “such,” and “as well as”/”as”).

Correspondances
Baudelarian theory which states that each element of some aspect of the universe (e.g. colors) corresponds to an element of another aspect (e.g. shape) and can serve as a symbol for that other aspect.

Coupe
Pause at the end of a rythmic group in a verse/line.

Dierese
Division of two consecutive vowels into two separate syllables

Elegie
meditative poem with a melancoly and tender tone

Enjambement
Two or more lines in a poem that compliment, complete, or correspond with eachother.

Fond
The main idea, emotion, feeling, or theme of a poem

Groupe rythmique
series of syllables pronounced as though they formed a single word and finishe in one coup. Generally, it expresses only one idea

Hemistiche
Half of a vers that is cut by a cesure.

Hyperbole
something that is exaggerated in order to hit home. Opposite of litote.

Litote
Opposite of hyperbole. Uses less to convey more.

Lyrisme
A character in the poem expresses feelings of the auther, as in Victor Hugo’s “Demain des l’aube.”

Metonymie
A single word is used to represent another

Negritude
word invented by Aime Cesaire. It’s a black empowerment movement that took place globally, but chiefly in France.

Octosyllabe
a line with eight syllables

Onomatopee
word(s) that immitate the sound they describe

Parnasse
A group of poets (post 1860) who were reacting against the romantic movement. They wrote objective and impersonal poetry that was often philosophical analysis of nature. Among these poets were Theophile Gautier, Leconte de Lisle, and Sully-Prudhomme.

Periode
A long sentence made up of many ideas, but which gives a sense of completeness and equilibrium by the end. (Can last as long as 12 lines or more.)

Periphrase
Something that could have been stated in one word is said in many words.

Prosopopee
A manner of speaking to an inanimate object, a dead person, a person who is not there, or a personnified object.

Quatrain
A verse consisting of 4 lines

Rejet
A part of the enjambement. A line that somehow connects to a previous line in a poem.

Rimes croisees
Rhyme pattern: a b a b

Rimes embrassees
Rhyme pattern: a b b a

Rimes feminines
rhymes that end in a silent “e.”

Rimes faibles
Rhymes based solely on the final vowel. (e.g. soldats/bras; lit/mit)

Rimes masculines
rhymes that don’t end in a silent “e.”

Rimes plates
Rhyme pattern: a a b b

Rimes riches
Rhymes based on words’ final vowel and two or more other sound-related elements

Rimes suffisantes
rhymes based on the final vowel and one other sound-related element

Sonnet
A poem that has two quatrains and two tercets. The rhyme scheme goes “abba abba ccd eed.”

Strophe
Stanza. Or one “paragraph” of a poem.

Synecdoche/Synecdoque
synonym of metonymie. A single word used to represent another.

Tercet
a stanza with three lines

Vers
A line in a poem

Versification
The rules for writing a line in a poem

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