Poetic Forms: 7. Couplets

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7. Couplets

Rhyming couplets
By Alawa

Here are a few words on rhyming couplets

Couplets can rhyme in pairs


for as long as you like. The sense can run on at the end of a line without pause (ie it is enjambed). They are suitable for writing almost anything.

Shakespeare uses them for some speeches in his plays, but I think there were first used in English in Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tale, ie for long narrative poetry. Here is an example from the General Prologue in honour of Imrahil

A Knyght ther was, and that a worthy man,
That fro the tyme that he first bigan
To riden out, he loved chivalrie,
Trouthe and horour, freedom and curteisie.
Ful worthy was he in his lordes werre,
And therto hadde he ridden, no man ferre,
As wel in cristendom as in hethenesse,
And evere honoured for his worthynesse.


The 18th century saw the rise of the heroic couplet.
These are written in iambic pentameter (a basic five beat rhythm)

This form was popular for epic, (Dryden and Popes translations of Virgil and Homer), narrative (often satirical) and philosophical discussion. The general idea is that each couplet should contain a complete, epigrammatic thought.

Here is a famous example from Alexander Pope’s Essay on Man. From Epistle 2. Of the Nature and State of Man With Respect to Himself, as an Individual:

Know then thyself, presume not God to scan;
The proper study of Mankind is Man.
Placed on this isthmus of a middle state,
A being darkly wise, and rudely great:
With too much knowledge for the skeptic side,
With too much weakness for the Stoic's pride,
He hangs between; in doubt to act, or rest,
In doubt to deem himself a god, or beast;
In doubt his mind or body to prefer,
Born but to die, and reasoning but to err;
Alike in ignorance, his reason such,
Whether he thinks too little, or too much:
Chaos of thought and passion, all confused;
Still by himself abused, or disabused:
Created half to rise, and half to fall;
Great lord of all things, yet a prey to all;
Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurled:
The glory, jest, and riddle of the world!

This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.

Story Information

Author: fileg

Status: General

Completion: Work in Progress

Era: Other

Genre: Research Article

Rating: General

Last Updated: 02/01/04

Original Post: 06/12/03

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