Stanza

Stanza

[stan-zuh]

In poetry, a stanza is a unit within a larger poem. In modern poetry, the term is often equivalent with strophe; in popular vocal music, a stanza is typically referred to as a "verse" (as distinct from the refrain, or "chorus").

A stanza consists of a grouping of lines, set off by a space, that usually has a set pattern of meter and rhyme.

In traditional English-language poems, stanzas can be identified and grouped together because they share a rhyme scheme or a fixed number of lines (as in distich/couplet, tercet, quatrain, cinquain/quintain, sestet). In much modern poetry, stanzas may be arbitrarily presented on the printed page because of publishing conventions that employ such features as white space or punctuation.

One of the most common manifestations of stanzaic form in poetry in English (and in other Western-European languages) is represented in texts for church hymns, such as the first three stanzas (of nine) from a poem by Isaac Watts (from 1719) cited immediately below (in this case, each stanza is to be sung to the same hymn tune, composed earlier by William Croft in 1708):

Our God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home.

Under the shadow of Thy throne
Thy saints have dwelt secure;
Sufficient is Thine arm alone,
And our defense is sure.

Before the hills in order stood,
Or earth received her frame,
From everlasting Thou art God,
To endless years the same. [etc.]

Less obvious manifestations of stanzaic form can be found as well, as in Shakespeare's sonnets, which, while printed as whole units in themselves, can be broken into stanzas with the same rhyme scheme followed by a final couplet, as in the example of Sonnet 116:

   Let me not to the marriage of true minds             |
   Admit impediments. Love is not love                  | 
   Which alters when it alteration finds,               | / All one stanza
   Or bends with the remover to remove:                 |/
   O no! it is an ever-fixed mark,                      |
   That looks on tempests and is never shaken;          | 
   It is the star to every wandering bark,              | / All one stanza
   Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken. |/
   Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks  |
   Within his bending sickle's compass come;            | 
   Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,      | / All one stanza
   But bears it out even to the edge of doom.           |/
   If this be error and upon me proved,                 |
   I never writ, nor no man ever loved.                 |/  A couplet

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