Describe The Effect of Blank Verse in The Poem | Examples in Literature

Blank verse provides poetic music and flexibility that shapes the overall flow, intimacy, contemplativeness and sense of epic scope in a poem. It’s rhythmic structure complements the meaning and emotion. Before going into the detail, firstly look at the definition of blank verse.

Definition of Blank Verse

Blank verse is a type of poetry that does not rhyme but has a regular meter. It does not rhyme at the end of lines. Each line of blank verse is in iambic pentameter (each line has five metrical feet consisting of an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable). It often used in long narrative poems and verse dramas. Blank verse allows flexibility of expression while maintaining rhythmic flow.

Features of Blank Verse

Blank verse does not rhyme at the end of lines. This distinguishes it from end-rhymed verse. Each line of blank verse contains five metrical feet, with each foot consisting of an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable. This creates a natural rhythmic flow. The rhythms of blank verse mimic natural speech patterns when spoken aloud. This creates an intimate and conversational tone. The natural speech patterns make it suitable for drama dialogue and soliloquies. It permits the poet to vary line length for effect while maintaining the overall meter. Last but not least, the blank verse is written as unbroken lines, which are not divided into stanzas.

Effect of Blank Verse in Poem

Here are some ways blank verse can impact and shape a poem:

  • Rhythmic flow – The consistent iambic pentameter meter creates a rhythmic “pulse” that drives the poem forward smoothly. This can add momentum and musicality.
  • Flexibility – Without rhyme schemes, blank verse provides freedom to express ideas and imagery fluidly. The poet can shape lines and invert meter to put emphasis where needed.
  • Natural speech patterns – The rhythms of blank verse echo conversational speech and make the poem feel more natural and intimate, like a direct address.
  • Tone – Blank verse has a subtle formality while still feeling intimate. This lends itself well to contemplative, pastoral, or dramatic themes and tones.
  • Epic scope – Its natural rhythms and flexibility make blank verse well-suited for long, narrative poems and verse dramas. Blank verse gives the “sweep” needed for epic subjects.
  • Contemplative mood – The measured rhythms create a pensive, meditative mood that suits reflective or philosophical themes. Blank verse slows the pace for deeper thought.

Types of Blank Verse

Here are some of the main types of blank verse poetry:

  • Dramatic blank verse – It is extensively used in dramas and plays verses. For example, Shakespeare’s tragedies. It mimics natural speech patterns and allows for dialogue.
  • Narrative blank verse – This type of blank verse is employed for long narrative poems and epics to drive the plot forward rhythmically. Examples include Milton’s Paradise Lost and Wordsworth’s The Prelude.
  • Philosophical blank verse – The steady pensive rhythms suit reflective, contemplative and philosophical themes. For example Tennyson’s monologues like Ulysses.
  • Pastoral blank verse – It evokes countryside life through rhythms that echo slowly changing seasons and landscapes. It is common in pastoral poetry like some of Wordsworth’s.
  • Blank verse sonnets – Some poets like John Milton and William Wordsworth wrote blank verse sonnets with no rhyme scheme.
  • Free blank verse – Free blank verse maintains non-rhyming unmetered lines with irregular rhythms. E.E. Cummings has used this style in his work.

Common Examples of Blank Verse

  • I’ll meet you downtown when the clock strikes three.
  • The kids are playing tag; their laughter fills the yard.
  • The train arrives at five to take us out of town.
  • She’s traveling the world searching for beauty and truth.
  • The rain is pouring as thunder shakes the skies.
  • He grabs his coat and briefcase to head into work.
  • They talked for hours until the first hints of dawn.
  • The cat curls up to nap the afternoon away.
  • We drove for miles but never reached the distant shore.
  • The cake will be done once the timer finally beeps.

Difference between Blank Verse and Free Verse

The two main differences between blank verse and free verse are the structure and the tone. Blank verse has a predictable rhyme scheme called iambic pentameter while free verse has no regular rhyme scheme at all. The blank verse tends to sound more formal and elevated, which is often used for serious or philosophical poetry. In contrast, free verse can sound more casual.

Read also: Literary Devices That Start with B

Examples of Blank Verse in Literature

Example#1

“Hamlet by William Shakespeare”

“To be, or not to be, that is the question— Whether ’tis Nobler in the mind to suffer The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune, Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles”

Shakespeare utilizes the formal yet flexible rhythms of unrhymed iambic pentameter. He considers the profound philosophical questions about the meaning of existence. Blank verse has a natural, heartbeat-like rhythm that mirrors the way our minds cycle through contemplative thoughts. Without the constraints of rhyme, the lines can flow freely and naturally, which allows for a greater emphasis on important ideas like “take Arms.” This flexibility preserves the form’s introspective power, making it clear why blank verse has been a standard in literature for centuries.

Example#2

“Ulysses” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

“I cannot rest from travel; I will drink Life to the lees. All times I have enjoyed Greatly, have suffered greatly, both with those That loved me and alone”

The unrhymed lines give a serious and important feeling that matches the speaker’s tired but still determined spirit as they think about leaving their home again. Blank verse allows the words to flow together in a way that makes certain words stand out, like ‘cannot’ and ‘enjoyed’. These lines are spaced out in a way that makes the thoughts flow smoothly without any interruptions.

Example# 3

“The Passionate Shepherd to His Love” by Christopher Marlowe

“Come live with me and be my love, And we will all the pleasures prove, That valleys, groves, or hills, or fields, Or wilds, wilderness, or sea-coasts yields. And we will make vows to each other, Under the greenwood tree, Where we will sit and pipe and sing, As happy implementors of nature’s mirth.”

This sonnet is an example of blank verse in its most general form. It is a sequence of unrhymed lines with a consistent meter, in this case, iambic pentameter. The poem is written in the voice of a suitor trying to convince his lover to live with him and it uses the gentle rhythms of blank verse to convey a sense of peaceful, idyllic contentment.

Example#4

“The Waste Land” by T.S. Eliot

“These fragments I have shored against my ruins, Which are neither running nor standing still; And I have no convenient Hades received me Pedro, Thealuphonist, & Ochoa. In the village In the town there are people dying, and there are people born. There are people who are living a hundred years old; And there are people who are born Who will not live a hundred years, Who will not live in the republic of inferior sentences.”

The poem is a modernist masterpiece that is written in blank verse throughout. The choppy, strophic structure of the poem is meant to convey the disjointed and fragmented nature of modern society. The use of blank verse adds a sense of urgency and dislocation to the poem, as if the speaker is struggling to make sense of the chaos around them.

Example#5

“The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot

“In the room the women come and go, Talking of Michelangelo. There are moments when I am struck With a sense of my own nothingness, A feeling which is not apathy, But the merest flutter of a wing Moved by the useless love I have of my own. And I have tried to INVENT What happens in the flower-filled bowl, The bowl of observable time passing.”

The aforesaid context is example of blank verse in a modernist context. The enjambed structure of the poem reflects the fragmented nature of the speaker’s thoughts and feelings. Here the poet has used the blank verse to move in a dreamlike, associative way as the speaker struggles to make sense of his own inner world.

Example#6

“The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both And be one traveler, long I stood And looked down one as far as I could To where it bent in the undergrowth; I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.”

Frost’s unrhymed lines have a natural and conversational feel. The use of enjambment adds to the sense of flow and continuity. The poem is often interpreted as a meditation on choice and regret and the blank verse helps to create a sense of introspection and contemplation.

Example#7

“Meditation at Laguna” by Sylvia Plath

“The sea is an ocean Of voices, saying and unsaying The swell, the lull, the voice of the foam, The motion of the land, the slow Unfolding of the wave, and the shore, The glide and gasp of the day.”

Plath’s lines are loose and flowing. The use of continuing words create a sense of ebb and flow. The poem is a meditation on the natural world and the passage of time and the blank verse helps to create a sense of calmness and contemplation.

Example#8

“The Tyger” by Walt Whitman

“Out of the dimness intense I see glimpses of things not seen, Of the pipings of waste lands, the noise of winter-rivers, The black fountains of the meer, the bind of the moon, The awkward, lovely tentacles of the sea-anemones.”

In the aforesaid lines, the writer creates a sense of overflowing energy and excitement. The poem is a celebration of the natural world and the beauty of the human experience and the blank verse helps to create a sense of joy and wonder.

Examples of Blank Verse in Literature

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