What is a stanza? (With Examples)

A stanza Is a fragment belonging to the poem. Moreover, it is the group of verses that make up the whole poetic composition. Generally, stanzas are linked either by criteria such as rhyme and rhythm, or by the type of syllables contained in the stanza or by the number of verses they have.

It was a custom for ancient poetry that all stanzas had the same number of verses, the same measure, and the same rhyme, so that they would be considered excellent or perfect. However, that conception has changed and in modern poetry it is not necessary that all verses follow the same number of verses.

Stanza by Miguel Hernández

Julián Pérez and María Merino explain a little about the origin of the stanza, saying:"In the literary field,... the term strophe was already used in antiquity by the Greeks. In particular, those used this concept to refer to the initial part of a lyric poetry or song.

More exactly these could be formed in two ways: strophe and antistroph, or strophe, antistroph and epodo. This last division has also been used within what has been Spanish poetry." (2012)

Division of verses

As mentioned above, the verses are divided according to their number of syllables or verses.

According to the number of syllables

According to the number of syllables that the stanza has, it can be divided into isometric, (also called isosyllabic) or heterometric (also called an anysyllabic).

The first ones refer to the verses that contain the same number of syllables, as for example, the octave real or also, the triplet. On the other hand, the heterometric or anisosyllabic verses are those where the stanza can have different numbers of syllables. An example is sage and lyre.

According to the number of verses

The stanzas that contain two verses are called pairs, the verses of three verses are tercets, the verses of four verses are called quartets, and there is also an existing subdivision that contains the servantsio, redondilla, seguidilla, sapphic stanza, cuaderna vía and tetrástrofo monorrimo.

On the other hand, verses containing five verses are called quintet, limerick and lyre. The verses composed of six verses are sextina, sexteto lira, sixth rhyme and sextile.

The stanzas that have seven verses are called seventh and composite seguidilla. The verses of eight verses are the coplas of Juan Mena, of major art, also called octava real, octave rhyme, Italian octave or octavilla.

The stanzas composed of nine verses do not exist, the verses that have ten verses are called royal cup, tenth and ovillejo, and finally, stanzas composed of fourteen verses are called sonetos.

The name for each stanza is obviously given according to its composition, because even though the verses have, for example, four verses, a quartet is not the same as a servant.

Pérez and Merino (2012) think that one of the most important and well-known verses in the history of literature, is the one of the octave real. And exactly, they say:

"Among all the types of stanzas cited, it is very important that we make special mention of one that acquires a major role in the field of artistic creation. This would be the case of the aforementioned and known as the octave real. The same is defined as a stanza of consonant rhyme that is formed by eight endecasílabos verses.

In particular, we can determine that the one, of Italian origin, has three consonant rhymes and that the first six verses rhyme alternately while the last two give rise to a pairing.

The Spanish poets José de Espronceda or Garcilaso de la Vega are two of the authors who have made more and better use of the real octave".

Uses of the stanza

Mainly, and one of the most common uses given to this literary tool is obviously within the poems, because it is the way in which they are composed and created.

However, the songs are also written in the form of verses, with verses, including rhythm and rhyme.

"In this area, it should be emphasized that the best way to define a stanza is like that part or section of a particular song that is repeated on several occasions throughout the same with a similar melody but with a different letter." (Pérez, J and Merino, M. 2012)

Examples of stanzas

"I chase a form"- Rubén Darío.

I chase a form that does not find my style,

Button of thought that seeks to be the rose;

Announces himself with a kiss that lies on my lips

The impossible embrace of the Venus de Milo.

Peristyle white decorate green palms;

The stars have predicted the vision of the Goddess;

And in my soul the light rests as it rests

The bird of the moon on a calm lake.

And I find nothing but the word that flees,

The melodic initiation that of the flute flows

And the boat of the dream that in the vogue space;

And under the window of my Sleeping Beauty,

The continuous sob of the jet of the fountain

And the neck of the great white swan that interrogates me.

In this example, Rubén Darío shows that the four stanzas are classified as isometric, that is, that maintains the same number of syllables throughout the poem. Moreover, it is a sonnet, since it contains fourteen verses, and in turn, is composed of two quartets and two tercets.

Another example of a stanza is the following. It contains ten verses, but it is an ovillejo.

You were an infrequent flower,

Clean source.

Today, I bless your friendship.

With your kindness

You gave me peace and joy,

The harmony,

You changed my night in day,

And it was nature,

The sky, the sea, the beauty,

Source, goodness, and harmony.


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  • Gates, S. (1999). Poetics, Metaphysics, Genre: The Stanza Form of"In Memoriam". Victorian Poetry, 37 (4), 507-520. Retrieved from: jstor.org.
  • Harlan, C. (2015). Meaning and types of stanza with an example. Recovered from: literatura.about.com.
  • Minami, M and McCabe, A. (1991). Haiku as a discourse regulation device: A stanza analysis of Japanese children's personal narratives. Language in society, 20 (4), 577-599. Doi: 10.1017 / S0047404500016730.
  • Perez, J and Merino, M. (2012). Definition of stanza. Recovered from: definicion.de
  • Saussy, H. (1997). Repetition, rhyme, and exchange in the Book of Odes. Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, 57 (2), 519-542. Retrieved from: jstor.org.
  • Stevens, M. (1979). The Royal Stanza in Early English Literature. Publications of the Modern Language Association of America, 62-76. Retrieved from: jstor.org.

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