Form Of Poetry: The difference between a Blank Verse, Free Verse and Sestina

Form Of Poetry: The difference between a Blank Verse, Free Verse and Sestina

FORM OF POETRY: Poetic form refers to various sets of rules and the physical structure of the poem i.e. the length of lines, their rhythms, repetition, meter, rhyme scheme, the use of imagery, verse (blank verse, free verse, sonnet, sestina, villanelle etc), and the arrangement of the words of the poem or the stanzas.

Form of Poetry is defined as the physical structure of a poem or a pattern which a poem follows.


To develop a poem, the poetic form is the first step to be considered. The following must be noted;

BLANK VERSE: A blank verse is a poem with no rhyme pattern and definite meter but, usually has iambic pentameters (ten- syllabled lines of five feet). To understand a blank verse, a critical look must be taken on meter or the number of stressed and unstressed syllables in a line of poetry.

Read On: Key Ways to know Literary Terms

This pattern usually takes a “DA-DUM” effect when we read them. Example is John Berryman’s “The Ball Poem”

What is the boy now, who has lost his ball,

What, what is he to do? I saw it go

Merrily bouncing, down the street, and then

Merrily over –there it is in the water!

In the extract of the poem, “What is the boy now, who has lost his ball”, you can see that, there is a set of five iambs for a total of ten syllables. We can also see that it has iambic pentameter and it has unrhymed lines: ball, go, then, and water.

A blank verse sounds like a natural speech just like the free verse. It is generally use for narrative poems or ballads. Example again is John Milton’s “Paradise Lost”

When I see birches bend to left and right

Across the line of straighter darker trees

I like to think some boy’s been swinging them.

Read Also: To Determine Types of Poem in Literature consider the Following:

FREE VERSE: A free verse is a poem with no regular or accepted pattern of length of line, stanza or rhyme but may contain pauses, repetition, alliteration, assonance, onomatopoeia, internal rhyme, imagery etc for poetic effect. It thus follows the rhythm of natural speech with the diction like an ordinary spoken language. Free verse can be used to convey the message of freedom or independence but despite its freedom, most free verse continues to observe a convention of the poetic line in some sense. They are sometimes thought to be a modern form of poetry, but the free verse of poem has been around for hundreds of years. Example is Walt Whitman’s “After the Sea-Ship”.

After the sea-Ship-after the whistling winds;

After the white-gray sails, taut to their spars and ropes,

Below, a myriad, myriad waves, hastening, lifting up their necks

Tending in ceaseless flow toward the track of ship:

Waves, undulating waves-liquid, uneven, emulous waves

Toward that whirling current, laughing and buoyant, with curves,

Where the great vessel, sailing and tacking displaced the surface;

SESTINA: A poem of six stanzas that contains six lines each and a three-line envoy, originally without rhyme, in which each stanza repeats the end words of the lines of the first stanza, but different order, the envoy using the six words again, three in the middle of the lines and three at the end.

Example is Ezra Pound’s sestina; Altaforte


Damn it all! All this our South stinks peace.

You whoreson dog, papiols, come! Let’s to music!

I have no life save when the swords clash.

But ah! When I see the standards gold, vair, purple, opposing

And the broad fields beneath them turn crimson,

Then howl I my heart nigh mad with rejoicing.


In hot summer have I great rejoicing

When the tempests kill the earth’s foul peace,

And the lightnings from black heav’n flash crimson,

And the fierce thunders roar me their music

And the winds shriek through the clouds mad, opposing,

And through all the riven skies God’s swords clash.


Hell grant soon we hear again the swords clash!

And the shrill neighs of destriers in battle rejoicing,

Spiked breast to spiked breast opposing!

Better one hour’s stour than a year’s peace

With fat boards, bawds, wine and frail music!

Bah! There’s no wine like the blood’s crimson!


And I love to see the sun rise blood-crimson.

And I watch his spears through the dark clash

And it fills all my heart with rejoicing

And pries wide my mouth with fast music

When I see him so scorn and defy peace,

His lone might ‘gainst all darkness opposing,


The man who fears war and squats opposing

My words for stour, hath no blood of crimson

But is fit only to rot in womanish peace

Far from where worth’s won and the swords clash

For the death of such sluts I go rejoicing;

Yea, I fill all the air with my music.


Papiols, Papiols, to the music!

There’s no sound like to swords swords opposing

No cry like the battle’s rejoicing

When our elbows and swords drip the crimson

And our charges ‘gainst “The Leopard’s rush clash.

May God damn for ever all who cry “Peace!”



And let the music of the swords make them crimson!

Hell grant soon we hear again the swords clash!

Hell blot black for always the thought ‘peace!’


Joyceline Natally Cudjoe

An Entertainment Columnist, Content Writer, Blogger, Novelist, Poet, and a Publicist. For business or story tip off, contact me on +233 24 646 6866 or email: [email protected]

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