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Verse Paragraph

A verse paragraph is a section of poetry that resembles a prose paragraph, that which is found in novel writing and short stories.

These paragraphs are usually of different lengths (meaning they have different numbers of lines) and are separated by a blank line, like regular stanzas in a poem. Often, poets will indent the first line of a verse paragraph (seen in the examples below). 

Verse Paragraph definition and examples


Verse Paragraph Definition

Verse paragraphs are sections of poetry in which the author writes in a manner that shares similarities with prose paragraphs.

This is in part seen through the use of indention. More often than not, poets employ blank verse or free verse along with other elements of verse paragraphs. 

Verse Paragraph or Stanza? 

Some literary scholars do not distinguish between verse paragraphs and stanzas. But, many more see a few significant variations between the two. For example, stanzas often utilize the same number of lines throughout the poem. For example, a poet might write a ten-stanza poem that uses quatrains or sets of four lines. But, more often than not, verse paragraphs contain different numbers of lines. 

For example, one verse paragraph might contain twenty lines while the next contains thirty or more. Verse paragraphs also often begin with an indention, such as that found at the beginning of paragraphs in novels and short stories

Sometimes, poets utilize verse paragraphs when they want to separate a poem into thematic sections. For example, the first verse paragraph might deal with a recent familial death, while the second contends with the writer’s emotional recovery from that loss.

Examples of Verse Paragraphs in Poetry 

The Prelude by William Wordsworth 

Wordsworth’s ‘The Prelude’ is one of the best-known examples of a poem that uses verse paragraphs. The full title of this important piece is ‘The Prelude or, Growth of a Poet’s Mind; An Autobiographical Poem.’ The title already hints at the prose-like characteristics of this long poem. Wordsworth began writing ‘The Prelude’ in 1798 and continued it until his death. The final version was published three months after he passed away in 1850. Here are a few lines from Book 1 of ‘The Prelude:’ 

Fair seed-time had my soul, and I grew up

Foster’d alike by beauty and by fear;

Much favour’d in my birthplace, and no less

In that beloved Vale to which, erelong,

I was transplanted. Well I call to mind […]

Like the best examples of poems that utilize verse paragraphs, Wordsworth indents the first line that begins with “Fair seed-time.” This is seen several more times, such as in the next long stanza, which begins with “The mind of Man.”

Take a look at Boat Stealing,’ an excerpt from ‘The Prelude’ in which the poet presents two contrasting ideas about nature to allow the reader to decide what nature means personally.

Read more William Wordsworth poems

Paradise Lost by John Milton 

Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’ is another great example of a long poem that uses verse paragraphs. The first version of the epic was published in 1667, followed by a longer version in 1674. The first edition contained ten books and the second, twelve. 

Like other pieces that utilize verse paragraphs, the poem is written in blank verse or unrhymed iambic pentameter. This means that most lines contain five sets of two beats, the first of which is unstressed and the second is stressed. Here are the first eight lines of ‘Paradise Lost:’

OF Mans First Disobedience, and the Fruit

Of that Forbidden Tree, whose mortal tast

Brought Death into the World, and all our woe,

With loss of Eden, till one greater Man

Restore us, and regain the blissful Seat,

Sing Heav’nly Muse, that on the secret top

Of Oreb, or of Sinai, didst inspire

That Shepherd, who first taught the chosen Seed,

Today, ‘Paradise Lost’ is considered to be one of the most important accomplishments in the history of the written language. It tells one of the oldest and most influential stories in human history—that of the temptation of Adam and Eve and their expulsion from Eden, and the fall of the angel Satan. 

Discover more John Milton poems

Dover Beach by Matthew Arnold 

This famous short poem is a dramatic monologue lamenting the loss of true Christian faith in England during the mid-1800s. ‘Dover Beach’ also provides readers with a useful example of verse paragraphs. It was first published in 1867 in New Poems and may have been in progress as early as 1849. Here are the first lines: 

The sea is calm tonight.

The tide is full, the moon lies fair

Upon the straits; on the French coast the light

Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,

Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.

Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!

Throughout, Arnold uses irregular verse paragraphs that range in length from six lines up to fourteen. He also writes in free verse and uses irregular iambic pentameter.

Read more Matthew Arnold poems

FAQs 

What is a verse paragraph in literature?

A verse paragraph is a type of poetic stanza used within a poem. These usually fairly long stanzas vary in length and often use either blank verse or free verse. Sometimes, they are also indented to better resemble prose paragraphs. 

Are verse and paragraph the same thing?

The term “verse” is used in a variety of ways. Sometimes, it’s used to describe a stanza in poetry, an entire poem, or a line of poetry. The word “paragraph” describes a unit of writing in a novel, short story, or essay. Unless it is defined as a “verse paragraph,” then it again relates to a unit of poetic writing. 

What is a two-line poem with ending rhyming words?

A two-line poem that ends with rhyming words is a couplet. These very short poems are somewhat unusual. It is far more common to find a rhyming couplet in the middle or at the end of a longer poem. 

Are verse and stanza the same?

No, a stanza is a section of writing in a poem, while the word “verse” can describe a single line, a stanza, or the entire poem. 


Related Literary Terms 

  • Refrain: used in poems and songs. They are repeated sections of text that usually appear at the end of a stanza or verse.
  • Verse: a term that refers to various parts of poetry, such as a single line of poetry, a stanza, or the entire poem.
  • Sestet: a six-line stanza or poem, or the second half or a sonnet. It does not require a specific rhyme scheme or metrical pattern.
  • Ottava Rima: used to describe a particular type of stanza in poetry. It uses eight iambic lines and follows a rhyme scheme of ABABABCC.
  • Hymn Stanza: uses a rhyme scheme of ABCB and alternates between iambic trimeter and iambic tetrameter.
  • Miltonic Sonnet: one of the main sonnet forms popularized by the poet John Milton who was born in 1609 in London, England.


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