A line is a linguistic unit into which a poem or drama is split. The method of organizing words using lines and line breaks is known as "lineation," and it is one of the distinguishing characteristics of poetry. A stanza is a discrete and numbered set of lines in verse. In some poems, the title is considered a line. Sometimes the last line of a poem serves as a refrain, marking the end of each section or part of a poem.
In classical poetry, a line usually has a maximum length of ten syllables, but this is not a rigid rule. A line may be any length from one to well over 100 words. Longer lines are common in free verse, where strict rules about how many syllables belong in a line have been abandoned in favor of a more flexible approach.
In English poetry, lines are usually metered, that is, they contain the same number of beats (or metrical units) regardless of how long they are. Most English lines have an even number of syllables, with the odd-numbered lines often described as "rhymed" and the even-numbered lines unrhymed. Some poets, however, use other metrics for their lines; James Joyce, for example, frequently uses five-and seven-syllable lines.
In classical poetry, a line of poetry is the space between two punctuation marks, such as periods or commas.
A line is a poetry subdivision, especially a collection of words organized into a row that terminates for reasons other than the right-hand margin.
A line break is the end of a line in a poem and the start of a new line. Most poems are divided into stanzas, with each section focusing on a different idea or subject.
Line breaks can be caused by punctuation such as commas or periods. These endings indicate places where a speaker should stop and allow the reader to process what they have heard or seen. Punctuation can also be used to distinguish words or phrases that should be treated differently (such as making some words bold). Many books use these techniques to make their texts more readable.
In poetry, a line break can also be caused by metrical requirements. In traditional English meter, which is the type of meter used by most long poems, lines contain the same number of syllables. Thus, a line break at the end of a verse line will usually cause a new line to be started immediately after the last stressed syllable of the previous line. For example, if the previous line ended with a stressed syllable, the next line would begin with an unstressed syllable so that it can become a new rhyme word with the previous line.
In modern poetry, however, this rule is not always followed.
A verse is officially a single metrical line in a poetry composition in the countable sense. Verse, on the other hand, has evolved to denote any division or grouping of words in a literary writing, with these divisions typically referred to as stanzas. However, this usage is not universal and many critics do not consider "verse" to be a distinct category of its own.
In classical English poetry, a line of poetry was called an "alexandrine", after its most common form, which was also the name given to each of the two lines that made up one of the four alexandrine feet. In fact, all classical English poetry is written in alexandrine couplets, which are pairs of iambic pentameter lines. These lines have five pairs of syllables, with one unstressed syllable followed by one stressed syllable in each case. The term "pentameter" comes from the Greek πέντα (penta) - "five" and μέτρον (metron) - "measure".
In modern English poetry, the line is usually taken to be either 12 syllables or 20 lines of poetry, but other lengths are possible. A verse may consist of more than one line, such as in a sonnet or villanelle.
Stanzas are the paragraph-like portions of a poem. Stanzas consist of one or more lines. When reading a poetry, consider why the author has concluded each line where they have. Perhaps there's a reason for ending some lines but not others. Think about how you would interpret these terminations while reading.
Poetry sections other than stanzas include:
Couplets are two-line passages that often resemble miniature poems themselves. They are usually found at the beginning and end of a section or passage.
Tercets are three-line passages that also often resemble miniature poems. They are usually found at the beginning, middle, and end of a section or passage.
Sestets are six-line passages that also often resemble miniature poems.
Epigrams are short witty verses used to make a point, often in a humorous way. They are usually only one line long.
Allegories use symbols instead of words to tell a story. The reader must figure out what the symbols mean.
Anadiploses occur when a part of the poem repeats itself (often with slight changes) right after something unexpected has happened.