Definition of Blank Verse
Blank verse is a literary device defined as an un-rhyming verse written in iambic pentameter. In poetry and prose, it has a consistent meter with 10 syllables in each line (pentameter); where, unstressed syllables are followed by stressed ones, five of which are stressed but do not rhyme. It is also known as “un-rhymed iambic pentameter.”
Features of Blank Verse
- Blank verse poetry has no fixed number of lines.
- It has a conventional meter that is used for verse drama and long narrative poems.
- It is often used in descriptive and reflective poems and dramatic monologues — the poems in which a single character delivers his thoughts in the form of a speech.
- Blank verse can be composed in any kind of meter, such as iamb, trochee, spondee, and dactyl.
Types of Blank Verse Poetry
- Iamb pentameter blank verse (unstressed/stressed syllables)
- Trochee blank verse (stressed/unstressed syllables)
- Anapest blank verse (unstressed/unstressed/stressed syllables)
- Dactyl blank verse (stressed/unstressed/unstressed syllables)
Short Examples of Blank Verse
- The Dreams are clues that tell us take chances.
- The source of faith in happiness and
- Daylight changes, and it is time to take
- The Night frost drips silently from the roof
- Human cadences always searching for this
- The moon takes its bath in lovely silver dust.
- The buds luminous in white sway happily,
and sparkling valleys darkened by angst.
- Only if mountains might give me a push
Only if sunrise lights could converse hope.
- Listen to your heart while using your wisdom
A valuable treasure you have is your ta
- Beholding red and golden sparkles of sunlight
Sweet-sparks of light glowing before the eyes.
- Within the stars, your Dreams can be fulfilled,
now you can fly the unlimited starlight
- If passports are passwords to the heaven above,
then we shall read the Riddle
- If there is a twelfth player, who does not play,
- He only leaves the field when free.
- Birds chirp in the orchard of the cherry and try to sing a little later.
- Enemies reached at the inimical stage of enmity.
What is the Origin of Blank Verse
Heroic verse as blank verse is often labeled, was first emerged in Italy during the 16th century and entered English through Henry Howard, who was also the Earl of Surrey. It was the mixture of poetry and prose used in the plays during the Grecian period as shown by the plays of Aeschylus and Sophocles. Henry Howard used it in the translation of Aeneid and later Milton used it in Paradise Lost, making it the most sought-after poetry writing technique.
How Did Blank Verse Become Popular?
The popularity of the blank verse lies in two facts. The first one is that it has been used to demonstrate the elevation of style and grandeur of the thematic ideas. Therefore, blank verse with its iambic pentameter was the most suitable verse style for this type of writing.
The second was its metrical pattern without having any rhyme scheme. Both of these led to the popularity of the style along with Milton’s Paradise Lost which led to making it the most popular poetic writing style. Shakespeare has also used it in his plays, adding further to its popularity
Characteristics of Blank Verse
Some of the features of blank verse are as given below.
- It is mostly used in plays and epic poetry.
- It follows no rhyme scheme.
- It follows an iambic pentameter with one stressed and one unstressed syllable.
- It supports grand themes.
- It is suitable for dramatic monologues with elevated pitch and high style.
Difference Between Blank Verse and Free Verse
There are two major differences between blank verse and free verse. Blank verse follows iambic pentameter while free verse follows none. Blank verse presents elevated themes and subjects while free verse could be used for any theme. However, one point in both is similar in that they do not follow any rhyming pattern.
Free Verse and Iambic Pentameter
Iambic Pentameter means using five high and five low notes in a verse. In other words, one verse has five notes wherein one is a stressed or short syllable and the other one is a long or unstressed syllable. This makes a five-note verse. However, a free verse may or may not comprise iambic pentameter. It could follow tetrameter or even no metrical pattern at all.
Examples of Blank Verse from Literature
The Earl of Surrey introduced blank verse in English literature in 1540. Milton, Shakespeare, Marlowe, John Donne, John Keats, and many other poets and dramatists have used this device in their works. Have a look at some examples of blank verse:
Example #1: Mending Walls by Robert Frost
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
This poem has no proper rhyme scheme. However, there is a consistent meter in 10 syllables of each line. It is following the iambic pentameter pattern with five feet in each line. Only the first line is written in a trochee pattern. All the stressed syllables are marked in bold.
Example #2: Hamlet by William Shakespeare
But, woe is me, you are so sick of late,
So far from cheer and from your former state,
That I distrust you. Yet, though I distrust,
Discomfort you, my lord, it nothing must. …
Hamlet gives us a perfect example of a typical blank verse, written in iambic pentameter. Shakespeare employed a deliberate effort to use the syllables in a particular way. He brought variation by using caesuras (pause) in the middle of the line, as in the third line. Shakespeare has other literary pieces that are also good sources of blank verse examples.
Example #3: Dr. Faustus by Christopher Marlowe
You stars that reign’d at my nativity,
Whose influence hath allotted death and hell,
Now draw up Faustus like a foggy mist
Into entrails of yon labouring clouds, …
So that my soul may but ascend to Heaven …
Marlowe developed this potential in the late 16th century. Marlowe was the first author who exploited the potential of blank verse for writing a powerful speech, as given here. The pattern utilized here is iambic pentameter.
Example #4: Ulysses by Alfred Lord Tennyson
It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags
Match’d with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race …
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.
Just look at the above example in which the first line is written in regular pentameter. However, there is a little variation in the stressed pattern in the following lines that are again revived in the last two lines and do not follow any rhyme scheme.
Example #5: Macbeth by William Shakespeare
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death …
William Shakespeare wrote verses in iambic pentameter pattern, without rhyme. Macbeth is a good example of a blank verse. Many speeches in this play are written in the form of blank verse.
Example #6: Frost at Midnight by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
But thou, my babe! shalt wander like a breeze
By lakes and sandy shores, beneath the crags
Of ancient mountain, and beneath the clouds,
Which image in their bulk both lakes and shores.
And mountain crags: so shalt thou see and hear
The lovely shapes and sounds intelligible
Of that eternal language, which thy God…
Coleridge has used iambic pentameter – ten syllables, with five stressed syllables in this example. Though there is no rhyme scheme, readers can feel the rhythm of a real speech due to the proper use of meter in this blank verse.
Example #6: Thanatopsis by William Cullen Bryant
To him who in the love of Nature holds
Communion with her visible forms, she speaks
A various language; for his gayer hours
She has a Voice of gladness, and a smile.
This blank verse does not have any rhyme scheme, but it brings a slight rhythm and cadence that mimics a pattern readers could hear and feel like listening to nature.
Example #8: Tintern Abbey by William Wordsworth
Five years have past; five summers, with the length
Of five long winters! And again I hear
These waters, rolling from their mountain-Springs
With a soft inland murmur. – Once again
Do I behold these steep and lofty cliffs …
The landscape with the quiet of the sky.
The day is come when I again repose …
This example does not follow any rhyme scheme, but it is written in blank verse with iambic pentameter patterns of unaccented and accented syllables.
Example #9: This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison by S.T. Coleridge
Well, they are gone, and here must I remain,
This lime-tree bower my prison! I have lost
Beauties and feelings, such as would have been
Most sweet to my remembrance even when age
had dimmed mine eyes to blindness! They, meanwhile…
The slip of smooth clear blue betwixt two Isles
Of purple shadow! Yes! they wander on
In gladness all; but thou, methinks, most glad,
My gentle-hearted Charles! for thou hast pined …
Coleridge has jotted down these lines as a spontaneous feel while sitting in his garden. He has written it in a blank verse without any rhyme scheme, yet it follows iambic pentameter.
Function of Blank Verse
Originating from Latin and Greek sources, blank verse is widely employed as a vehicle in English dramatic poetry and prose, to create specific grandeur. Blank verse has similarities to normal speech but it is written in a variety of patterns, which bring interruptions such as pauses. Therefore, the intention is to produce a formal rhythmical pattern that creates the musical effect. Hence, it tends to capture the attention of the readers and the listeners, which is its primary objective.
Synonyms of Blank Verse
The following words are close meanings to Blank Verse. Some can be used to make it understandable for the students such as poetry, poesy, versification, verse libre, and free verse. However, almost every term has its own specific meaning.