) is a poetic term originally referring to the first part of the ode
in Ancient Greek tragedy
, followed by the antistrophe
. The term has been extended to also mean a structural division of a poem containing stanzas
of varying line length. Strophic poetry is to be contrasted with poems composed line-by-line non-stanzaically, such as Greek epic poems
or English blank verse
, to which the term stichic
In its original Greek setting, "strophe, antistrophe and epode were a kind of stanza
framed only for the music", as John Milton
wrote in the preface to Samson Agonistes
, with the strophe chanted by a Greek chorus
as it moved from right to left across the scene.
Strophe (from Greek στροφή
, "turn, bend, twist") is a concept in versification
which properly means a turn, as from one foot
to another, or from one side of a chorus to the other.
In a more general sense, the strophe is a pair of stanzas
of alternating form on which the structure of a given poem is based, with the strophe usually being identical with the stanza in modern poetry and its arrangement and recurrence of rhymes giving it its character. But the Greeks called a combination of verse-periods a system, giving the name "strophe" to such a system only when it was repeated once or more in unmodified form.
A simple form of Greek strophe is the Sapphic strophe. Like all Greek verse, it is composed of alternating long and short syllables (symbolized by —
for long, u
for short and x
for either long or short) in this case arranged in the following manner:
— u — x — u u — u — —
— u — x — u u — u — —
— u — x — u u — u — x — u u — —
Far more complex forms are found in the odes of Pindar
and the choral sections of Greek drama
In choral poetry, it is common to find the strophe followed by a metrically identical antistrophe
, which may – in Pindar and other epinician
poets – be followed in turn by a metrically dissimilar epode
creating an AAB
Origins and development
It is said that Archilochus
first created the strophe by binding together systems of two or three lines. But it was the Greek
ode-writers who introduced the practice of strophe-writing on a large scale, and the art was attributed to Stesichorus
, although it is likely that earlier poets were acquainted with it. The arrangement of an ode
in a splendid and consistent artifice of strophe, antistrophe
was carried to its height by Pindar
With the development of Greek prosody
, various peculiar strophe-forms came into general acceptance, and were made celebrated by the frequency with which leading poets employed them. Among these were the Sapphic,
and the Asclepiadean
strophe, all of them prominent in Greek and Latin verse. The briefest and the most ancient strophe is the dactylic distych,
which consists of two verses of the same class of rhythm, the second producing a melodic counterpart to the first.
A strophic form of poetry called Muwashshah
developed in Andalucia
as early as the 9th century CE, which then spread to North Africa and the Middle East. Muwashshah was typically in classical Arabic, with the refrain sometimes in the local dialect.
The term strophe is used in modern and post-modern criticism, to indicate "long non-isomorphic units".
The term "stanza [is used] for more regular ones" (ibid). This appropriation of the ancient term is useful, as contemporary poetry is a frequent turns (the original meaning of Strophe), and it avoids relying upon the invention of new terminology such as 'word clumps'.
- ^ William S. Annis. Introduction to Greek Meter. Aoidoi.org January 2006. Page 11.
- ^ Edwin D. Floyd. "Some more or less technical observations on Greek rhythm." class material for University of Pittsburgh: Classics 1130. http://www.pitt.edu/~edfloyd/Class1130/strophe.html accessed January 6, 2015.
- ^ Page 1360, Entry 'STROPHE', The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics: Fourth Edition, edited by Stephen Cushman, Clare Cavanagh, Jahan Ramazani, Paul Rouzer
Last edited on 27 February 2021, at 17:28
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