Stanzas and repeating forms

stanza rime royal ottava rima Spenserian stanza couplet tercet quatrain quintet sestet septet octet refrain heroic couplet poem
lg l stanza couplet tercet quatrain quintet sestet septet octet refrain

For poems consisting of regularly repeating line groups, within the outermost wrapper element the interior line groups should be tagged and identified. The simplest approach is to call them all lg type="stanza", but if a more detailed identification would be useful, the following approach is serviceable. The underlying principle is to describe stanza forms using the most specific terminology that applies.

  1. Tag distinctive, named types of stanza according to accepted terminology:
    • lg type="common" (common stanza): a quatrain in iambics where the first and third lines contain four feet, the second and fourth lines have three feet; use lg type="common"
    • lg type="rime royal" (rime royal): seven iambic pentameter lines rhyming ABABBCC; use lg type="rime-royal"
    • lg type="ottava rima" (ottava rima): an octet in iambic pentameter, rhyming ABABABCC; use lg type="ottava-rima"
    • lg type="spenserian" (Spenserian stanza): nine imabic pentameter lines rhymed ABABBCBCC. The last two lines have six metrical feet; use lg type="spenserian"
  2. Tag repeating units of less than eight lines (not already identified as one of the specific forms listed above) using terms that indicate the number of lines:
    • lg type="couplet": two lines (but see note below)
    • lg type="tercet": three lines
    • lg type="quatrain": four lines
    • lg type="quintet": five lines
    • lg type="sestet": six lines
    • lg type="septet": seven lines
    • lg type="octet": eight lines
  3. In a poem consisting entirely of rhymed couplets, there may be minimal benefit in encoding all of the couplets; however, it may also be fairly easy to encode them automatically, if variations (e.g. the occasional tercet) are encoded by hand. Most long poems in heroic couplets should probably be encoded as described in the section on indeterminate and narrative forms.
  4. Tag regularly repeating verse units longer than eight lines with lg type="stanza" for the unit of repetition. If there’s no white space inside these stanzas, there may be no need for further internal breakdown (unless a more detailed representation is important for your analysis). In a poem with eight-line repetitions, for instance, you would tag these as lg type="octet" but not tag the quatrains or couplets inside them, even if they are set off by indentation. If there is internal white space within the stanza, we recommend encoding further line groups only based on what is delimited by white space, using quatrain, sestet, etc. as necessary.
  5. Any unit longer than eight lines which is not regularly repeated (for instance, a ten-line group surrounded by shorter groups) should be tagged as lg type="indeterminate". If there is no internal white space at all, then a single lg type="indeterminate" is all that is required. More detail on non-repeating verse structures is given in the section on narrative forms.
  6. Refrains should be encoded as lg type="refrain". A refrain which is part of a stanza should be encoded as nested within the stanza. A refrain which follows a stanza, or follows a group of stanzas, should be encoded as their sibling.