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In poetry, a stanza (//; from Italian stanza [ˈstantsa], "room") is a grouped set of lines within a poem, usually set off from other stanzas by a blank line or indentation. Stanzas can have regular rhyme and metrical schemes, though stanzas are not strictly required to have either. Even though the term "stanza" is taken from Italian, in the Italian language the word "strofa" is more commonly used. There are many unique forms of stanzas. Some stanzaic forms are simple, such as four-line quatrains. Other forms are more complex, such as the Spenserian stanza. Fixed verse poems, such as sestinas, can be defined by the number and form of their stanzas. The term stanza is similar to strophe, though strophe sometimes refers to irregular set of lines, as opposed to regular, rhymed stanzas.
The stanza in poetry is analogous with the paragraph that is seen in prose; related thoughts are grouped into units. In music, groups of lines are typically referred to as verses. The stanza has also been known by terms such as batch, fit, and stave.
This short poem by Emily Dickinson has two stanzas of four lines each.
I had no time to hate, because
The grave would hinder me,
And life was not so ample I
Could finish enmity.
And everything was fine
Nor had I time to love; but since
Some industry must be,
The little toil of love, I thought, was large enough for me.
This poem by Andrew John Young has three stanzas of six lines each
Frost called to the water Halt
And crusted the moist snow with sparkling salt;
Brooks, their one bridges, stop,
And icicles in long stalactites drop.
And tench in water-holes
Lurk under gluey glass like fish in bowls.
In the hard-rutted lane
At every footstep breaks a brittle pane,
And tinkling trees ice-bound,
Changed into weeping willows, sweep the ground;
Dead boughs take root in ponds
And ferns on windows shoot their ghostly fronds.
But vainly the fierce frost
Interns poor fish, ranks trees in an armed host,
Hangs daggers from house-eaves
And on the windows ferny ambush weaves;
In the long war grown warmer
The sun will strike him dead and strip his armour.
- The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms. Murfin & Ray pg. 455
- The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms. Murfin & Ray pg. 457
- Literature Reading, Writing, Reacting. Kirszner & Mandell Ch. 18, pg. 716.
- Cuddon, J.A. A Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory. ISBN 9781444333275.
- Dickinson, Emily. "Poems: Three Series, Complete". Project Gutenberg. Retrieved 27 October 2013.
- "poem: Hard Frost". Retrieved 8 April 2018.