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What is Versification?

Updated on March 18, 2011

Versification is the act, art, or practice of making poetic lines or verses. In particular, versification is concerned with the patterns of sound which characterize verse. Such patterns are studied for the practical purpose of explaining some of the elementary conventions for writing verse and, as in the scansion taught in schools, for reading it properly. More detailed study may seek to understand how verse was written by one poet or by a group of poets in one or more historical periods. Descriptions of this type may further provide the basis for judgments about the aesthetic value of poems or for theorizing about the nature and function of sound patterns in verse and about poetry itself.

Patterns of sound in verse are of two general types—qualitative and quantitative. First are those patterns which involve the repetition and variation of the kinds or qualities of speech sounds. By this is meant those elements which differentiate one sound or letter from another, as a from o or b from k without reference to the intensity, duration, or musical pitch with which either sound is pronounced. These latter are the quantitative elements and are the basis for another large design of sound in verse. In the study of a poem's versification, both of these designs of sound, the qualitative and the quantitative, are considered in abstraction from the various patterns of meaning with which they occur simultaneously. But it is in the harmonious interplay of all such patterns that the poem exists and is enjoyed.

Versification - Design for Qualities of Sound

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