AskDefine | Define stanza

Dictionary Definition

stanza n : a fixed number of lines of verse forming a unit of a poem

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. A unit of a poem, written or printed as a paragraph; equivalent to a verse
    TIGER, tiger, burning bright
    In the forests of the night,
    What immortal hand or eye
    Could frame thy fearful symmetry?


a unit of a poem

Derived terms

See also



  1. room
  2. stanza



  1. room

Extensive Definition

In poetry, a stanza is a unit within a larger poem. (The term means "stopping place" in Italian.) In modern poetry, the term is often equivalent with strophe; in popular vocal music, a stanza is typically referred to as a "verse" (as distinct from the refrain, or "chorus").
A stanza consists of a grouping of lines, set off by a space, that usually has a set pattern of meter and rhyme.
In traditional English-language poems, stanzas can be identified and grouped together because they share a rhyme scheme or a fixed number of lines (as in distich/couplet, tercet, quatrain, cinquain/quintain, sestet). In much modern poetry, stanzas may be arbitrarily presented on the printed page because of publishing conventions that employ such features as white space or punctuation.
One of the most common manifestations of stanzaic form in poetry in English (and in other Western-European languages) is represented in texts for church hymns, such as the first three stanzas (of nine) from a poem by Isaac Watts (from 1719) cited immediately below (in this case, each stanza is to be sung to the same hymn tune, composed earlier by William Croft in 1708):
Our God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home.
Under the shadow of Thy throne
Thy saints have dwelt secure;
Sufficient is Thine arm alone,
And our defense is sure.
Before the hills in order stood,
Or earth received her frame,
From everlasting Thou art God,
To endless years the same. [etc.]
Less obvious manifestations of stanzaic form can be found as well, as in Shakespeare's sonnets, which, while printed as whole units in themselves, can be broken into stanzas with the same rhyme scheme followed by a final couplet, as in the example of Sonnet 116:
Let me not to the marriage of true minds |\ Admit impediments. Love is not love | \ Which alters when it alteration finds, | / All one stanza Or bends with the remover to remove: |/ O no! it is an ever-fixed mark, |\ That looks on tempests and is never shaken; | \ It is the star to every wandering bark, | / All one stanza Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken. |/ Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks |\ Within his bending sickle's compass come; | \ Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, | / All one stanza But bears it out even to the edge of doom. |/ If this be error and upon me proved, |\ I never writ, nor no man ever loved. |/ A couplet
stanza in Bulgarian: Строфа
stanza in Catalan: Estrofa
stanza in Danish: Strofe
stanza in German: Strophe
stanza in Estonian: Stroof
stanza in Spanish: Estrofa
stanza in Interlingua (International Auxiliary Language Association): Stanza
stanza in Japanese: スタンザ
stanza in Dutch: Stanza
stanza in Norwegian: Strofe
stanza in Norwegian Nynorsk: Strofe
stanza in Russian: Строфа
stanza in Simple English: Stanza
stanza in Slovenian: kitica
stanza in Finnish: Säkeistö
stanza in Swedish: Strof
stanza in Polish: Strofa

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