CSET English – Poetry

I’m trying to wrap my head around everything I need to study. In January, I have to take all four test for the CSET English. The CSET English Poetry sections in study guides are always a bit lacking in my opinion. I’ve developed my own study guide in order to get what I need. I decided to use my website as a means to learn more about a topic I enjoy. Writing.


These poems have five lines and use mood and imagery to evoke feelings from the reader. The first line of the poem begins with the letter A and the other lines are in alphabetical order: B, C, and D, but line 5 can be any letter. Here’s an example that I wrote. It took way more thinking power than it should have:

Around the street corner
Behind rustic stop signs
Cursing the summer sun
Dancing foolish again
Once more to be a child


Like ABC poems, the first letter of each line does something. In this case, that something is spell a word. It seems simple enough…

Here’s an example by Lewis Carroll

Little maidens, when you look
On this little story-book,
Reading with attentive eye
Its enticing history,
Never think that hours of play
Are your only HOLIDAY,
And that in a HOUSE of joy
Lessons serve but to annoy:
If in any HOUSE you find
Children of a gentle mind,
Each the others pleasing ever—
Each the others vexing never—
Daily work and pastime daily
In their order taking gaily—
Then be very sure that they
Have a life of HOLIDAY.

Still struggling to see what the heck that crap spells? Well, it was written for LORINA, ALICE, and EDITH. (Don’t blame me. I’m just the messenger).


Three words: Short. Narrative. Poem. Okay, we have that down. Now, here’s the important part: It’s mean to be a song. They often have a moral at the very end. How can do you know if it’s a ballad or not? Beats me, but most ballads have two things that may help out: incremental repetitions and ballad stanzas.

Incremental Repetitions – It’s just want it sounds like, repetition within a line. Here’s an example in Lord Randal:

‘What d’ ye leave to your mother, Lord Randal, my son?
What d’ye leave to your mother, my handsome young man?
’‘Four and twenty milk kye; mother, mak my bed soon,
For I’m sick at the heart, and I fain wad lie down.’
‘What d’ ye leave to your sister, Lord Randal, my son?
What d’ ye leave to your sister, my handsome young man?
’‘My gold and my silver; mother, mak my bed soon,
For I’m sick at the heart, and I fain wad lie down.’

Ballad Stanza – A four line stanza (aka quatrain). Usually the second and fourth lines rhyme: ABCB. Generally, the first and third lines have four feet and the second and fourth lines have three. (What’s a foot? A foot is a set of syllables, generally two but occasionally three. Ex. [All in] [a hot] [and cop] [per sky] This equals four feet).

Here’s an example of a ballad from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner:

All in a hot and copper sky!
The bloody Sun, at noon,
Right up above the mast did stand,
No bigger than the Moon.

Ballade – THIS IS NOT ANOTHER WORD FOR BALLAD. That would be foolish O.o – It generally has three eight-line stanzas and a refrain. At the end of the three stanzas there’s one random hunk of junk. The rhyme scheme will most likely look something like this:

  • ababbcbC
  • ababbcbC
  • ababbcbC
  • bcbC

C is the refrain.

Blank verse

No rhyme. Iambic pentameter.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blank_verse


If you can’t figure out this one…don’t take the test.


This is a caricature of poetry. Think of a satire, but don’t think of a satire. It takes a serious topic and makes it hilarious (or at least that’s what the poet thinks they’re doing. I can’t recall the last time I read a funny poem.)

Want an example, heh. Click here.


It’s an Italian Ballad. It is five to seven stanzas and music generally accompanies it. The last stanza is shorter. This poem is A Lady Asks Me:

Because a lady asks me, I would tell

Of an affect that comes often and is fell
And is so overweening: Love, by name.
E’en its deniers can now hear the truth,
I for the nonce to them that know it call,
Having no hope at all
that man who is base in heart
Can bear his part of wit
into the light of it,
And save they know’t aright from nature’s source
I have no will to prove Love’s course
or say
Where he takes rest; who maketh him to be;
Or what his active virtue is, or what his force;
Nay, nor his essence or his mode;
What his placation; why is he in verb,
Or if a man have might
to show him visible to men’s sight.

In memory’s locus taketh he his state

Formed there in manner as a mist of light
Upon a dusk that is come from Mars and stays.
Love is created, hath a sensate name,
His modus takes from soul, from heart his will;
From form seen doth he start, that, understood,
Taketh in latent intellect–
As in a subject ready–
place and abode,
Yet in that place it ever is unstill,
Spreading its rays, it tendeth never down
By quality, but is its own effect unendingly
Not to delight, but in an ardour of thought
That the base likeness of it kindleth not.

Carpe diem

Latin for “Seize the day.” It’s a YOLO poem. <–By the way, I hate YOLO.


Never heard of it before, but think of a Haiku. But this time, you have five lines. The lines work like so: Line 1 = 1 Word. Line 2 = 2 Words. Line 3 = 3 Words. Line 4 = 2 Words. Line 5 = 1 Word. There are several variations in content, including a 2, 4, 6, 8, 2 syllable version.

This example is called “November Nights” by Adeliade Crapsey:

With faint dry sound,
Like steps of passing ghosts,
The leaves, frost-crisp’d, break from the trees
And fall.


John Dryden and Alexander Pope use this style a lot. Classicism is a poem that uses principles and ideals that are often found in the Greek and Roman arts/literature.

Here’s Eloisa to Abelard by Alexander Pope

In these deep solitudes and awful cells,
Where heav’nly-pensive contemplation dwells,
And ever-musing melancholy reigns;
What means this tumult in a vestal’s veins?
Why rove my thoughts beyond this last retreat?
Why feels my heart its long-forgotten heat?

Here are others:

Ben Jonson: e.g. An Elegy
Samuel Johnson: e.g. The Vanity of Human Wishes
John Dryden: e.g. Absalom and Achitophel
Alexander Pope: e.g. The Rape of the Lock (which I gave you the link to for burlesque)
Matthew Arnold: e.g. The Scholar Gipsy

Concrete (Shape)

Visual Poetry. The shape of the meters play a role in the significance of the poem. Ian Hamilton Finlay and Edwin Morgan, Henri Chopin, Augusto de Campos, and Bob Cobbing are all important figures in this style.

Here’s an example of one of the earliest known Concrete poems – http://www.ccel.org/h/herbert/temple/Easterwings.html


Two rhyming lines.

True wit is nature to advantage dress’d;
What oft was thought, but ne’er so well express’d.
Alexander Pope

Whether or not we find what we are seeking
is idle, biologically speaking.
Edna St. Vincent Millay

Dramatic monologue

Speaker addresses a silent audience, revealing personal things about their “life”. The speaker is assuming the role of a character. Click here to learn more and read other examples.


A mournful poem about death. Here’s Catullus’ Carmen 101.

Through many peoples and many seas have I travelled
to thee, brother, and these wretched rites of death
I bring a last gift but can speak only to ashes
Since Fortune has taken you from me
Poor brother! stolen you away from me
leaving me only ancient custom to honour you
as it has been from generation to generation
Take from my hands these sad gifts covered in tears
Now and forever, brother, Hail and farewell.


A very serious poem about a hero. Go to Wikipedia for examples.


Short witty poem. It’s usually a couplet or quatrain.

Here’s an example of an epigram written by William Shakespeare. The last four lines of Sonnet 76 contained two couplets.

So all my best is dressing old words new,

Spending again what is already spent:

For as the sun is daily new and old,

So is my love still telling what is told.

Here’s another by William Blake:

To see a world in a grain of sand,

And a heaven in a wild flower,

Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,

And eternity in an hour

Free verse (vers libre)

To understand free verse you have to know that poetry almost always has a meter and/or rhyme. Poets generally count syllables and structure every line and stanza with a pattern and purpose. Free verse breaks away from meters and feet. They can have rhymes, but they aren’t consistent.

Another thing to know is that free verse isn’t just writing for the sake of writing. This is difficult to explain, but there is a structure without structure. Free verse can be more difficult to write because of the control writers have over each verse.

Here’s an example. After the Sea-Ship by Walt Whitman

After the Sea-Ship—after the whistling winds;
After the white-gray sails, taut to their spars and ropes,
Below, a myriad, myriad waves, hastening, lifting up their necks,
Tending in ceaseless flow toward the track of the ship:
Waves of the ocean, bubbling and gurgling, blithely prying,
Waves, undulating waves—liquid, uneven, emulous waves,
Toward that whirling current, laughing and buoyant, with curves,
Where the great Vessel, sailing and tacking, displaced the surface;
Larger and smaller waves, in the spread of the ocean, yearnfully flowing;
The wake of the Sea-Ship, after she passes—flashing and frolicsome, under the sun,
A motley procession, with many a fleck of foam, and many fragments,
Following the stately and rapid Ship—in the wake following.

Again, this poem is very controlled. The poet uses imagery and repetition to evoke emotion. That’s free verse.


These poems have 17 morae. Basically, there are 17 syllables total. The first line has five, the second has 7, and the last line has 5 syllables. These are typically Japanese poems. Translated, they generally don’t have the same syllables:

The most famous haiku translates to “Old Pond“:

fu-ru-i-ke ya
ka-wa-zu to-bi-ko-mu
mi-zu no o-to

In English, this translates to:

old pond . . .
a frog leaps in
water’s sound

Iambic pentameter

5 sets of stressed and unstressed syllables. Here’s the best resource I could find that offers examples and lengthy descriptions of this beast: www.iambicpentameter.net.

Idyll (Idyl)

Short poems depicting the countryside.

Example by Siegfried Sassoon:

In the grey summer garden I shall find you
With day-break and the morning hills behind you.
There will be rain-wet roses; stir of wings;
And down the wood a thrush that wakes and sings.
Not from the past you’ll come, but from that deep
Where beauty murmurs to the soul asleep:
And I shall know the sense of life re-born
From dreams into the mystery of morn
Where gloom and brightness meet. And standing there
Till that calm song is done, at last we’ll share
The league-spread, quiring symphonies that are
Joy in the world, and peace, and dawn’s one star.

Italian Sonnet (Petrarchan)

A sonnet consisting of two parts: (1) An octave has the rhyme pattern abbaabba. (2) Six lines with a rhyme pattern of cdecde or cdcdcd.

When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide,
Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide;
“Doth God exact day-labor, light denied?”
I fondly ask; but Patience to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, “God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts; who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is Kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed
And post o’er land and ocean without rest;
They also serve who only stand and wait.”


Long, narrative medieval poem.

Here’s The Lay of the Last Minstrel by Sir Walter Scott:

The way was long, the wind was cold,
The Minstrel was infirm and old;
His wither’d cheek, and tresses gray,
Seem’d to have known a better day;
The harp, his sole remaining joy,
Was carried by an orphan boy.


A short and humorous poem that is often vulgar/nasty. Lines 1, 2, and 5 have seven to ten syllables. Lines 3 and 4 have five to seven syllables. The rhyme scheme is AABBA. Edward Lear is a pioneer for this style:

There was an Old Man of Kildare,
Who climbed into a very old chair;
When he said,– “Here I stays,–
till the end of my days,”
That immovable Man of Kildare.


These poems address the reader/listener directly. They are often set to music. Sonnets make great lyrics. Check out William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 14:

Not from the stars do I my judgment pluck;
And yet methinks I have astronomy,
But not to tell of good or evil luck,
Of plagues, of dearths, or seasons’ quality;
Nor can I fortune to brief minutes tell,
Pointing to each his thunder, rain and wind,
Or say with princes if it shall go well,
By oft predict that I in heaven find:
But from thine eyes my knowledge I derive,
And, constant stars, in them I read such art
As truth and beauty shall together thrive,
If from thyself to store thou wouldst convert;
Or else of thee this I prognosticate:
Thy end is truth’s and beauty’s doom and date.

Memoriam stanza

Quatrain in iambic tetrameter. Rhyme scheme = ABBA. 

Here’s an excerpt from Lord Tennyson’s In Memoriam:

I held it truth, with him who sings
To one clear harp in divers tones,
That men may rise on stepping-stones
Of their dead selves to higher things.


One that tells a story. There are various types including: Ballad, Epic, Idyll, and Lay.


An elaborate poem that praises or glorifies an event and/or person. It has a strophe, antistrope, and an epode.

There are three types of Odes: Pindaric ode – Three sections of irregular rhymes and patterns. Horatian ode – these bad boys have the same fixed pattern. Irregular ode – It’s just what it sounds like. It lacks patterns in verse and stanza. I’d give examples of them, but this website does a stand up job: Your Dictionary


The depiction of rural life in a beautiful way.

The Passionate Shepherd to His Love by Christopher Marlowe:

Come live with me and be my Love,
And we will all the pleasures prove
That hills and valleys, dale and field,
And all the craggy mountains yield.
There will we sit upon the rocks
And see the shepherds feed their flocks,
By shallow rivers, to whose falls
Melodious birds sing madrigals.


A stanza or poem of four lines. Lines 2 and 4 must rhyme and have the same feet. Several of the poems above are quatrains.

Rhyme royal

Seven lines with three  rhymes. The rhyme scheme is generally ABABBCC, but it may vary.

Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde:

The double sorwe of Troilus to tellen,
That was the king Priamus sone of Troye,
In lovinge, how his aventures fellen
Fro wo to wele, and after out of Ioye,
My purpos is, er that I parte fro ye,
Thesiphone, thou help me for tendyte
Thise woful vers, that wepen as I wryt


Fifteen lines and two rhymes with an opening line as the refrain.

Rondel by Charles d’Orleans:
Strengthen, my Love, this castle of my heart,
And with some store of pleasure give me aid,
For jealousy, with all them of his part,
Strong siege about the weary tower has laid.
Nay, if to break his bands thou art afraid,
Too weak to make his cruel force depart,
Strengthen at least this castle of my heart,
And with some store of pleasure give me aid.
Nay, let not jealousy, for all his art
Be master, and the tower in ruin laid,
That still, ah, Love, thy gracious rule obeyed.
Advance, and give me succor of my part;
Strengthen, my Love, this castle of my heart.


A poem consisting of six six-lines stanzas that ends with The poem ends with a three line stanza (making 39 lines in all). It’s pretty complex. Go to Wikipedia for this one.


Fourteen-line sonnet consisting of three quatrains of ABAB CDCD EFEF that ends with a couplet. The Shakespeare Sonnets I have listed above are all examples.


Fourteen-line poem generally with a rhyme scheme.


Five lines–the first and third have five syllables and the others have seven.

Terza Rima

Ten or eleven-line poem with a chain rhyme scheme ABA, BCB, CDC, DED. Here’s an example from Ode to the Wild West:

O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being,
Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,

Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red,
Pestilence-stricken multitudes: 0 thou,
Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed

The wingèd seeds, where they lie cold and low,
Each like a corpse within its grave,until
Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow

Her clarion o’er the dreaming earth, and fill
(Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air)
With living hues and odours plain and hill:

Wild Spirit, which art moving everywhere;
Destroyer and Preserver; hear, O hear!


One line in a poem.


A nineteen-line poem consisting of six stanzas: five tercets and a quatrain. The first and third line are repeated throughout. The final quatrain has two rhymes.

This took forever to complete, but at least I found all the different types of poems. You won’t find all of these types in the CSET English exam, but I’d rather know too many that too little.

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