Couplets in Poetry

"The children like the ocean shore; We want to leave but they want more" is an example of which form of poetry?

And the answer: couplet.    

In poetry, a couplet is a pair of lines that typically rhyme and have the same meter. Here's an example from Shakespeare's Sonnet 94: "For sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds; Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds."

Photo credit: Heritage Auctions. 

Couplets are some of the most basic relationships between lines in poetry. The two lines must work together in some way – whether that be in rhyme, meter or pattern – and usually are used to end a stanza if the stanza isn't entirely populated by couplets already.

There are several different types of couplets. The first, which populates much of Medieval poetry and other narrative poetic structures, is called a Heroic Couplet. This type of couplet is a pair of rhyming iambic pentameters. This means that each line begins a new rhyme in accordance with the last, and each line is a verse with five metrical feet (no, not like the ones you walk on – metrical feet refer to a group of 2 or 3 syllables).

Another prominent form of the couplet is the Shakespearean Couplet. A Shakespearean Couplet is made up of three 4-line stanzas and one couplet. Shakespeare often ended his sonnets with a rhyming couplet that summed up the main theme of the poem. You might recognize this famous example in Shakespeare's Sonnet 18:

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date;
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature’s changing course untrimm'd;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st;
Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st:
    So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
    So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

So long lives this indeed, William. Learn more about couplets here.

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