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Prose Vs. Verse: An Overview

If you are an avid reader, you must have come across a novel that kept you hooked all night. A novel that persuaded you to pull an all-nighter so that you could reach to its end. Those kinds of literature are the writer’s masterpieces that draw deep emotions from us and make us feel connected.

Any form of creative literature, if beautifully woven in a specific arrangement of phrases and sentences, can evoke certain emotions in us. The writers contrive words in a beautiful way that go deep down and stir up our souls. Verse and Prose are the most significant literary techniques that many wordsmiths use while creating their literary masterpieces.

So what are Prose and Verse exactly? And how do they create any difference in literature?

Moliere describes Prose and Verse as, “All which is not prose is verse, and all which is not verse is prose.” Do you get it? No? Well, this is how scholars perceive this.

To make it simpler for you, let’s look into its literal definition!

The Prose is a particular form of the writing style used in literature, which does not follow a formal metrical structure. It comprises of an ordinary grammatical structure naturally following through paragraphs and sentences, unlike poetry and Verse that mostly exhibit a rhythmic structure.

On the other hand, Verse is a literary technique that follows a musical rhythm and patterns. In simpler words, Verse is a collection of metrical lines and stanzas that rhyme.

Examples of Prose:

Prose Example 1. The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, is a prose novel.

Prose Example 2. “Cinderella” is a prose fairy tale.

Prose Example 3. “The Yellow Wallpaper” is a prose story by Charlotte Gilman Perkins.

Prose Example 4. “The State of the Union Address” is a prose speech delivered early in the year by the sitting president of the United States.

Prose Example 5. “The Declaration of Independence” is a prose document signed by prominent American colonists who no longer wished to be under the British rule.

Examples of Verses:

How many roads must a man walk down
Before you call him a man?
How many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand?
Yes, and how many times must the cannonballs fly
Before they’re forever banned?
(“Can’t Buy Me Love” by The Beatles)

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“‘ Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—
Only this and nothing more.”

(“The Raven” by Edgar Allen Poe)

T.E Hulme explains the comparison between Prose and Verse as, “Prose is, in fact, the museum where the dead images of Verse are preserved. In ‘Notes’, the Prose is a museum where all the old weapons of poetry kept.” However, Yvor Winters, while commenting on these literary techniques, says, “Verse is more valuable than prose for its rhythms are faster and more highly organized and lead to greater complexity.”

If you are a literature student, it is crucial to understand how writers use these techniques in their work. For this, you first need to identify the differences.

Everyday literature like essays, articles, and blogs are usually written in Prose. Whereas, poetry is an artistic approach to describe something special in the literature. The Prose is mainly written straightforwardly, while poetry is a composition of rhythmic lines that create an expression of emotions. We see most of the prose literature is organized in paragraphs while, on the other hand, poetry is often arranged in an abstract manner and stanzas.

The best way to identify the difference between poetry and Prose is to assess the writing pattern. The Prose is usually written in an ordinary grammatical language and has a specific narrative structure. On the contrary, poetry consist of words and phrases beautifully conveyed in a rhythmic pattern and has a typical aesthetic writing style.

Some writers make use of both the literary devices in their literature. The advent of prose literature was first seen in the 19th century when people wrote prose poems as an act of rebellion against the predominance of Alexandrine metered lines literature. The people were bored of writing literature in metered form, and they started writing block texts that used to resemble Prose but behaved like poetry.

Shakespeare mastered using both the techniques in his plays, and that turned out to be the most magnificent literature of its kind. He used these techniques to illustrate distinct emotions in his characters. Like funny characters in his play often spoke in Prose while lofty and high-born characters usually had rhythmic dialogues like that in verses. He used Prose whenever Verse would seem bizarre, like in serious situations where characters had to display madness while he used Verse when things were too regular and orderly or for expressing anger.

The Prose is used for cynical commentary when rational arguments are contrasted with the emotional. It’s like reducing flowery sentences or words to common sense terms. He used another kind of unrhymed phrases in his plays that are known as ‘Blank verses’. Those phrases are written in iambic pentameter and does not follow any conventional rhythmic pattern. It was employed in a wide range of emotions because it is near to natural speaking rhythms of English, but more than ordinary phrases that have no artificial resonation.

Shakespeare used blank verses mainly for passionate or momentous occasions, which was meant to refine the character. Many of Shakespeare’s speeches are written in blank verses such as ‘the great soliloquies of Henry V and Hamlet, and Prospero’s farewell to magic in The Tempest. Those blank verses speeches are often followed by a single rhyming couplet called a ‘Capping Couplet’. It suggests adding a final punch of the climax at the end of the speech.

However, many writers have conflicted views on blank verses. Some writers see the beauty in rhymes, and some perceive blank Verse to be more complex and intellectual. As Lord Byron says, “Prose poets like blank-verse, I am fond of rhyme. Good workmen never quarrel with their tools.” Robert Morgan, an American poet, stated that good poetry does not have to rhyme; sometimes, Blank verses have a deeper expression of emotions that makes beautiful poetry.

You may not have seen a better way of explaining the term blank Verse as to how Eleanor Hallowell Abbott did while commenting on her marital status. She said, “Marriage is not for me. I tell you that I am a Blank Verse. I am talented, and I do not rhyme with love. I am talented, and I do not rhyme with a man.”

Examples of Blank Verse:

Women of Adamant, fair neophytes—
Who thirst for such instruction as we give,
Attend, while I unfold a parable.
The elephant is mightier than Man,
Yet Man subdues him. Why? The elephant
Is elephantine everywhere but here (tapping her forehead)
And Man, whose brain is to the elephant’s
As Woman’s brain to Man’ s—(that’s rule of three),—
Conquers the foolish giant of the woods,
As Woman, in her turn, shall conquer Man –
lbert and Sullivan’s 1884 opera Princess Ida

If you are writing a textual analysis of any poem or Prose, then the above discussion in this blog will provide you sufficient guidance about what exactly are these literary techniques and how writers use them in literature.

Tags: Posted in Academic Writing
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