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  • Dactyl

    A metrical foot consisting of an accented syllable followed by two unaccented ones / ' ~ ~ /. Examples of dactylic words are "comedy" and "higgledy," and of largely dactylic poems Tennyson's "The Charge of the Light Brigade" and Thomas Hood's "The Bridge of Sighs." Longfellow's Evangeline is written in dactylic hexameter, the metre of Homer and of Ovid's Metamorphoses.

  • Débat

    A medieval poem in dialogue that takes the form of a debate on a topic. An example is The Owl and the Nightingale.

  • Deictic

    Words that point to particulars, as names and pronouns do for individual places and persons (such as Edwin Arlington Robinson's "Miniver Cheevy" and "Richard Cory"), and demonstrative-adjective-noun combinations (such as Benjamin Franklin King's "Here's that ten dollars that I owe" in "If I Should Die To-night") do for things.

  • Denotation

    What a word points to, names, or refers to, either in the world of things or in the mind.

  • Didactic verse

    Poems that exist so as to teach the readers something, often a moral.

  • Dimeter

    Two feet; sometimes termed dipody, a double foot, that is, one measure made up of two feet. An example is Alfred Lord Tennyson's "The Charge of the Light Brigade."

  • Dirge

    A brief funeral hymn or song. An example is Henry King's Exequy.

  • Dissonance

    Cacaphony, or harsh-sounding language.

  • Distich

    Two lines related to one another. A major Greek and Latin metre is the elegiac distich, a pair of dactylic hexameter and dactylic pentameter lines.

  • Dithyramb

    Choral hymn in honour of Dionysius, the Greek god of wine, and an influence on the English ode. An example is John Dryden's "Alexander's Feast." Much of the work of Walt Whitman is loosely dithyrambic.

  • Dizain

    A stanza or poem of ten lines.

  • Doggerel

    Bad verse, characterized by clichés, incomprehensibility, and an irregular metre.

  • Double dactyl

    A form of light verse invented by Anthony Hecht and John Hollander. The double dactyl consists of two quatrains, each with three double-dactyl lines ( / _ _ / _ _ ) followed by a shorter dactyl-spondee pair (/_ _ /). The two spondees rhyme. Other rules of this "dismally difficult / Form" are that the first line must be a nonsense phrase, the second line a proper or place name, and one other line, usually the sixth, a single double-dactylic word that has never been used before in a double dactyl. For example,

    Higgleby piggledy,
    Bacon, lord Chancellor,
    Negligent, fell for the
    Paltrier vice.

    Bribery toppled him,
    Finished him, testing some
    Poultry on ice.


  • Dramatic monologue

    A poem representing itself as a speech made by one person to a silent listener, usually not the reader. Examples include Robert Browning's "My Last Duchess," Alfred Lord Tennyson's "Ulysses," and T. S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." A lyric may also be addressed to someone, but it is short and song-like and may appear to address either the reader or the poet.

  • Dream vision

    A (traditionally medieval) poet's relation of how he fell asleep and had an often allegorical dream. Examples include "Pearl," Langland's "Piers Plowman," and Chaucer's "The Book of the Duchess."

  • Duplet

    A two-syllable foot.