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  • Macaronic verse

    Poems that consist of expressions in more than one language. John Skelton wrote several poems in this manner.

  • Madrigal

    An Italian short poem or part song suitable for singing by three or more voices, first appearing in England in the anthology Musica Transalpina. There is no fixed rhyme scheme or line length. For example, the anonymous "My Love in her Attire doth shew her wit.

  • Maker

    A medieval and early Renaissance term for ‘poet.’

  • Metaphor

    A comparison that is made literally, either by a verb (for example, John Keats' "Beauty is truth, truth beauty" from his "Ode on a Grecian Urn") or, less obviously, by a combination of adjective and noun, noun and verb, etc. (for example, Shakespeare's sonnet on the "the marriage of true minds"), but in any case without pointing out a similarity by using words such as "as," "like," or "than."


    • Dead metaphor: an originally metaphoric expression in which the implied comparison has been forgotten and is taken literally, as, for example, "I have my hands full at this time."
    • Mixed metaphor: two awkwardly-yoked metaphors, such as "kicking the spurs of zeal on the road to Abraham's bosom."
  • Metaphysical poets

    John Donne (1572-1631) and his imitators, including George Herbert, Andrew Marvell, Abraham Cowley, Richard Crashaw, and Henry Vaughan, whose works are characterized (not exclusively) by colloquial diction, esoteric conceits, irony, and metrically irregular lines. Dryden first characterized Donne in this way.

  • Metonymy

    (Greek, "name change")

    A figure of speech in which the poet substitutes a word normally associated with something for the term usually naming that thing (for example, "big-sky country" for western Canada). The association can be cause-and-effect, attribute-of, instrument-for, etc.

  • Metre

    (Greek, "measure")

    The rhythm of verse, reduceable to one of four kinds, accentual, syllabic, accentual-syllabic, and quantitative. Also sometimes called ‘number(s).’


    • Falling metre: trochees and dactyls, i.e., a stressed syllable followed by one or two unstressed syllables.
    • Rising metre: iambs and anapests, i.e., one or two unstressed syllables followed by a stressed one.
  • Mock epic

    A poem amusingly subverting the conventions of the epic, more often to comment on a topic satirically than to make fun of the epic. Examples are John Dryden's Mac Flecknoe, and Alexander Pope's The Rape of the Lock and The Dunciad.

  • Mock-heroic

    Treating something trivial with high seriousness, as in John Philips' The Splendid Shilling.

  • Molossus

    Greek and Latin metrical foot consisting of long, long, and long syllables / ' ' ' /.

  • Monometer

    One foot; sometimes termed monopody, a single foot, one measure made up of one foot. For example, the well-known

    I'm Adam.

    or two central lines of each stanza in George Herbert's "Easter Wings."

  • Motif

    An image or action in a literary work that is shared by other works and that is sometimes thought to belong to a collective unconsciousness.

  • Muses

    William Bullokar's English dictionary (1616) explains them as "The feyned goddesses of poetry, and musicke, which were nine in number and daughters vnto Iupiter and Mnemosyne: Their names were Cleio, Melpomene, Thaleia, Euterpe, Terpsichore, Erato, Calliope, Vrania and Polymneia."