Strophe

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A strophe forms the first part of the ode in Ancient Greek tragedy, followed by the antistrophe and epode. In its original Greek setting, "strophe, antistrophe and epode were a kind of stanza framed only for the music," as John Milton wrote in the preface to Samson Agonistes, with the strophe chanted by a Greek chorus as it moved from right to left across the skênê.

Contents

Etymology

Strophe (pronounced /ˈstroʊfiː/, STROH-fee; Greek στροφή, turn, bend, twist, see also phrase) is a concept in versification which properly means a turn, as from one foot to another, or from one side of a chorus to the other.

Poetic Structure

In a more general sense, the strophe is a pair of stanzas of alternating form on which the structure of a given poem is based, with the strophe usually being identical with the stanza in modern poetry and its arrangement and recurrence of rhymes giving it its character. But the Greeks called a combination of verse-periods a system, giving the name "strophe" to such a system only when it was repeated once or more in unmodified form.

Origins & Development

It is said that Archilochus first created the strophe by binding together systems of two or three lines. But it was the Greek ode-writers who introduced the practice of strophe-writing on a large scale, and the art was attributed to Stesichorus, although it is probable that earlier poets were acquainted with it. The arrangement of an ode in a splendid and consistent artifice of strophe, antistrophe and epode was carried to its height by Pindar.

Variant Forms

With the development of Greek prosody, various peculiar strophe-forms came into general acceptance, and were made celebrated by the frequency with which leading poets employed them. Among these were the Sapphic, the Elegiac, the Alcaic, and the Asclepiadean strophe, all of them prominent in Greek and Latin verse. The briefest and the most ancient strophe is the dactylic distych, which consists of two verses of the same class of rhythm, the second producing a melodic counterpart to the first.

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