Rail yard background, from the Library of Congress

Connections

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Heroic Couplets
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The phrase "heroic couplets" itself can tell us a lot about the associations of this verse form. First, it consists of couplets, pairs of rhymed lines (of iambic pentameter) that give a sense of balance between the two lines and often within each line as well. That the couplets are "heroic" signals, in the words of Jack Lynch, their "use in epic poetry in English, especially Dryden's translation of Virgil (1697) and Pope's translation of Homer (1715-26)."

Due primarily to the abilities and influence of Dryden and Pope, the eighteenth century is now understood to be the time of the heroic couplet's dominance of English poetry, after which the more experimental Romantic poets abandoned heroic verse for more flexible, modern forms. Though exceptions to that rule abound, it is nonetheless difficult to dispute J. Paul Hunter's point that "in the century and a half between Jonson and Churchill (from the 1630s to the 1780s) the couplet covered the British and American literary landscapes like the dew and dominated poetry like a tyrant."

This section will examine a few points in the history of the couplet to give an overview of its associations in poetry in English.

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