So what is poetic license, anyway?
Actually, poetic license consists of rules used to bend grammatical rules for the purposes
of writing ... or to be precise, "the liberties generally allowable for a poet to
take with his subject matter to achieve a desired effect or with his grammatical
construction, etc. to conform to the requirements of rhyme and meter, but in a broader
sense, it includes creative deviations from historical fact, such as anachronisms."
Still with me? OK, let's get a little more specific, just for kicks:
Anachronisms - The placement of an event, person or thing out of its
proper chronological relationship, sometimes unintentional but often deliberate.
Anachronisms consist of:
Hysteron proterons > figures of
speech in which the natural or logical order of events is reversed Ex: "I die! I
faint! I fail!" (Shelley...The Indian Serenade")
Hyperbatons > transpositions of
the normal grammatical word order, either a single word moved from its usual place or a
pair of words reversed or even more extremes of syntactic displacement
Hypallage > interchange of two
elements in a phrase which changes the reference of the words to a less logical
relationship Ex: "to comb your hair each morning" to "to each morning comb
Anastrophe > inversion of the
natural or usual syntactical order of a pair of words for rhetorical or poetic effect. Ex:
"he was inspired" to "inspired he was"; "tall tree" to
Scratching your head yet? Me, too. There aren't a lot of people familiar with these terms.
The only point I'm trying to make is that poetic license allows you to break the rules but
there are rules for breaking the rules! Many of us are in the habit of fracturing the
English language and hollering "Poetic License!" when brought to our attention.
No deal. We can move things around, stick adjectives behind nouns, and perform a variety
of acrobatic movements with our words and phrases that we wouldn't do in normal
conversation, make up new words if we want, á la Ogden Nash, but grammatical laws are
grammatical laws. Bending them is poetic license... breaking them is just poetry badly
Passions in Poetry
full categorized list