Poetry 101: Heroic Couplet

Poetry 101: Heroic Couplet

by James Matthew Byers

Greetings from the Darque Bard!

Today we are delving deeper into form. Iambic pentameter, as we previously discussed, is a line of poetry made up of five metrical feet, following the unstressed, stressed pattern. Today we’re going to look at a different type of poetry outside of the sonnet that utilizes this format. 

The heroic couplet is a traditional form of English poetry most often used in epic and narrative poems consisting of pairs of rhyming lines using iambic pentameter . Geoffrey Chaucer pioneered this style in his works, and later, in the Restoration Age, John Dryden perfected it. Here are two examples from Book IV of Dryden’s translation of the Aeneid.


Her lofty courser, in the court below,

Who his majestic rider seems to know,

Proud of his purple trappings, paws the ground,

And champs the golden bit, and spreads the foam around.

(ll. 190–193)

Alexandrine and Triplet

My Tyrians, at their injur’d queen’s command,

Had toss’d their fires amid the Trojan band;

At once extinguish’d all the faithless name;

And I myself, in vengeance of my shame,

Had fall’n upon the pile, to mend the fun’ral flame.

(ll. 867–871)

This, along with iambic tetrameter, creates a steady flow easily applied to the epic. Unlike the sonnet, the heroic couplet can go on indefinitely, which is why it makes for great application in storytelling. Here’s another sample, this time composed by me.

Beneath the glowing moon, the monsters came

Intent to claw the flesh from mortal game

Unknown to either creature in this land

Awaited Beowulf, whose strength of hand

Disposed of monsters without weapon’s aid

And thus they fell before his might displayed


Try one for yourself! Retell a favorite myth. Leave me a comment. Come join the fun!

Until next week,

-The Darque Bard


About the Author

James Matthew Byers, the Darque Bard, is a published, award winning poet. He has been in numerous anthologizes, eZines, and magazines, such as Weirdbook, Grievous Angel eZine, and Heroic Fantasy Quarterly. His debut publication, Beowulf: The Midgard Epic, was published in 2016 by Stitched Smile Publications and is a rhyming version of the ancient poem. He has also won or placed in multiple contests in the Alabama State Poetry Society. He resides in Odenville, Alabama, drifting between the forests. A bard’s work is never done.