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Tags for Marking Verse

Guidelines for SGML Text Mark-up at the Electronic Text Center
David Seaman, Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia

These tags are in addition to the general markup tags described in the Practical Introduction to the Tag Set


Within a poetic hierarchy, the "smallest" distinct unit of poetic composition gets the element tag <lg> rather than a structural division tag. <lg> </lg> identifies a group of lines, such as a stanza or a sonnet.

Thus a poem broken into stanzas would be tagged:

<div1 type="poem">
<lg type="stanza">
<l> [text of verse] </l>

In a more highly structured poem, each of the upper and middle units would receive divisional tags while the lowest level gets tagged with the line grouping. Thus, in a poem arranged poem-book-canto- stanza:

<div1 type="poem">
<div2 type="book">
<div3 type="canto">
<lg type="stanza">

The verse structural division tags commonly contain additional descriptive attributes such as:

  • n=
  • title=

<l> : Each line within a line group must be tagged <l> which often has the attribute n="".

If a metrical line <l> is incomplete or is shared by more than one character, mark each line with <l>, using the attribute part= and one of the following values:

  • part="Y" : the line is metrically incomplete
  • part="N" : the line is incomplete or no claim is made to completeness
  • part="I" : the initial part of an incomplete line
  • part="M" : the medial part(s) of an incomplete line
  • part="F" : the final part of an incomplete line

Sample Tagged Verse

Lewis Carroll's The Hunting of the Snark

<div1 type="fit" n="1">
<head> Fit the First: THE LANDING </head>
<pb n="45" />
<lg type="stanza">
<l>"Just the place for a Snark!" the Bellman cried,</l>
<l rend="indent">As he landed his crew with care;</l>
<l>Supporting each man on the top of the tide</l>
<l rend="indent">By a finger entwined in his hair.</l>

<pb n="46" />

<lg type="stanza">
<l>"Just the place for a Snark! I have said it twice:</l>
<l rend="indent">That alone should encourage the crew.</l>
<l>Just the place for a Snark! I have said it thrice:</l>
<l rend="indent">What I tell you three times is true."</l>


To see what this encoding actually looks like, Click Here.

For a more extensive example of how to tag poetry, see Poe's Annabel Lee

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