Virginia Lucas Poetry Scrapbook

Formal Description of Matthew Lewis' "The Maniac"


The poem is separated into octaves, with rhyme schemes in each octave of ababcdcd. Nearly every rhyme in the poem is true rhyme, but there are a few examples of slant rhyme - “vain” and “again” at the end of lines 18 and 20, “forbade” and “mad” at the end of lines 38 and 40, and “shone” and “gone” at the end of lines 42 and 44. Due to the mostly iambic meter of the poem, every end rhyme in the poem is masculine.


The poem is generally written in iambic tetrameter. There are a few sections in the poem where the style of syllable stressing changes, however, making the poem not fully iambic. One example of this is “Stay jailor stay” in line 1 - both “stays” and “jail” sound stressed when read aloud. “Cold bitter cold!” in line 21 reads very similarly, as does “Help! Help! - He’s gone!” in line 53. “Horror” is a trochaic word, which slightly changes the rhyme scheme in line 61. Finally, the final four syllables in line 64, “I’m mad! I’m mad!,” can be read either with iambic stress or with all four syllables stressed.

Lines and Stanzas

Lewis utilizes a number of pauses throughout the poem, both through self-enclosed lines and caesura. The few times enjambment is used, it is generally used multiple lines in a row. Lines 15-17, 27-29, 55-56, and 60-63 all feature enjambment in succession, while lines 7, 23, 35, and 52 feature enjambment surrounded by self-enclosed lines.
The poem is very solidly syllabic verse, with no exceptions. There are eight stanzas in the poem, each one an octave. There is somewhat of a refrain in the poem - “I am not mad” is a phrase repeated word for word in the last line of the first, second, sixth, and seventh stanzas, and the general sentiment of the speaker denying their madness is also found in the last line of the third, fourth, and fifth stanzas.
There is some notable repetition in the poem. The speaker repeats the word “pretty” three times in succession in line 46. The speaker also uses “He” and “Him” throughout the poem to describe a specific male character. “Nor” is repeated at the beginning of every line between 36 and 39.


Nearly every stanza ends in a mute consonant - for every stanza except the seventh, the last word in the last line is “mad,” whereas in the penultimate stanza the final word is “be.” Lewis also utilizes some alliteration in this poem. “Haste” and “heart” are each used two times separately in lines 12-14. In line 54, “Such screams to hear, such sights to see!,” there is a very heavy alliteration of the consonant “s.” There is also a solid instance of consonance in line 32 with the consonant “f” - “Bereft of freedom, friends and health.”