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2 rythm, metre, rhyme

Tutorial Introduction to Literary Studies
Tutor: Leandra Haßmann
Rhythm, Metre & Rhyme
A. Rhythm and Metre
Dynamic, natural rhythm in oral speech; based on the volume of our breath, the word
accent, the word order, the syntactic pattern of phrases and the stress of particular
words for emphasis
• Metre (Metrum, Versmaß) = highly artificial and perfectly regular sequence of
stressed and unstressed syllables in lines of verse
→ i.e. if you read a poem aloud, and it produces regular sound patterns, then this poem
would be a metered or measured poem
→ Possession of metre: one way to distinguish (more traditional) poetry from prose
Stress / accent: emphasis in pronunciation, louder syllables
Foot (Versfuß): unit of stress
Scansion: metre is usually annotated by dividing the metrical feet into stressed (/) and
unstressed (∪) syllables depending on the weight given by the voice in pronunciation
a. Determining the metre
1) the maintenance of a harmonic pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables
• The metre is defined by the kind and number of feet, a particular sequence of stressed
and unstressed syllables:
Iamb/iambic (Jambus): unstressed – stressed (∪ /, “above”)
Trochee/trochaic (Trochäus): stressed – unstressed (/∪, “falling”)
Spondee/spondaic (Spondäus): two stressed (/ /, “artwork”)
Dactyl/ dactylic (Daktylus): stressed – two unstressed (/∪∪, “damnable”,“Daktylus”)
Anapaest/ anapaestic (Anapäst): two unstressed – stressed (∪∪/, “understand”, “Anapäst”).
• The most frequent numbers of feet are called:
Monometer (one foot line)
Trimeter (“That I did always love” -Emily Dickinson, US, 1830-86)
Tetrameter (“Goe, and catche a falling starre” –John Donne, “Song”)
Pentameter (“When I do count the clock that tells the time” - W. Shakespeare, Sonnet 12)
Hexameter (six feet line) à Alexandrine is a line of six iambic feet
2) the word accent (see dictionary) determines stress in words
→ i.e. “record” (/∪): stress on first syllable, “to record” (∪ /) on the second
3) the emphasis on specific words according to their relevance for the statement
• Normally: stronger stress on nouns, verbs and adjectives than on articles, conjunctions
and preposition
• Stress makes a difference! I.e. the question “You did that to him?” (/∪ /∪ /) can make
various points:
Special emphasis:
a) on “You” → surprise about the character of the agent (/∪∪∪∪)
b) on “that” → the action is unusual or incredible (∪∪/∪∪)
c) on “him” → “he” is a person who would not accept anything of the sort (∪∪∪∪/)
4) the relationship between syntax and verse
• boundaries of lines and syntactic units influence the tempo and breaks of the rhythm
• end-stopped line (Zeilenstil) → little pause at the end of the line that agrees with a
syntactic unit
• run-on line (Enjambement) → reader passes over the end of the line because the
sentence moves on into the next verse
• caesura → a silent stress, a beat that falls on a silence or pause: “My Lords, Ladies
and Gentlemen”
• often indicated by a comma, colon or full stop within a line
• marked by the conventional symbol: //
b. Free Verse
• without a regular or strictly defined metre
• often of irregular line length and lacking rhyme à can be defined negatively: absence
of pattern, absence of rhyme, absence of metre
• Certain effects become available when the verse is released from a regular line and
repeating beat
o visual clues (variable positioning, spacing, length of words phrases, lines
à control pace, pause and emphasis in the reading)
o alternation of suspension and relief
• predominant 20th century form (modernist poets)
c. Blank verse
• un-rhymed iambic pentameter
• often used in drama and long narrative poems
• iambic: metre which most closely corresponds to the rhythms of spoken English
• example: Robert Frost – Mending Walls
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
B. Rhyme
• Rhyme scheme: pattern of rhyme that comes at the end of each verse or line in poetry
Couplet (Paarreim):
aa bb cc
heroic couplet: couplets written in iambic pentameter
Alternate rhyme (Kreuzreim):
abab cdcd
Envelope/embracing rhyme (umarmender Reim): abba cddc
Envelope pattern/Terza rime:
aba bcb cdc
Tail rhyme (Verschränkter Reim/Schweifreim):
abc abc / abc bac
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