Lit.Terms 4: rhythm & meter - AP English Literature and Composition

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Literature Terms #4:
Sonic and Rhythmic Devices,
Structure
AP Literature
Mrs. Demangos
from Perrine’s Literature Structure, Sound & Sense, 10th ed.,
Discovering Literature, and Sparkcharts
Lit.Terms 4: what is poetry?
Poetry is a literary form characterized by a
strong sense of rhythm and meter and an
emphasis on the interaction between sound
and sense.
 The study of the elements of poetry is called
prosody.

Lit.Terms 4: what is poetry?

“Poetry is as universal as language and
almost as ancient. The most primitive
peoples have used it, and the most civilized
have cultivated it.”
Lit.Terms 4: What makes poetry so
appealing?
Simple enjoyment
 It is regarded as giving value to the fully
realized life—something central to
existence.
 Something that, without which, we are
spiritually impoverished

Lit.Terms 4: what is poetry?
“Poetry might be defined as a kind of
language that says more and says it more
intensely than does ordinary language.”
 It “exists to communicate significant
experience—significant because it is
concentrated and organized.”

Lit.Terms 4: what is poetry?
“Poetry makes a greater use of the “music”
of language than does language that is not
poetry.
 The poet, unlike the person who uses
language to convey only information,
chooses words for sound as well as for
meaning, and uses the sound as a means of
reinforcing meaning.”

Lit.Terms 4: Sonic Devices

“Poets may repeat any unit of sound from
the smallest to the largest. They may repeat
individual vowel and consonant sounds,
whole syllables, words, phrases, lines or
groups of lines.”
(alliteration, assonance, consonance, rhyme)
Lit.Terms 4: Sonic Devices

The repetition of sound serves several
purposes:
1. It is pleasing to the ear
2. It emphasizes the words in which the
repetition occurs
3. It gives structure to the poem
Lit.Terms 4: Sonic Devices
Alliteration:
 Repetition at close intervals of the initial
consonant sounds of accented syllables or
important words:
“descending dew drops”
“luscious lemons”
“preach…approve”
“Inebriate of Air-am I”
Lit.Terms 4: Sonic Devices

Alliteration: Is based on the sounds of
letters, rather than the spelling of words:
“keen” and “car” alliterate; but “car”
and “cite” do not

Used sparingly, it can intensify ideas by
emphasizing key words.
Lit.Terms 4: Sonic Devices
The Eagle
He clasps the crag with crooked hands;
Close to the sun in lonely lands,
Ringed with the azure world, he stands.
The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;
He watches from his mountain walls,
And like a thunderbolt he falls.
-Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Lit.Terms 4: Sonic Devices

Suicide’s Note
The calm,
Cool face of the river
Asked me for a kiss.
Langston Hughes
Lit.Terms 4: Sonic Devices
Assonance:
 The repetition of similar vowel sounds in a
sequence of nearby words that do not end the
same
“hat…ran…amber”
“asleep under a tree”
“mad as a hatter”
“each evening”
“time out of mind”
“free and easy”
“slapdash”
Lit.Terms 4: Sonic Devices
Alfred, Lord
Tennyson creates
assonance with the
“o” sound in this
line from
“The Lotos-Eaters”

“All day the wind
breathes low with
mellower tone.”
Lit.Terms 4: Sonic Devices
Similar endings result in rhyme:
“asleep in the deep”
 Assonance is a strong means of
emphasizing important words in a line.

Lit.Terms 4: Sonic Devices
Consonance
 Repetition of consonant sound in any
position
 A common type of near rhyme that consists
of identical consonant sounds preceded by
different vowel sounds
“home…same”
“worth…breath”
Lit.Terms 4: Sonic Devices

In Shakespeare’s Macbeth:
“Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.”
Lit.Terms 4: Sonic Devices
Euphony:
 “good sound”
 Refers to language that is smooth and
musically pleasant to the ear
 “Many consider “cellar door” one of the
most euphonious phrases in English.”
Lit.Terms 4: Sonic Devices
Cacophony: harsh sounds
 The clash of discordant sounds within a
sentence or phrase.
 A familiar feature of tongue twisters but can
also be used to poetic effect.
 It is language that is discordant and difficult
to pronounce.
Lit.Terms 4: Sonic Devices
Cacophony:
“Player Piano”
“never my numb plunker fumbles.”
-John Updike
Lit.Terms 4: Sonic Devices
Onomatopoeia
 The use of a word that resembles the sound
it denotes.
 Words like buzz, rattle, bang, and sizzle all
reflect onomatopoeia
Lit.Terms 4: rhythm & meter
Rhythm and Meter:
 “Our love of rhythm is rooted more deeply
in us than our love of musical repetition. It
is related to the beat of our hearts, the pulse
of our blood, the intake and outflow of air
from our lungs.”

Lit.Terms 4: rhythm & meter

“Everything that we do naturally and gracefully
we do rhythmically. There is rhythm in the way
we walk, the way we swim, the way we ride a
horse, the way we swing a baseball bat.”
Lit.Terms 4: rhythm & meter

While all discourse has some recurrent pattern,
poetry usually contains distinct metric patterns—
even free verse often has more rhythm than prose.
Lit.Terms 4: rhythm & meter
In every word of more than one syllable,
one or more syllables are accented, or
stressed.
 Meter is the pattern of stressed (  ) and
unstressed () syllables.

Lit.Terms 4: rhythm & meter

We say:
    
 
today tomorrow yesterday
Lit.Terms 4: rhythm & meter
Scansion:
 The analysis of meter and rhyme. When we
scan a poem, we determine its metric
pattern.
 Some students may enjoy analyzing meter if
it is approached as a light exercise and
stressed that it is an art, not a science.

Lit.Terms 4: rhythm & meter
Foot:
 A foot is a unit of meter. Most feet contain
only one stressed syllable and one or two
unstressed syllables.
 Meaning is usually carried in the stressed
syllables.

Lit.Terms 4: rhythm & meter
Metric feet make up lines of poetry.
 Lines of poetry make up stanzas.
 Stanzas make up cantos.

The four major poetic feet:
Iamb

Trochee
 
Dactyl

Anapest

The four rarer poetic feet:
Spondee

Pyrrhic

Amphibrach

Amphimacer

(the amphibrach and amphimacer are often omitted
when scanning poetry.)
Lit.Terms 4: rhythm & meter
Other rhythmic considerations include:
 Anacursis: the extra unaccented syllable at
the beginning of a line.
 Catalexis: the unaccented syllable at the
end of a line.
 Enjambment: a run-on line, continuing into
the next line without a pause.

Lit.Terms 4: rhythm & meter
Iamb
The Iambic

foot.
By far the most
common foot in the
English language.
It is the sound of the
human heart.
Lit.Terms 4: rhythm & meter

Imagine Martin Luther
King Jr. standing in
front of the
Washington
Monument shouting to
the crowd,
“I am!”
Lit.Terms 4: rhythm & meter

Here is a line of Iambic pentameter:
“Whose woods these are I think I know…”
Lit.Terms 4: rhythm & meter


     
“Whose woods these are I think I know…”
Lit.Terms 4: rhythm & meter

Trochee
 
The trochaic
foot.
The trochee is the
opposite of the iamb.
 Imagine a tough guy
pulling on his grey
fedora hat as he says
“TRO chee”

Lit.Terms 4: rhythm & meter

Here is a line of trochaic meter:

“Double, double, toil and trouble, fire burn
and cauldron bubble.”
Lit.Terms 4: rhythm & meter
       
 
“Double, double, toil and trouble, fire burn
  
 
and cauldron bubble.”
Lit.Terms 4: rhythm & meter
Anapest
The anapestic foot.

 The anapest is the galloping foot. Imagine a
horse galloping along; hear the sounds of its
hooves beating out…

Lit.Terms 4: rhythm & meter

a-na-PEST, a-na-PEST, a-na-PEST, a-na-PEST
Lit.Terms 4: rhythm & meter

Or…think of that girl,
Anna, in your class
who is such a pest.
Point at her (or him)
on the word “pest” in
a-na-PEST!
Anapest

Lit.Terms 4: rhythm & meter

Here is a line of anapestic trimeter:

“I will go to the lake in the woods…”
Lit.Terms 4: rhythm & meter
     

“ I will go to the lake in the woods…”
Lit.Terms 4: rhythm & meter
Dactyl
The Dactylic foot.

 The dactylic foot is the rhythm of the waltz:
ONE two three, ONE two three, ONE two three

Lit.Terms 4: rhythm & meter

Imagine a new Di-nosaur exhibit at the
natural history
museum. Point to the
huge, high head and
the descending body.
Yell, “DAC-tyl-ic,
DAC-tyl-ic!”
Lit.Terms 4: rhythm & meter

Here’s a line of dactylic tetrameter:
“Just for a handful of silver he left us.”
          
“Just for a handful of silver he left us.”
Lit.Terms 4: rhythm & meter
“Picture yourself in a boat by a river with
tangerine trees and marmalade skii- iies…”
Lit.Terms 4: rhythm & meter




  
   

“Picture yourself in a boat by a river with

 

 




 
tangerine trees and marmalade skii- ii ies…”
Lit.Terms 4: rhythm & meter

You know that it would be untrue,
You know that I would be a liar,
If I was to say to you
Girl, we couldn’t get much higher.
Come on, baby, light my fire.
Try to set the night on fire.

--Jim Morrison, “Light My Fire”
Lit.Terms 4: rhythm &
meter
 
 
You know that it

  
would be untrue,
 
 
You know that I

  
would be a liar,
Lit.Terms 4: rhythm & meter
      
If I was to say to you
     
 
Girl, we couldn’t get much higher.

    
Come on, baby, light my fire.
      
Try to set the night on fire.
--Jim Morrison, “Light My Fire”
Lit.Terms 4: rhythm & meter
Spondee
Pyrrhic


Spondee and pyrrhic are called feet, even
though they contain only one kind of
stressed syllable. They are never used as the
sole meter of a poem; if they were, it would
be like the steady impact of nails being
hammered into a board--no pleasure to hear
or dance to.
Lit.Terms 4: rhythm & meter

Inserted now and then, spondee and pyrric
can lend emphasis and variety to a meter, as
Yeats well knew when he broke up the
predominantly iambic rhythm of “Who
Goes With Fergus?” with the line:
And the white breast of the dim sea,
Lit.Terms 4: rhythm & meter

  
   
And the white breast of the dim sea,
Lit.Terms 4: rhythm & meter
Amphibrach


Amphimacer

The amphibrach and amphimacer are often
omitted when scanning poetry.
Lit.Terms 4: rhythm & meter
  
 Amphibrach
 Think of a frog
jumping from lily pad
to lily pad croaking
“am PHI brach!”
Lit.Terms 4: rhythm & meter
Amphimacer
  
 Camelot
 Think of a knight
holding 2 swords
aloft.

Scan the lines below:
Live thy Life,
Young and old,
Like yon oak,
Bright in spring,
Living gold;
Alfred Lord Tennyson
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