Meter What is “meter”? Meter is the Greek word for “measure” Meter is basically the rhythmic structure of a verse The scansion of a poem is the analysis of its metrical structure. 3 main types of meter Accentual meter: the stresses are counted and the syllables are variable Syllabic meter: the syllables are counted but the stresses are varied Accentual-syllabic meter: both accents and syllables are measured and counted Accentual-syllabic meter is the dominant tradition in English poetry Feet In accentual-syllabic meters, the combination of syllables and accents are measured and counted and are often referred to as FEET The feet are patterns of stressed and unstressed syllables. The variations, pauses, musical effects, and dissonances within the accentualsyllabic line are where much of the force and power of meter occurs Feet Iamb: short stress followed by a long one. Example: about -/ Trochee: a long stress followed by a short one. Example: That is. Dropsy. /Dactyl: a long stress followed by two short ones. Example: happily /-Anapest: two short stresses followed by a long one. Example: In a tree. --/ Amphibrach: one short, one long, one short. -/Spondee: two long stresses. Example: humdrum / / Pyrrhic: two unstressed syllables - - Names for the number of feet per line The meter of a poem is determined by the predominant metrical foot, and by the number of feet per line that predominates in the poem. The following terms indicate the number of feet per line: monometer: one foot per line dimeter: two feet per line trimeter: three feet per line tetrameter: four feet per line pentameter: five feet per line hexameter: six feet per line heptameter: seven feet per line octameter: eight feet per line Trochaic Tetrameter Trochee: A long stress followed by a short stress Tetrameter: four feet per line Trochaic meter is seen among the works of William Shakespeare: Double, double, toil and trouble; Fire burn and cauldron bubble Perhaps owing to its simplicity, though, trochaic meter is fairly common in children's rhymes: Peter, Peter pumpkin-eater Had a wife and couldn't keep her. Iambic Pentameter Iamb: short stress followed by a long one Pentameter: 5 feet per line Examples from Romeo and Juliet / / /- // But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks? / - / - / - / - / That thou her maid art far more fair than she: Dactyl An example of dactylic meter is the first line of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem “Evangeline,” which is in dactylic hexameter: This is the / forest prim- / eval. The / murmuring / pines and the / hemlocks, The first five feet of the line are dactyls; the sixth a trochee. A modern example is the Beatles song "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds“ written in dactylic tetrameter: Picture yourself in a boat on a river with tangerine tree-ees and marmalade skii-ii-es. Anapest Because of its length and the fact that it ends with a stressed syllable and so allows for strong rhymes, anapaest can produce a very rolling, galloping feeling verse, and allows for long lines with a great deal of internal complexity. An example from William Cowper's "Verses Supposed to be Written by Alexander Selkirk" (1782), composed in anapaestic trimeter: I am out of humanity's reach I must finish my journey alone An example of anapaestic tetrameter is the anonymously published “A Visit From St. Nicholas” Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house Amphibrach It is the main foot used in the construction of the limerick, e.g., "There was a / young lady / of Wantage." Some books by Dr. Seuss contain many lines written in amphibrachs, such as these from If I Ran the Circus: All ready / to put up / the tents for / my circus. I think I / will call it / the Circus / McGurkus. And NOW comes / an act of / Enormous / Enormance! No former / performer's / performed this / performance! Spondee and Pyrrhic Tennyson used pyrrhics and spondees quite frequently. This is my son, mine own Telemachus To whom I leave the scepter and the isle, Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfill This labour, by slow prudence to make mild A rugged people, and through soft degrees Subdue them to the useful and the good. -from Ulysses Be near me when my light is low, When the blood creeps and the nerves prick And tingle; and the heart is sick, And all the wheels of Being slow. —from In Memoriam.