2Definitionsrhythm: the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables in a line. metre: the number of feet in a line. scansion: Describing the rhythms of poetry by dividing the lines into feet, marking the locations of stressed and unstressed syllables, and counting the syllables.
3Common metre The most common metre is Others include iambic ( 0 / , unstressed followed by stressed, as in the above lines). Dadum dadum dadum dadumOthers includetrochaic ( / 0 , stressed followed by unstressed).anapaestic (0 0 / , two unstressed followed by one stressed).dactylic ( / 0 0, stressed followed by two unstressed).spondaic ( / / , two stressed syllables)Iambic and anapaestic are rising rhythm (rising to a stress), trochaic and dactylic as falling rhythm (falling from a stress) but few poems are wholly one or the other.
4How many feet in a line?2 feet = Dimeter: When I | descend (Hardy, The Robin) 3 feet = Trimeter: When I | was one-| and-twenty (Housman) 4 feet = Tetrameter: Had we | but world | enough | and time (Marvell, To His Coy Mistress) 5 feet =Pentameter: To be | or not | to be, | that is | the question (Shakespeare, Hamlet) 6 feet= Hexameter: A peri|phrastic | study || in a worn-out | poetical | fashion (Eliot, East Coker)
5Anticipate exceptions Like the rhythm in a piece of music, the metre is an underlying structure. Poets often slip in extra feet, or remove them, or change stress patterns around to prevent monotonyThis means that the discovery of a foot other than an iamb in the middle of what is otherwise iambic, say, does not stop the poem from being iambic; rather the attention ends up lingering at that point, so the word on the different foot ends up more powerful as it has the attention longer
6Examples of different metre and feet Earth, receive an honoured guest! (Auden)trochaic tetrameter2. The stranger from the noisy inn (De La Mare)iambic tetrameter
73. Just for a handful of silver he left us! (Browning) dactylic tetrameter4. 'Tis the voice of the lobster; I heard him declare (Carroll)anapaestic tetrameter
85. The hop-poles stand in cones (Blunden) iambic trimeter6. Wondering, listening (Hodgson)dactylic dimeter7. When I consider how my light is spent (Milton)iambic pentameter
9Further practiceThis university website offers interactive activities for developing confidence identifying metre. It provides a poem and you have to identify the metre and rhythm. You click once above the syllable to identify a stressed syllable and twice for an unstressed. You can check if it’s right at the end of the line. It is quite tricky but useful.
10History of iambic pentameter Iambic Pentameter originated as an attempt to develop a meter for the English language legitimizing English as an alternative and equal to Latin (as a language also capable of great poetry and literature). Since meter was a feature of all great Latin poetry, it was deemed essential that an equivalent be developed for the English Language. But poets couldn’t simply adopt Latin’s dactylic hexameter or dactylic pentameter lines. Latin uses quantitative meter, a meter based on alternating long and short syllables. English, on the other hand, is an accentual language – meaning that words are “accented” or stressed while others are, in a relative sense, unstressed. (There are no long or short syllables in English, comparable to Latin.)Blank verse (as found in Shakespeare) uses iambic pentametre
11The Fall of Iambic Pentameter By the end of the Victorian Era ( ), and in the hands of the worst poets, Iambic Pentameter had become little more than an exercise in filling-in-the-blanks. The rules governing the meter were inflexible and predictable. It was time for a change. The poet most credited with making that change is Ezra Pound. Whether or not Pound was, himself, a great poet, remains debatable. Most would say that he was not. What is indisputable is his influence on and associations with poets who were great or nearly great: Yeats, T.S. Eliot (whose poetry he closely edited), Frost, William Carlos Williams, Marriane Moore. It was Pound who forcefully rejected the all too predictable sing-song patterns of the worst Victorian verse, who helped initiate the writing of free verse among English speaking poets. And the free verse that Pound initiated has become the indisputably dominant verse form of the 20th century and 21st century
12Effects of using iambic pentameter? It is a natural sounding rhythm in the English Language – it conversationale.g.‘I may as well go back and go to bed’It is measured and dignifiedComposed and controlled.Contemplative and reflectiveSlowLook for exceptions within a line which will draw attention to specific words
13Have a look at these and figure out the metre and rhythm… ‘On his Blindness’ John Milton‘The Tyger’ William Blake‘The Destruction of Sennacherib’ Lord Byron