Metrical Poetry by mikeholy


									           Meter, Feet, Dactyls, Spondees and Pentameter,
                                 Exploring metrical poetry

         In most poetry rhythm is created by the artful use of repetition of both words
and phrases, and the sounds of vowels and consonants. The rhythm is not fixed; it
slows, speeds up, stutters and slides.
         The poet can create a regular rhythm by using a set number of syllables
and/or a pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables. We call this metrical poetry.
Read the line from Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet. Count the syllables used
and listen for the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables:

                                                                              But soft! What light through yonder window breaks?
                                                                              It is the east, and Juliet is the sun!

                Now do the same for the following two lines:

                   I do not like green eggs and ham.
                   I do not like them, Sam-I-am

                         In each line of the Shakespeare there are ten syllables (If you pronounce Juliet
                         Julyet). Every second syllable is stressed. In each line of the Dr. Seuss there are
                         eight syllables, but, as with Shakespeare, every second syllable is stressed:
                         They look something like this:

                                  But SOFT! What LIGHT through YONder WINdow BREAKS?
                                  It IS the EAST, and JULiet IS the SUN!

                                  i DO not LIKE green EGGs and HAM
                                  i DO not LIKE them, SAM-i-AM

        Meter is a way of keeping time, as regular as a heartbeat or the waves unfolding on the shore. But like heartbeats
and waves, no two are exactly alike. The same is true with metrical poetry. Despite the structure imposed on the poem, no
two metrical poems sound exactly alike. Even poets like Wordsworth, Lord Byron, Shelley, or Shakespeare did not always
              adhere to a strict meter in all their poems. They played with the structure.
                The Foot
                The basic unit of a line of poetry is the foot, which is made up of two or three sylla-
                ble, one of which is long or accented. For example, the line,

                “The boy   I   stood on   I   the burn   I   ing deck,”   has four metrical feet.

             When the poet divides a line of poetry into metrical feet, he/she is scanning the line.

    Meter       is a measure or count of something using marks to indicate heavy and soft stresses on

                              shake/ against/
    Upon/ those boughs/ which shake/ against/ the cold,…

             That line contains five feet. In each foot the first syllable is softer than the second. When the first syllable
    of a foot is lightly stressed and the second heavily stressed, it is called an iamb Five iambs in a line are called
    iambic pentameter the most common line in English poetry. In the boxes on the next page are listed different
    types of metrical lines and metered feet.

                                                          Meter, Feet, Dactyls, Spondees and Pentameter
1) Metrical Lines
•   A one-foot line is called monometer
•   A two-foot line is called dimeter                                  2) Metered Feet
•   A three-foot line is called trimeter
•   A four-foot line is called tetrameter                              Iamb: a light stress followed by a heavy stress
•   A five-foot line is called pentameter                              Trochee: a heavy stress followed by a light stress
•   A six-foot line is called hexameter                                Dactyl: a heavy stress followed by two light stresses
•   A seven-foot line is called heptameter                             Anapest: two light stresses followed by a heavy stress
                                                                       Spondee: two equal stresses
•   An eight-foot line is called octameter

          To hear English meter, you must be able to distinguish relative loudness, which is also called stress or accent.
 Within a word that has more than one syllable, one syllable is louder than the rest. When we read multi-syllabic words
 aloud we naturally place more emphasis on one syllable.

       The hard stress symbol is: /                      A Few Hints for Scansion
       The light stress symbol is: U
                                                       Check polysyllabic words first (two or more syllables). Look up the word
                                                       in the dictionary to determine the accent. That will give you a clue to the
Exercise One— On a separate piece                      pattern for the poem.
of paper, write two four-line poems in                 Identify the normally unaccented monosyllabic words (one syllable):
monometer: one using two-syllable feet;                Personal Pronouns (I, me, we, they, he, she, it, her, him); small conjunc-
and the other using three syllable feet.               tions (and, but, or nor, yet); forms of the verb to be (is, are, was, were);
Then write a four line poem in pentame-                the articles (a, an, the); and simple prepositions (to, in, by, on, for, of…).
ter. Don’t worry about the meaning, just the line                               foot.
                                                       Watch out for the first foot The poets may substitute a different accent
length.                                                pattern for effect.

            Exercise Two—Scan the following passages and decide what kind of line it is (See Box 1) and how each
            metrical foot is stressed (See Box 2)

             What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why
                         —Edna St. Vincent Millay


                          The Assyrian came down like a wolf on the fold,
                          And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold;
                          And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea,
                          When the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee.
                                        —Lord Byron, The Destruction of Sennacherib


                            Double double, toil and trouble
                                          —William Shakespeare


         Meter, Feet, Dactyls, Spondees and Pentameter

                In Xanadau did Kubla Khan
                A stately pleasure-dome decree
                                —Samuel Taylor Coleridge


                                                                         We romped until the pans
                                                                         Slid from the kitchen shelf:
                                                                               —Theodore Roethke


                    Great streets of silence led away
                    To neighborhoods of pause
                           —Emily Dickinson


                                                                        Meagre and livid and screaming for misery.
                                                                                      —Robert Southey


                    Once when the snow of the year was beginning to fall
                                 —Robert Frost


What is odd about Frost’s line?_____________________________________________

                                                           They would dine on Who-pudding and rare Who-roast beast,
                                                           Which was something the Grinch couldn’t stand in the least.
                                                                     —Dr. Seuss


    Who have so leaden eyes, as not to see sweet beauty’s show
               —Phillip Sidney


                Meter, Feet, Dactyls, Spondees and Pentameter

             Exercise Three—Scan the following lines, using
           the marks for stressed and unstressed syllables. What
           kind of lines are being written? Beware, there are a
    couple of odd feet in the passage. The last two lines of Light
    My Fire are different than the first four.
    Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”
    And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
                                                                                        3) Rhyming Patterns—Most metered
    On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;                            poems rhyme. Not all rhyme
    And his eyes have all the seeming of demon’s that is dreaming.                      schemes are the same. Below are
                                  —Edgar Allan Poe                                      listed different types of rhyme
    2.                                                                                  schemes.
                            You know that it would be untrue,
                                                                                        Couplet—aa bb cc dd, etc.
                            You know that I would be a liar,
                                                                                        Tercet or Triplet—aaa bbb ccc, etc.
                            If I was to say to you                                                 abab cdcd,
                                                                                        Quatrain—abab cdcd, etc.
                            Girl, we couldn’t get much higher.                          Terza Rima—aba bcb cdc ded, etc.
                            Come on, baby, light my fire.                               Spensarian Stanza—abab bcbc c
                            Try to set the night on fire.
                                 —-Jim Morrison, “Light My Fire”

             Exercise Four— Identify the following      Drive my dead thoughts over the universe
                                                        Like withered leaves to quicken a new birth!
             poems according to their rhyme schemes and And, by the incantation of this verse,
             the length of line. Refer to boxes 1 & 3.
                                                                        Scatter, as from an unextinguished hearth
    And since to look at things in bloom                                Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!
    Fifty springs are little room,                                      Be through my lips to unawakened earth
    About the woodlands I will go
    To see the cherry hung with snow.                                   The trumpet of a prophecy! O, Wind,
        —A.E. Houseman, Loveliest of Trees                              If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?
                                                                                 —Percy Byssche Shelley, Ode to the West Wind
                     Strew on her roses,
                     And never a spray of yew.
                     In quiet she reposes:                                She hurried at his words, beset with fears,
                     Ah! Would that I did too!                            For there were sleeping dragons all around,
                             —Matthew Arnold, Requiescat                  At glaring watch, perhaps, with ready spears—
                    2.______________________________                      Down the wide stairs a darkling way they found.—
                                                                          In all the house was heard no human sound.
                                                                          A chain-droop’s lamp was flickering by each door;
    The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;                                  The arras, rich with horseman, hawk, and hound,
    He watches from his mountain walls,                                   Flutter’d in the besieging wind’s uproar;
    And like a thunderbolt he falls.                                    And the long carpets rose along the gusty floor.
             —Alfred Lord Tennyson, The Eagle                                     —Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queen


        Meter, Feet, Dactyls, Spondees and Pentameter

    Exercise Five—Write a ballad.
    •     A ballad usually tells a story about a person (often fa-            Exercise Six—Write a
          mous or legendary) or a historical incident.                    4-8 line nonsense poem. about
    •     They are often passionate poems, dramatic and some-             the worst boy or girl in the
          times violent, and told in the third person.                    world.
    •     The ballad is a series of quatrains (four lines) with a rhyme
          scheme of either abab or abcb. The lines are often alter-       •   Use the couplet rhyme scheme, aabb.
          nating lines of tetrameter and trimeter (four metrical feet     •   Make sure your rhymes are solid and creative.
          and three metrical feet).
    •     The meter should be iambic
    •     Your ballad should include a minimum of eight quatrains.        Stealing eggs, Fritz ran afoul
                                                                          Of an angry great horned owl.
    Ballad of Birmingham                                                  Now she has him—what a catch!—
    (On the bombing of a church in Birmingham, Alabama, 1963)             Seeing if his head will hatch.

    "Mother dear, may I go downtown
    Instead of out to play,
    And march the streets of Birmingham                                   Mr. Jones
    In a Freedom March today?"
                                                                          “There’s been an accident!” they said,
    "No, baby, no, you may not go,                                        “Your servant’s cut in half; he’s dead!”
    For the dogs are fierce and wild,                                     “Indeed!” said Mr. Jones, “and please
    And clubs and hoses, guns and jails                                   Send me the half that’s got my keys.”
    Aren't good for a little child."

    "But, mother, I won't be alone.
    Other children will go with me,                                       Exercise Seven—Write a clerihew*, which is about
    And march the streets of Birmingham                                   a person, usually famous. It contains two couplets and
    To make our country free."                                            says something outrageous about the person. You can
                                                                          write a clerihew about someone famous or a friend
    "No, baby, no, you may not go,                                        (although you need to be kind, now).
    For I fear those guns will fire.
    But you may go to church instead                                      Edgar Allan Poe
    And sing in the children's choir."
                                                                          Edgar Allan Poe
    She has combed and brushed her night-dark hair,                       Was passionately fond of roe.
    And bathed rose petal sweet,                                          He always liked to chew some,
    And drawn white gloves on her small brown hands,                      While writing anything gruesome.
    And white shoes on her feet.

    The mother smiled to know that her child                              Lord Clive
    Was in the sacred place,
    But that smile was the last smile                                     What I like about Lord Clive
    To come upon her face.                                                Is that he is no longer alive.
                                                                          There is a great deal to be said
    For when she heard the explosion,                                     For being dead.
    Her eyes grew wet and wild.                                                    —Edmund Bentley
    She raced through the streets of Birmingham
    Calling for her child.

    She clawed through bits of glass and brick,
    Then lifted out a shoe.
    "O, here's the shoe my baby wore,                                     *Clerihew is Edmund Bentley’s middle name and the
    But, baby, where are you?"                                            name he gave to his silly poems.
              —Dudley Randall

                  Writing Like Shakespeare, the sonnet

    The sonnet was invented in mid-thirteenth century Italy and perfected by the poet Petrarch.
    William Shakespeare popularized the English version of the sonnet.
    The Shakespearean Sonnet still consists of fourteen lines, which break down into three quat-
    rains and a couplet that follow the rhyme pattern a-b-a-b c-d-c-d e-f-e-f g-g.

    •   Quatrain one establishes the theme or dilemma, and follows the a-b-a-b rhyme pattern.
    •   Quatrain two complicates the theme or dilemma, and follows the c-d-c-d rhyme pattern.
    •   Quatrain three contains the volta (or turning point), usually in line nine, and will often start
        with the word but It follows the e-f-e-f rhyme pattern.
    •   The couplet summarizes and concludes the problem

    Below is one of Shakespeare’s most famous sonnets. The first quatrain is counted out by ac-
    cented syllables—iambic pentameter.

    •   Quatrain One

    •   shall I comPARE thee TO a SUMmer's DAY? (a)
    •   thou ART more LOVEly AND more TEMPerATE: (b)
    •   rough WINDS do SHAKE the DARLing BUDS of MAY, (a)
    •   and SUMmer's LEASE hath ALL too SHORT a DATE: (b)

    •   Quatrain Two

    •   Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines, (c)
    •   And often is his gold complexion dimm'd; (d)
    •   And every fair from fair sometime declines, (c)
    •   By chance or nature's changing course untrimm'd; (d)

    •   Quatrain Three

    •   But thy eternal summer shall not fade (e)
    •   Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest; (f)
    •   Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade, (e)
    •   When in eternal lines to time thou growest: (f)

    •   Couplet

    •   So long as men can breathe or eyes can see, (g)
    •   So long lives this and this gives life to thee. (g)

    Exercise Eight—Write a Shakespearean sonnet. Don’t worry too much about whether your
    accent pattern is iambic (unaccented first syllable, accented second syllable) but make sure
    each of your lines contains 10 syllables, and that you follow the sonnet’s rhyme scheme.


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