Topic: Sonnets about homework
May 23, 2019 / By Debbi Question:
I read about them in a book, but i still don't get it. I need to analyse some poetry for my homework but I can't start until I understand this!
Thanks in advance
Briony | 8 days ago
Meter in poetry is simply a consistent rhythm created by a pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables in each line.
A unit of meter is known as a "foot."
An iambic foot consists of two syllables, with the first one unstressed and the second one stressed -- da DUM
A trochaic foot consists of two syllables, with the first one stressed and the second one unstressed -- DUM da
An anapestic foot consists of three syllables, with the first two unstressed and the third one stressed -- da da DUM
A dactylic foot consists of three syllables, with the first one stressed and the second and third unstressed -- DUM da da
(A spondaic foot consists of two stressed syllables -- DUM DUM -- but you'll never, or hardly ever, come across a line of poetry in which every syllable is stressed, so you really don't have to worry about "spondaic meter.")
Iambic meter is by far the most common in English language poetry. William Shakespeare used it extensively in his plays and sonnets. Read this famous line from "Romeo and Juliet" out loud and listen to the stress pattern:
But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?
That's iambic meter:
but SOFT / what LIGHT / through YON / der WIN / dow BREAKS
da DUM / da DUM / da DUM / da DUM / da DUM
Since there are five iambs, five iambic feet, in that line, it's line of iambic pentameter. (A line with one foot is a line of monometer. A line with two feet is a line of dimeter. A line with three feet is a line of trimeter. A line with four feet is a line of tetrameter. A line with five feet is a line of pentameter.)
One famous poem that uses trochaic meter is Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven." Read the opening line of that poem out loud:
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
You'll hear the trochaic pattern:
ONCE up / ON a / MID night / DREAR y / WHILE i / PON dered / WEAK and / WEAR y
DUM da / DUM da / DUM da / DUM da / DUM da / DUM da / DUM da / DUM da
With eight trochaic feet, that's a line of "trochaic octameter," a meter you won't come across very often.
Anapestic meter is often used for light, comical verse. Read this opening line from "A Visit from Saint Nicholas," better known as "The Night Before Christmas":
'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
That's a line of anapestic tetrameter, four anapests in a row:
twas the NIGHT / be fore CHRIST / mas when ALL / through the HOUSE
da da DUM / da da DUM / da da DUM / da da DUM
Dactylic meter is pretty rare, but you'll find it in the famous poem "The Charge of the Light Brigade." Read these two lines from that poem out loud. You'll hear dactylic dimeter, two dactyls per line:
"Forward, the Light Brigade!
"Charge for the guns!" he said:
FOR ward the / LIGHT bri gade
CHARGE for the / GUNS he said
DUM da da / DUM da da
It usually takes people some time to get a feel for poetic meter, so don't worry if it isn't clear to you all at once. And remember that the best way of hearing a poem's meter is reading the poem out loud and listening for where the stresses naturally fall.
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