Poetry Meters

Poetry Meters

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METER

The arrangement of a line of poetry by the number of syllables and accented (or stressed) syllables.  (Examples of different line meters below)

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FOOT

Two or more syllables that together make up the smallest unit of meter count.  

Example for 1 metrical foot: I sing
Example for 2 metrical feet: I sing / a song.  
Example for 3 metrical feet: I sing / a song / of joy.

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SYLLABLE

A unit of spoken language consisting of a single uninterrupted sound formed by a vowel, diphthong, or syllabic consonant alone, or by any of these sounds preceded, followed, or surrounded by one or more consonants. (The dictionary term)

Examples: con/son/ant (3 syllables) spo/ken (2 syllables)
(The dictionaries can be used to find how many syllables any word has)

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STRESS

Emphasis given to particular syllables. Stressed syllables usually stand out.

Examples from above: CON/son/ANT   SPO/ken (caps are the stressed)

Extra note: Dictionaries use the mark ‘ in the Pronunciation keys to show the stressed syllables.

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SCANSION

This is not a commonly used term, but added because it is the analysis of a poem’s meter. This is usually done by marking the stressed and unstressed syllables in each line and then, based on the pattern of the stresses, dividing the line into feet.

Following are the most common types of meters:

MONOMETER   – A line of poetry that has one metrical foot

DIMETER     – A line of poetry that has two metrical feet

TRIMETER    – A line of poetry that has three metrical feet.

TERAMETER   – A line of poetry that has four metrical feet.

PENTAMENTER – A line of poetry that has five metrical feet.

HEXAMETER   – A line of poetry that has six metrical feet.

HEPTAMETER  – A line of poetry that has seven metrical feet.

OCTAMETER   – A line of poetry that has eight metrical feet.

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SPECIAL TYPES OF METRICAL FEET
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ANAPEST

A metrical foot of three syllables, two short (or unstressed) followed by one long (or stressed).  The anapest is the reverse of the dactyl.

Examples: seventeen —- to the moon.

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DACTYL

A metrical foot of three syllables, one long (or stressed) followed by two short (or unstressed). The dactyl is the reverse of the anapest.

Example: in happily.

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IAMB

A metrical foot of two syllables, one short (or unstressed) and one long (or stressed). The iamb is the reverse of the trochee.

Example: “Come HOME/ with ME/ and BE/ my LOVE” (Four iambs in the line. The stressed syllables are in bold.)

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TROCHEE

A metrical foot of two syllables, one long (or stressed) and one short (or unstressed). The trochee is the reverse of the iamb.

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SPONDEE

A metrical foot of two syllables, both of which are long (or stressed).

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PYRRHEE

A metrical foot of two syllables, both of which are short (or unstressed).

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COMPLETE METERS USING TYPES AND METER LENGTHS
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IAMBIC PENTAMETER

There are five iambs to a line. The prefix penta- means “five,” as in pentagon, a geometrical figure with five sides. Meter refers to rhythmic units. In a line of iambic pentameter, there are five metrical feet that are iambs.
(This one seems to be the most commonly used)

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ALEXANDRINE
A line composed of six iambic feet (total of 12 syllables)

 

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