Prosody Understanding the meter of a poem to better understand and appreciate content
Meter • A poem is metrical when we see • countable regularity through stressed/unstressed syllables AND • A regular line width
Foot • A poetic foot consists of one stressed syllable, usually accompanied by one or two unstressed syllables.
Types of feet and examples • Iambic: one unstressed syllable followed by one stressed syllable • EXAMPLE: The curfew tolls the knell of parting day
Anapestic • Two unstressed syllables followed by one stressed syllable • Example: Where the youth pined away with desire
Trochaic • One stressed followed by one unstressed • Example: Once upon a midnight dreary
Dactylic • One stressed followed by two unstressed • Example: This is the forest primeval, the murmuring pines and the hemlocks
Spondaic and pyrrhic (substitutions only in a poetic line) • Spondaic: Two equally stressed syllables • Example: Good strong thick stupefying incense smoke • Pyrrhic: Two equally unstressed syllables • Example: My way is to begin at the beginning
Line width • To count the number of feet per poetic line, pretend the foot is a musical beat. • TWO WAYS TO FIND OUT THE LINE WIDTH: 1. Clap the stressed syllables either aloud, or think them as you read. 2. Count the TOTAL number of syllables and divide by two or three, depending on the foot type. If the division is uneven, then you must revert to method #1.
Types of lines • 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
Example of counting width and foot type • Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” (I am capitalizing stressed syllables for ease of reading) • Two ROADS diVERGED in a YELlow WOOD, • And SORry I COULD not TRAvel BOTH • And BE one TRAVEler, LONG i STOOD • And LOOKED down ONE as FAR as i COULD • To WHERE it BENT in the UNdergGROWTH.