Poetry: terms meter-J

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Last updated: December 9, 2019
a meter is the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables established in a line of poetry. The stressed (‘) syllable is also called the accented syllable. The unstressed (?u) syllable is also called the unaccented syllable. In determining the meter, the importance of the word, the position in the metrical pattern, and other linguistic factors should be considered. In identifying the meter of a line or verse, the type and the number of feet are considered.

a foot is a unit of meter.

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A metrical foot can have two or three syllables. A foot consists generally of one stressed and one or more unstressed syllables. A line may have one foot, two feet, etc. Poetic lines are classified according to the number of feet in a line.

types of metrical feet

this foot is a two-syllable foot with the stress on the second syllable. The iambic foot is the most common foot in Englishex.

a book / of ver/ ses un/ der neath/ the bough. a jug/ of wine,/ a loaf/ of bread/– and thou.

this foot consists of a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed syllable.ex. dou ble,/ dou ble,/ toil and/ trouble,fire/ burn and/ cauldron/ bubble

this foot consists of three syllables with the stress on the first syllableex.

with the sheep/ in the fold/ and the cows/ in their stalls..

this foot consists of two stressed syllables. Compound words are examples.

They are used for variation. ex. heartbreak, childhood, football

this foot contains three syllables with the stress on the first syllableex.

love again,/ song again,/ nest again,/ young again.

this foot consists of two unstressed syllables. This type of foot is rare and is found interspersed with other feet.

accentual verse
(rare) verse in which the metre depends upon counting a fixed number of stresses (which are also known as ‘accents’) in a line, but which does not take account of unstressed syllables. The majority of Germanic poetry (including Old English) is of this type.

accentual-syllabic verse
(rare) the normal system of verse composition in England since the fourteenth century, in which the metre depends upon counting both the number of stresses and the total number of syllables in any given line. An iambic pentameter for example contains five stressed syllables and a total of ten syllables.

quantitative meter
(rare) a metrical system based on the length or ‘weight’ of syllables, rather than on stress.

This is the norm in classical Latin and Greek, but is rare in English. Sir Philip Sidney made some attempts to write in quantitative metre in order to bring English poetry closer to its classical models, but he had few imitators.

syllabic verse
(rare) a metrical system which depends solely on syllable count, and which takes no account of stress. This is the norm in most Romance language, but is unusual (and almost always experimental) in English.

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