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Signifies the systematic study of versification, that is, of the principles and practice of met rhyme and stanza. Sometimes the term “prosody” is extended to include also the study of sour effects such as alliteration, assonance, euphony and onomatopoeia.

(1) Meter :

In all sustained spoken English we feel a rhythm, in the sense of a recognizable though variable pattern in the beat of the stresses in the stream of sound, if this rhythm is structured into a recurrence of regular-that is, approximately equal -units, we call it meter. Compositions written in meter are known as verse.

(A) Determining the Meter:

The meter of a line of verse is determined by the pattern of stronger and weaker stresses is in its component syllables. (What the ear detects as a strong stress not an absolute quantity, but is relative to the degree of stress in the adjacent syllables; the degree of perceived stress is determined primarily by the relative loudness of the pronunciation of the syllable and to a lesser extent, by its relative pitch and duration.

There are three factors that determine where the stresses (in the sense of the relatively stronger stresses or “accents”) will fall in line of verse:

(1) Most important is the “word accent” in polysyllabic words; in the noun “accent” itself, for example, the stress falls on the first syllable.

(2) There are also many monosyllabic words in the language and on which of these-in a sentence or a phrase – the stress will fall depends on the grammatical function of the word (we normally put stronger stress on nouns, verbs and adjectives, for example, than on articles or prepositions) and also on the “rhetorical accent” or the emphasis we give a word because we want to enhance its importance in a particular utterance.

(3) Another determinant of stress is the “metrical accent” which is an expected pulsation, in accordance with the stress pattern which was established earlier in the metrical line or passage.

(B) Wrenched Accent:

If the metrical accent enforces an alteration of the normal word accent, we get a wrenched accent. Wrenching may be the result of a lack of metrical skill, it was, however, conventional in the folk ballad (For example, “fair ladies”, “far countered”) and is sometimes deliberately used, as in Byron’s Don Juan and in the verses of Ogden Nash, for comic effects.

(C) Degree of Stress:

It is possible to distinguish various degrees of relative stress in English speech, but the most common and generally useful fashion of analyzing and classifying the standard English meters is to distinguish only two categories of stress ire syllables-weak stress and strong stress-and to group the syllables into metric feet according to the patterning of these two stresses.

A foot is the combination of a strong stress and the associated weak stress or stresses which make up the recurrent metric unit of a line. The relatively stronger- stressed syllable is called, for short, “Stressed”; the relatively weaker-stressed syllables are called “light” or a “slack” or simply “unstressed.”

(D) Four Standard Feet:

The four standard feet distinguished in English are:

(i) Iambic (the noun is “lamb”):

A light followed by a stressed syllable. The cur few tolls the knell of par ting day.

Gray, “Elegy in a Country Churchyard”)

(ii) Ana plastic (the noun is “anapest”):

Two light syllables followed by a stressed syllable. Teaser Ian came down like a wolf on the fold.

(iii) Trochaic (the noun is “trochee”):

A stressed followed by a light syllable. There they are my fifty men and women.

(Browning, “One Word More”)

Most trochaic lines lack the final syllable-in the technical term, such lines are catalectic. So in Blake’s “The Tiger”:

Tiger burning bright

In the forest of the night.

(iv) Dactylic (the noun is “dactyl”):

A stressed syllable followed by two light syllables. Eve, with her basket, was

Deep in the bells and grass.

(Ralph Hodgson, “Eye”)

Lambs and anapests, since the strong stress is at the end, constitute a “rising meter”; trend dactyls, with the strong stress at the beginning, constitute a “falling meter”, lambs ant with two syllables, are called “duple meter”; anapests and dactyls, with three syllables, are “triple meter”. It should be noted that the iamb is by far the commonest English foot.

(E) Feet as Occasional Variant:

Two other feet, often distinguished, occur only as occasional variants from standard feet:

(i) Spondaic (the noun “spondee”):

Two successive syllables with approximately equal, stresses, as in the first two feet of this line: Good strong thick stupefy in cense smoke.

(Browning, “The Bishop Orders His Tomb”)

(ii) Pyrrhic (the noun is also “pyrrhic”):

Two successive syllables with approximately emu stresses, as in the second and fourth feet in this line: My way is to begin with the begin some traditional motorists do not admit the existence of a true pyrrhic, on the grounds the prevailing metrical accent -in this instance, iambic-always imposes a slightly star stress on one of the two syllables.

(F) Naming of a Metric Line

A metric line is named according to the number of feet composing is

monometer: one feet

diameter: two feet

trimester: three feet

tetrameter: four feet

pentameter: five feet

hexameter: six feet (an Alexandrine is a line of six iambic feet)

heptameter: seven feet (a fourteen is a line of seven iambic feet; it tends to breaks into a unit of four feet followed by a unit of three feet)

octameter: eight feet

(G) Method of Describing the Meter

To describe the meter of a line we name (a) the preborn foot and (b) the number of feet it contain. In the illustrations above, for example, the line Gray’s “Elegy” is “iambic pentameter,” and the line from Byron’s “The Destruction Sennacherib” is “anapestic tetrameter.”

(H) Scansion:

To scan a passage of verse is to go through it line by line, analyzing the compo feet and also indicating where any major pauses fall within a line. Here is a scansion, sign’ by conventional symbols, of the first five lines from Keats’s Edition: the passage chosen because it exemplifies a flexible and variable rather than a highly regular me’ pattern.

(i) A thing of beau tee is a joy for ever:

(ii) Its love ii nests increase it will never

(iii) Pass in to nothing but still will keep

(iv) A bow require and a sleep

(v) Full of sweet dreams and health and quiet breathe king.

The prevailing meter is clearly iambic and the lines are iambic pentameter. As in all fluent verse, however, there are “variations” upon the basic iambic foot:

(vi) The closing feet of lines 1, 2 and 5 end with an extra light syllable and are said to have a feminine ending. Line 3 and 4, in which the closing feet, since they are standard iambs, end with a stressed syllable, are said to have masculine endings.

(vii) In lines 3 and 5, the opening iambic feet have been “inverted” to from trochees (These initial positions are the most common place for such inversions in iambic verse).

(viii) I have marked the second foot in line 2 and the third foot of line 3 and line 4, as pyrrhic’s (two light stresses). This is a procedure with which competent readers often disagree: some will feel enough of a metric beat in all these feet to mark them as iambs; others will mark still other feet (for example, the third foot of line 1) as pyrrhics also. And some metric analysts prefer to use symbols measuring two degrees of strong stress and will indicate a difference in the feet, as follows:

Its love lines increases. Notice, however, that these are differences in nuance rather than in essentials: the readers agree that the prevailing pulse of Keats’s versification is iambic throughout.

(I) Metric Movement of Keats’s Passage:

Two other elements are important in the metric movement of Keats’s passage:

(i) End – Stopped and Run on Lines:

In lines 1 and 5, the pause in the reading -which occurs naturally at the end of syntactic phrase or clause-coincides with the end of the line; such lines are called end-stopped. Lines 2 through 4, on the hand, are called run- on lines (or in French term, they exhibit enjambment- “a striding over”), because the pressure of the incomplete syntactic unit toward closure carries on over the end of the verse-line

(ii) Caesura:

When a strong phrasal pause falls within a line, as in lines 2, 3 and 4, it is called a caesura indicated in the quoted passage by the conventional symbol. The management of these internal pauses is important for giving variety and for providing rhetorical emphases in the long pentameter line.

(J) Function of Scansion:

To understand the function of such scansion, we must realize that it is an abstract scheme which deliberately omits notation of many physical attributes of the actual reading of a poem that contribute to its movement and total impression.

It does not specify, for example, whether the component words in a metric line are short words or long words or whether the strong stresses fall on short vowels or long vowels; nor does it give any indication of the “intonation” or voice melody- the overall rise and fall of the pitch and loudness of the voice – which we use to bring out the meaning and rhetorical effect of these poetic lines.

We deliberately omit such details in order to lay bare the essential metric skeleton; that is, the fall of the stronger stresses in the syllabic sequence. Moreover, an actual reading of a poem, if it is a skillful reading, will not accord mechanically with the scansion. That is, there is a difference between the scansion, as an abstract metrical paradigm or norm and the oral

“Performance” of a poem; and in fact, no two readers will perform the same lines in pre1 the same way. But the metric norm indicated by the scansion is sensed as an imp’ understructure of pulses and the interplay of an expressive performance, sometimes with a sometimes against this underlying structural pattern, helps to give tension and vitality to experience of a poem.

(K) Kinds of Meters:

We should note, finally, that various kinds of English versification differ from the syllable-and stress type already described:

(i) Strong stress meters

In this native English meter only the strong stresses counting scanning and the number of intervening light syllables is indeterminate and variable. There are usually four stressed syllables in a line. This was the meter of Old English poetry and of many Middle English poems, until Chaucer popularized the syllable and stress meter. In the opening passage, for example, of Piers Plowman (latter fourteenth century) the four strong stresses (always divided by a medial caesura) are often reinforced by alliteration (see alliterative meter)] the light syllables, which vary in number, are recessive and do not assert their individual presence:

In a some season, // when soft was the sonnet,

I shop me in shrouds, as sheep were,

In habits like an here mite, // unholy of works,

Went wide in this world, // wonders to here.

This type of meter still survives in traditional children’s rhymes and was revived as an artful literary meter by Coleridge in Cristobel, in which each line has four strong stresses and the number of syllables in a line may vary from four to twelve.

What G. M. Hopkins called his sprung rhythm is a variant of strong-stress meter: each foot, as he describes it, begins with a stressed syllable, which may stand alone or else be associated with from one to three (occasionally even more) light syllables. Two six-stress lines from Hopkins’ “The Wreck of the Deutschland” indicate the variety of the rhythms in this meter and also exemplify its most striking feature: the great weight of the star stresses, and the frequent juxtaposition of strong stresses at any point in the line. The stresses in the second line were marked in a manuscript by Hopkins himself; they Indicate that in complex instances, his metric decisions may be rather arbitrary: The sour scythe cringe and the blear share come.

Our hearts charity’s hearth’s fire, our thoughts’ chivalry’s throng’s Lord. A number of modern motorists, such as T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound, skillfully interne both strong-stress and syllable and-stress meters in some of their versification.

(ii) Quantitative meters:

These, in English are written in imitation of Greek and Latin versification, in which the metrical pattern is not determined by the stress but by the “quantity (duration of pronunciation) of a syllable and the foot consists of a combination of “long” and “short” syllables. Sidney, Spenser and other Elizabethan poets experimented with this meter in English, as did Coleridge, Tennyson, Longfellow and Robert Bridges later on.

The strong accentual character of English, however, as well as the indeterminateness of the syllabic duration, makes it impossible to sustain a purely quantitative meter in that language.

In free verse, the component lines have no (or at least only occasional) units of recurrent stress – patterns.

(2) Rhyme :

In English versification the standard rhyme consists in the identity, in rhyming words, of the last stressed vowel and of all the speech sounds following that vowel: late-fate; follow -swallow.

(a) End and Internal Rhymes:

End rhymes, by far the most frequent type, occur at the end of a verse-line. Internal rhymes occur within a verse-line, as in Swinburne’s Sister, my sister, O fleet sweet swallow.

A stanza from Coleridge’s The Ancient Mariner illustrates the patterned use both of internal

Rhymes (within line 1 and 3) and of an end rhyme (lines 2 and 4):

In mist or cloud, on mast or shroud,

It perched for vespers nine,

Whiles all the night, through fog- smoke white,

Glimmered the white moon-shine.

The numbered lines in the following stanza of Wordsworth’s “The Solitary Reaper” are followed by a column which, in conventional fashion, marks the sequence of the terminal rhyme elements by a sequence of the letters of the alphabet:

(i) Whatever her theme, the maiden sang a

(ii) As if her song could have no ending; b

(iii) I saw her singing at her work, c

(iv) And o’er the sickle bending- b

(v) I listened, motionless and still; d

(vi) And as I mounted up the hill, d

(vii) The music in my heart I bore, e

(viii) Long after it was heard no more. c

(b) Masculine and Feminine Rhymes:

Lines 1 and 3 do not rhyme with any other line. Both in lines 5 and 6 and lines 7 and 8 the rhyme consists of a single stressed syllable and is called a masculine rhyme: still-hill, bore-more. In lines 2 and 4, the rhyme consists of a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed syllable and is called feminine rhyme: ending- bending.

A feminine rhyme, since it involves two syllables, is also known as a double rhyme. A rhyme involving three syllables is called a triple rhyme. Such rhymes, since they coincide with surprising aptness, usually have a comic quality. In Don Juan Byron often uses triple rhymes such as comparison-garrison and sometimes intensifies the comic effect by permitting the pressure of the rhyme to force a distortion of the pronunciation; thus he addresses the husbands of learned wives:

But -Oh! Ye lords of ladies intellectual

Inform us truly, have they not hen pecked you all?

This maltreatment of words, in which the poet seems to surrender helplessly to the exigencies of a triple rhyme, thoroughly exploited by Ogden Nash:

Farewell, farewell, you old rhinoceros,

I’ll stare at something less preposterous.

(c) Perfect and Imperfect Rhymes:

If the correspondence of the rhymed sounds is exact, it is called perfect rhyme, or else “full” or true “rhyme.” Until recently almost all English writers of serious poems have limited themselves to perfect rhymes, except for an occasional poetic license such as eye-rhymes or words whose endings are spelled alike and in most instances were once pronounced alike, but now have a different pronunciation: prove-love, daughter laughter. Many modern poets, however, deliberately supplement perfect rhyme with imperfect rhyme (also known as “partial”, “near” or “slant rhyme”).

This effect is fairly common in folk poetry such as children’s verses and it was employed occasionally by various writers of art lyrics such as Thomas Vaughan and William Blake. Hopkins and Yeats, however, were the first important poets fully to exploit partial rhymes, in which the rhymed vowels are either approximate or quite different and occasionally even the rhymed consonants are similar rather than identical. Wilfred Owen constructs the following six-line stanza with two sets of partial rhymes:

The centuries will burn rich loads

With which we groaned,

Whose warmth shall lull their dreamy lids?

While songs are crooned.

But they will not dream of us poor lads

Lost in the ground.

In his poem “The Force that through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower”, Dylan Thomas uses most effectively, such distantly approximate rhymes as (with masculine endings) trees-roes rocks-wax, tomb-worm and (with feminine endings) flower-destroyer-fever.

(d) Making Ends Meet in Verse:

The passages quoted will illustrate some of the many effects of the device that has been called “making ends meet in verse” – the pleasure of the expected but varying chime; the reinforcement of syntax and rhetorical emphasis when a strong masculine rhyme concurs with the end of a clause, sentence or stanza; the sudden grace of movement which may be lent by a feminine rhyme; the broadening of the comic by a pat coincidence sound; the sometimes haunting effect of the limited consonance in partial rhymes. Cunning artificers in verse make it more than an auxiliary sound effect; they use it to enhance or contribute to the meaning of the words. When Pope satirized two contemporary pedants in the lines,

Yet ne’er one sprig of laurel graced these ribald’s, From slashing Bentley down to piddling Tabards, the rhyme, as W. K.Wimsatt has said, demonstrates “what it means to have a name like’ that, with its implication that the scholar is as graceless as his appellation. And in one of its important functions, rhyme ties individual lines into the pattern of a stanza.

(3) Stanza :

A stanza (Italian for “stopping place”) is a grouping of the verse-lines in a poem. Usually the stanza of given poem are marked. By a recurrent rhyme scheme and are also uniform in the number and lengths of the component lines. Some unrhymed poems, however, are divided into stanza units (for example, Collins’ “Ode to Evening”), and some rhymed poems are composed of variable stanzas (for example, the irregular ode).

Of the great variety of English stanza forms, many have no special names and must be described by specifying the number of lines, the type and number of feet in each line and the pattern of the rhyme. Some stanzas, however, have been used so frequently that they have been given the convenience of a name, as follows:

(a) Couplet:

A couplet is a pair of rhymed lines. The octosyllabic couplet has lines of eight syllables, usually consisting of four iambic feet. So in Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress”:

The grave’s a fine and private place, but none, I think, do there embrace. Iambic pentameter couplets are called heroic couplets (discussed in a separate entry).

(b) Triplet:

The tact, of triplet, is a stanza of three lines with a single rhyme. The lines may be the same length (as in Robert Herrick’s “Upon Julia’s Clothes”, written in tersest of iambic tetrameter), or else of varying lengths. In Richard Crashaw’s “Wishes to His Supposed Mistress”, the lines of each tierce are successively in iambic diameter, trimester, and tetrameter:

(c) Terse Rime:

Terse rime is composed of tersest which are interlinked, in that each is joined to the one following by a common rhyme: a b a, b c b, c d c and so on. Dante composed his Divine Comedy in terse rime; but although Sir Thomas Wyatt introduced the form early in the sixteenth century, it has not been a common meter ion English, in which rhymes are much harder to find than in Italian. Shelley, however, used it brilliantly” Odette West Wind, “and it occurs also in the poetry of Milton, Browning, and T.S. Eliot.

(d) The Quatrain:

The quatrain or four line stanzas is the most common in English versification, and is employed with various meters and rhyme schemes. The ballad stanza (in alternating four and three foot lines is one common quatrain and the heroic quatrain, in iambic pentameter rhyming a b a b, is the stanza of Gray’s “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard.”

(e) Rhyme Royal:

Rhyme royal was introduced by Chaucer in Troilus and Criseyde and other narrative poems; it is believed to take its name, however, from its later use in the verses of King James-I of Scotland. It is a seven line, iambic pentameter stanza rhyming abbacy.

(f) Ottava rima:

Ottava rima, as the Italian name indicates, has eight lines; it rhymes cabal bcc. Like terza rima and the sonnet, it was brought from Italian into English by Sir Thomas Wyatt. Although employed by a number of earlier poets, it is peculiarly the stanza which helped Byron discover what he was born to write, the satiric poem Don Juan:

Juan was taught from out the best edition,

Expurgated by learned men, who place?

Judiciously, from out the schoolboy’s vision,

The grosser parts; but, fearful to deface

Too much their modest bard by this omission,

And pitying sore his mutilated case,

They only add them all in an appendix,

Which saves, in fact, the trouble of an index.

(G) Spenserian Stanza:

Spenserian stanza is a still longer form devised by Edmund Spencer for The Faerie Queen – nine lines, the first eight iambic pentameters and the last iambic hexameter (an Alexandrine), rhyming a b a b b c b c c. Enchanted by Spenser’s gracious movement and music, many poets have attempted the form in spite of its difficulties. Its greatest successes have been in poems which, like The Faerie Queen, move in a leisurely way, with ample time for unrolling the richly textured stanzas: James Thomson’s “The Castle of Indolence.” Keats’s “The Eve of St. Agnes”, Shelley’s “Adonis” and the narrative section of Tinnyson’s “The Lotus Eaters”.

(H) French Stanza Forms:

There are also various elaborate stanza forms imported from France such as the Ronda, the villanelle and the triplet, containing intricate repetitions of rhymes and lines, which have been used mainly, but not exclusively, for light verse. Their revival by W.H. Auden, William Epson and other poets is a sign of renewed interest in high metrical artifice. Dylan Thomas’ “Do not go gentle into that good night” is a villanelle; that is, it consists of five tersest and quatrain, all on two rhymes and with systematic later repetitions of lines 1 and 3 of the first tierce.

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