Poetry Review/Preview: To the Iamb, and Beyond!

OK, from the very beginning of this project, we’ve talked about verse and meter and scansion.  And up till now, it’s been pretty simple: mostly iambs, some trochees, and the occasional spondee thrown in for good measure.  But Love’s Labor’s Lost changes the stakes… ups the ante, if you will, with more varied poetical forms.

So as an introductory stop-gap to our not-yet-fully-versified edification, here are some different poetic foot types:
but first some notation:

~ = an unaccented syllable
/ = an accented syllable
_ = a caesura, or metrical pause
-~- = an unaccented syllable, that has been elided or slurred from two normally separate syllables
-/- = an accented syllable, that has been elided or slurred from two normally separate syllables

first, the two-syllable feet…

IAMB

The most common foot we see (in spoken English).  An unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable:

~ /    ~  /      ~  /
arise, against, respect

~  /     ~  /      ~  /   ~   /  ~  /      
A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!

TROCHEE

An unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable:

 /  ~    /  ~       /  ~   /  ~
window, nothing, twinkle, fortune

 /  ~    /  ~    /    ~   /   ~
Double, double, toil and trouble;

SPONDEE

A foot containing two syllables, both stressed:

 /  /      /  /     /   /
popcorn, doorbell, highway

 /  /     ~   / ~   /    ~  /   ~  /
No more; and by a sleep to say we end

PYRRHIC

A foot containing two syllables, both unstressed:

  ~   ~    /     /     ~   ~    /      /
When the blood creeps and the nerves prick

this one’s got both spondees AND pyrrhics

Now, some three-syllable feet…

ANAPEST

A foot containing three syllables, two unstressed followed by a stressed:

~ ~ /
anapest

~ ~   /  ~   ~ / ~ ~    /
I am out of humanity's reach

DACTYL

A foot containing three syllables, a stressed syllable followed by two unstressed:

 /~  ~
poetry

  /  ~   ~   / ~     ~ / ~    ~   /  ~ ~    /     ~   ~   /  ~
This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks,

that last foot is a trochee, not a dactyl…

AMPHIBRACH

A foot containing three syllables, a stressed syllable sandwiched between two unstressed:

  ~    /    ~  ~  /   ~    ~  / ~  
There once was a man from Nantucket...

CRETIC

A foot containing three syllables, an unstressed syllable sandwiched between two stressed:

  /   ~  /     /   ~  /  
Shall I die? Shall I fly?

and a four-syllable foot…

CHORIAMB

A foot containing four syllables, a pair of unstressed syllable sandwiched between two stressed… but really, isn’t that just another way of saying a trochee followed by an iamb???

And don’t forget some other poetic concepts:

IAMBIC PENTAMETER

Five feet of iambs: baBUM baBUM baBUM baBUM baBUM

 ~    \      ~   \      ~      \ ~    \ ~    \
But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks?

BLANK VERSE

Unrhymed iambic pentameter

FEMININE ENDING

A poetic line that one expects to end with a stressed syllable (male or strong ending), but has an unstressed syllable instead (often by the addition of a syllable):

 ~  \  ~   \   ~  \    \  ~   ~    \   ~
To be, or not to be: that is the question:

there’s a trochee in the middle of the line… after the caesura (pause) at the colon… but you see the extra syllable at the end of the line…

CAESURA

An audible pause in the middle of a line of poetry (when read aloud); it’s usually noted by punctuation (period, colon, semi-colon, dash, even a comma):

 ~  \  ~   \   ~  \    \  ~   ~    \   ~
To be, or not to be: that is the question:

QUATRAIN

A four-line stanza of poetry.  Sometimes the rhyme scheme is AABB, other times ABAB

Study me how to please the eye indeed
By fixing it upon a fairer eye,
Who dazzling so, that eye shall be his heed
And give him light that it was blinded by.

SONNET FORM

A type of poem, lyrical in nature (non-narrative).  Shakespearean sonnets are 14 lines in length (though 12 and 16-line variants do exist): written in iambic pentameter, with a rhyme scheme of ABAB CDCD EFEF GG (or sometimes ABAB CDCD EEFF GG).  The first two stanzas, quatrains, set up the situation or problem; the third quatrain usually contains a turn in the thinking, the beginning of the resolution or solution.  The final rhyming couplet tends to state or restate the theme of the poem.

Study me how to please the eye indeed
By fixing it upon a fairer eye,
Who dazzling so, that eye shall be his heed
And give him light that it was blinded by.
Study is like the heaven's glorious sun
That will not be deep-search'd with saucy looks:
Small have continual plodders ever won
Save base authority from others' books
These earthly godfathers of heaven's lights
That give a name to every fixed star
Have no more profit of their shining nights
Than those that walk and wot not what they are.
Too much to know is to know nought but fame;
And every godfather can give a name.

FOURTEENERS

Iambic lines of seven feet (iambic heptameter), having fourteen syllables.  Alexandrines are iambic lines of six feet, 12 syllables.

~  \   ~ \    \ ~ ~    \ ~ \   ~   \   ~    \
A most acute juvenal; voluble and free of grace!

OCTOSYLLABLES

A line of verse with eight syllables.

 \  ~  ~   \   ~   \  ~   \
She is an heir of Fauconbridge.

TRIMETER

A line of verse with three feet; in iambic trimeter, the line has six syllables.

ROSALINE
~ \    ~  \   ~  \
Amen, so you be none.

BEROWNE
 ~     \   ~   \  ~  \
Nay, then will I be gone.

ANTILABE

A poetic line shared by two or more characters.  The line, when taken together, maintains its meter and rhythm.

JAQUENETTA
 ~   \     ~   \
God bless the king!

KING
                     ~    \ ~    \    ~   \
                   What present has thou there?

END-STOPPED vs, ENJAMBMENT

When a poetic line is end-stopped, the line ends with some kind of punctuation, signifying two things: a slight pause, and the finishing of a grammatical chunk of a sentence. On the other hand, when a line is enjambed, there is no punctuation at the end of the line, the sentence runs on to the next line, and the effect is of breathless acceleration.

Let fame, that all hunt after in their lives,
Live register'd upon our brazen tombs
And then grace us in the disgrace of death;
When, spite of cormorant devouring Time,
The endeavor of this present breath may buy
That honour which shall bate his scythe's keen edge
And make us heirs of all eternity.

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