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R. Zaslavsky/Basic Versification Terms
Foot: Unit of meter or rhythm (can only be two or three syllables long).
Types of Feet [x = unstressed syllable; / = stressed syllable]:
[Note: keep in mind that syllables are relative to each other and to the context in regard to whether they are stressed or not.]
x / x /
e.g., I am; begin
iamb/iambus [x /],
{adjective: iambic}
{adjective: trochaic}
trip / stumble
xx /
e.g., rearrange
{adjective: anapestic}
/ x x
/ x x
e.g., happiness; metrical
{adjective: dactylic}
run purposefully
/ /
e.g., Monday
{adjective: spondaic}
strong / powerful
{adjective: pyrrhic}
/ x
/ x
e.g., present; golden
trochee [/ x],
anapest [x x /],
[strike back]
dactyl [/ x x],
Less Common
spondee [/ /],
pyrrhic [x x],
amphibrach [x / x],
[both (ends) short]
amphimacer [/ x /],
[both (ends) long]
Lengths of lines:
monometer one foot
two feet
three feet
four feet
pentameter five feet
six feet
heptameter seven feet
eight feet
Groups of Lines:
couplet [rhymes]
x / x
x / x
e.g., department; momentous
/ x
e.g., Jack and Gill
{adjective: amphibrachic}
{adjective: amphimacer}
e.g., Jack and Gill [amphimacer monometer] 1
e.g., Went up the hill [iambic dimeter]
e.g., To fetch a pail of water [trimeter, 2 iambs + 1 amphibrach]
e.g., Had we but world enough and time [iambic tetrameter] 2
e.g., It is the grave of Jesus where he lay [iambic pentameter] 3
e.g., For I would we were changed to white birds on the wandering foam: I and you [anapestic hexameter] 4
e.g., The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes [iambic heptameter]5
e.g., Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary [trochaic octameter] 6
two lines
three lines
four lines
five lines
six lines
eight lines
The most common basic poem form is the sonnet, a poem composed of fourteen lines.
Rhyme scheme is the pattern of rhymes in a poem.
Scansion is the process of determining the rhythm (the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables) of a poem.
Blank verse is unrhymed iambic pentameter.
Internal rhyme is the rhyme of a word within a line of poetry with the word at the end of the line.
Onomatopoeia is the process of making a word whose sound imitates or echoes its meaning, e.g., “buzz,” “boom.”
Alliteration is (strictly) the repetition of the same letter/sound at the beginning of words in a line of poetry or (loosely) the
repetition of the same sound anywhere in a word.
An allusion is an indirect reference to well-known event or story or literary work.
Mother Goose Rhyme.
Andrew Marvell, “To His Coy Mistress.”
Wallace Stevens, “Sunday Morning.”
William Butler Yeats, “The White Birds.”
T. S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.”
Edgar Allan Poe, “The Raven.”