Poetry and Meter


Kinds of Metrical Feet (singular: “foot”) Based on Syllables and Stress

Iamb (Iambic) Unstressed + Stressed Two Syllables: Today
Trochee (Trochaic) Stressed + Unstressed Two Syllables: Only
Spondee (Spondaic) Stressed + Stressed  Two Syllables: Bright Stars 
Anapest (Anapestic) Unstressed + Unstressed + Stressed  Three Syllables: Underneath
Dactyl (Dactylic) Stressed + Unstressed + Unstressed Three Syllables: Happenstance
Pyrrhic Unstressed + Unstressed Two Syllables: Go on

Kinds of Metrical Lines Described by Number of Feet Per Line

Monometer   One Foot
Dimeter       Two Feet
Trimeter      Three Feet
Tetrameter   Four Feet
Pentameter   Five Feet
Hexameter    Six Feet
Heptameter   Seven Feet
Octameter    Eight Feet

Iambic Pentameter:

Shall I | compare | thee to | a sum | mer’s day?
Thou art | more love | ly and | more tem | perate;

Trochaic Tetrameter:

By the | shores of | gitchee | gumee
By the | shining | big-sea | water

Dactylic Hexameter:

This is the | forest pri | meval. The | murmuring | pines and the | hemlocks

Blank Verse (Un-Rhymed Iambic Pentameter):

Of Mans First Disobedience, and the Fruit
Of that Forbidden Tree, whose mortal taste
Brought Death into the World, and all our woe,
With loss of Eden, till one greater Man
Restore us, and regain the blissful Seat, [5]
Sing Heav’nly Muse,that on the secret top
Of Oreb, or of Sinai, didst inspire
That Shepherd, who first taught the chosen Seed,
In the Beginning how the Heav’ns and Earth
Rose out of Chaos: Or if Sion Hill [10]
Delight thee more, and Siloa‘s Brook that flow’d
Fast by the Oracle of God; I thence
Invoke thy aid to my adventrous Song,
That with no middle flight intends to soar
Above th’ Aonian Mount, while it pursues [15]
Things unattempted yet in Prose or Rhime.

(from Milton’s Paradise Lost)   

Free Verse (no predetermined metrical pattern):

One’s-Self I sing, a simple separate person,
Yet utter the word Democratic, the word En-Masse.
Of physiology from top to toe I sing,
Not physiognomy alone nor brain alone is worthy for the Muse, I say the Form complete is
worthier far,
The Female equally with the Male I sing.
Of Life immense in passion, pulse, and power,
Cheerful, for freest action form’d under the laws divine,
The Modern Man I sing.
(Walt Whitman, “One’s-Self I Sing”)

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