METRICAL USAGE

The rhythm of poetry is counted in feet per line. The number of lines per stanza is also important, as is the nature of each variation from the basic pattern.

The two kinds of feet with a rising rhythm are the two-beat iamb and the three-beat anapest, both stressed on the last syllable. Iambic and anapestic feet most closely resemble the rhythms of everyday speech. Iambic lines give a controlled effect; anapestic lines seem more buoyant and uncontrolled, even rollicking.

My genius from a boy,

Has fluttered like a bird within my heart;

But could not thus confined her powers employ,

Impatient to depart. (Horton)

Content to know and dare the worst,

Which mankind's hate, and heaven's curse,

Can heap upon my living head,

Or cast around my memory dead;

And let them on my tombstone trace,

Here lies the Pariah of his race. (Whitfield)

If you find a man who does not receive

The doctrines you have been taught to believe,

Spare him not! Cry "Infidel!" (Campbell)

"I am free," said the stream, while the chrystaline fountain

Came dancing its bubbles along by my feet;

"I was free from my birth, and I came from the mountain,

And now I am going the old ocean to greet." (Simpson)

The two kinds of feet with falling rhythms are the two-beat trochee and three-beat dactyl, with the stress on the first beat. The use of a trochaic rhythm often adds a sense of mystery and craft. It is also common to vary iambs, anapests, and trochees for musical effects, and to mirror shifts in thought and consciousness. The sustained use of the dactyl is relatively rare.

Cry "Infidel!" (Campbell)

Think of sweet and chocolate,

Left to folly or to fate,

Whom the higher gods forgot,

Whom the lower gods berate;

Physical and underfed

Fancying on the featherbed

What was never and is not. (Brooks)

"Black hair," you murmur, "so lustrous and rare,

Beautiful too, like a raven's smooth wing;

Surely no gold locks were ever more fair." (Fauset)

The numbers of feet in a line are counted thus: monometer, dimeter, trimeter, tetrameter, pentamenter, sexameter, septameter, and octameter. A common nineteenth century form was the hymn meter, iambic tetrameter and trimeter quatrains. A sonnet, of course, contains fourteen lines of iambic pentamter, divided after the eighth line. Blank verse, or unrhymed iambic pentameter, carried associations of Shakespeare's dramas and Milton's Paradise Lost.