Metre: Compiled by Chiedozie Ude

Definition: This is the rhythm of syllables in a line of verse or in a stanza of a poem. Depending on the language, this pattern may have to do with stressed and unstressed syllables, syllable weight, or number of syllables.
Difference between Qualitative and Quantitative Metre

The definition of metre differs slightly depending on the language the poetry is written in.
Poetry in English uses qualitative meter which is based on the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables e.g Iambic Pentameter is popular in English language poetry, it has a pattern of ten beats starting with each odd numbered syllable being unstressed and each even numbered syllable being stressed.

Other languages do not have a clear distinction between stressed and unstressed syllables, so, they make use of quantitative meter.

Prosody: The study of poetic meter; the patterns of sounds and rhythms in verse. It is the study of meter forms as well as the use of meter in one’s poetry

Caesura: a metrical pause or interruption in a poem, music, building, or other work of art.

Foot: This is a unit of meter. It consists generally of one stressed and one or more unstressed syllables.

Common forms of meter

1. Iamb: this is a two syllable foot, the first if which is unstressed and the second of which is stressed I.e unstressed + stressed = iamb. E.g.comPUTE, beLOW, disPEL.

2. Trochee: a two syllable foot, the first of which is stressed and the second unstressed l.e. stressed + unstressed = trochee. E.g. DOCtor, BIshop

3. Spondee: Two syllables, both of which are stressed l.e stressed + stressed = spondee. Compound words are examples. E.g. ice cream, hot line, cell phone etc.

4. Pyrrhic: It consists of two unstressed syllables I.e unstressed + unstressed = Pyrrhic. However, this is rare.

5. Anapest: a three syllable foot, the first two are unstressed while the third is stressed l.e unstressed + unstressed + stressed = anapest. E.g. of a KIND, sou-ve-NIR, un-der-STAND ETC.

6. Dactyl: a three syllable foot, first of which is stressed while the last two are unstressed I.e stressed + unstressed + unstressed = dactyl. E.g. ME-di-cal, TRI-ni-ty

7. Amphibrach: three syllable foot, all of which are unstressed

A line is named for the number of feet it contains
Monometer – one foot
Dimeter – two feet
Trimeter – three feet
Tetrameter – four feet
Pentameter – five feet
Hexameter – six feet
Heptameter – seven feet
Octameter – eight feet.

Nonametre – nine feet.

Decametre – ten feet.

English language poets often combine these feet in standard patterns, such as the following

Trochaic Tetrameter: this consists of four metrical feet of two syllables each (for a total of 8 syllables) alternating between stressed and unstressed syllables.

Iambic Pentameter: this is the most common meter in English language poetry. Iambic pentameter has five feet of two syllables each (for a total of ten syllables) alternating between unstressed and stressed syllables.


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