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Metre (poetry)

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Metre (poetry)

Contents

  • Taxonavigation 1
  • Selected references 2
  • Template:Safesubst:Qualitative vs. quantitative metre 3
  • Feet 4
  • Qualitative vs. quantitative metre 5
  • Feet 6
  • Half-lines 7
  • Caesurae 8
  • Metric variations 9
  • Meter in various languages 10
    • Sanskrit 10.1
    • Greek and Latin 10.2
    • Classical Arabic 10.3

Taxonavigation

: 215

Selected references

[See p. 215, and figs. 3a–d, 7, 11, 14b, 15b, 16b, 18a–c, 22a–c, 26, 30, 31a,b, 33]h vary from language to language, and sometimes between poetic traditions.)

Qualitative vs. quantitative metre

The metre of most poetry of the Western world and elsewhere is based on patterns of syllables of particular types. The familiar type of metre in English-language poetry is called qualitative metre, with stressed syllables coming at regular intervals (e.g. in iambic pentameters, usually every even-numbered syllable). Many Romance languages use a scheme that is somewhat similar but where the position of only one particular stressed syllable (e.g. the last) needs to be fixed. The metre of the old Germanic poetry of languages such as Old Norse and Old English was radically different, but was still based on stress patterns.

Some classical languages, in contrast, used a different scheme known as quantitative metre, where patterns were based on syllable weight rather than stress. In the dactylic hexameters of Classical Latin and Classical Greek, for example, each of the six feet making up the line was either a dactyl (long-short-short) or a spondee (long-long): a "long syllable" was literally one that took longer to pronounce than a short syllable: specifically, a syllable consisting of a long vowel or diphthong or followed by two consonants. The stress pattern of the words made no difference to the metre. A number of other ancient languages also used quantitative metre, such as Sanskrit and Classical Arabic (but not Biblical Hebrew).

Finally, non-stressed languages that have little or no differentiation of syllable length, such as French or Chinese, base their verses on the number of syllables only. The most common form in French is the Alexandrine, with twelve syllables a verse, and in classical Chinese five characters, and thus five syllables. But since each Chinese character is pronounced using one syllable in a certain tone, classical Chinese poetry also had more strictly defined rules, such as parallelism or antithesis between lines.

Feet

In many Western classical poetic traditions, the metre of a verse can be described as a sequence of [[foot (prosody)

In poetry, metre (meter in American spelling) is the basic rhythmic structure of a verse or lines in verse. Many traditional verse forms prescribe a specific verse metre, or a certain set of metres alternating in a particular order. The study of metres and forms of versification is known as prosody. (Within linguistics, "prosody" is used in a more general sense that includes not only poetic metre but also the rhythmic aspects of prose, whether formal or informal, which vary from language to language, and sometimes between poetic traditions.)

Qualitative vs. quantitative metre

The metre of most poetry of the Western world and elsewhere is based on patterns of syllables of particular types. The familiar type of metre in English-language poetry is called qualitative metre, with stressed syllables coming at regular intervals (e.g. in iambic pentameters, usually every even-numbered syllable). Many Romance languages use a scheme that is somewhat similar but where the position of only one particular stressed syllable (e.g. the last) needs to be fixed. The metre of the old Germanic poetry of languages such as Old Norse and Old English was radically different, but was still based on stress patterns.

Some classical languages, in contrast, used a different scheme known as quantitative metre, where patterns were based on syllable weight rather than stress. In the dactylic hexameters of Classical Latin and Classical Greek, for example, each of the six feet making up the line was either a dactyl (long-short-short) or a spondee (long-long): a "long syllable" was literally one that took longer to pronounce than a short syllable: specifically, a syllable consisting of a long vowel or diphthong or followed by two consonants. The stress pattern of the words made no difference to the metre. A number of other ancient languages also used quantitative metre, such as Sanskrit and Classical Arabic (but not Biblical Hebrew).

Finally, non-stressed languages that have little or no differentiation of syllable length, such as French or Chinese, base their verses on the number of syllables only. The most common form in French is the Alexandrine, with twelve syllables a verse, and in classical Chinese five characters, and thus five syllables. But since each Chinese character is pronounced using one syllable in a certain tone, classical Chinese poetry also had more strictly defined rules, such as parallelism or antithesis between lines.

Feet

In many Western classical poetic traditions, the metre of a verse can be described as a sequence of feet,[1] each foot being a specific sequence of syllable types — such as relatively unstressed/stressed (the norm for English poetry) or long/short (as in most classical Latin and Greek poetry).

Iambic pentameter, a common metre in English poetry, is based on a sequence of five iambic feet or iambs, each consisting of a relatively unstressed syllable (here represented with "×" above the syllable) followed by a relatively stressed one (here represented with "/" above the syllable) — "da-DUM" = "× /" :

 ×  /   ×   /   ×    /      ×  /     ×   /
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
 ×  /    ×      /   ×     /   ×     /    ×   /
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

This approach to analyzing and classifying metres originates from Ancient Greek tragedians and poets such as Homer, Pindar, Hesiod, and Sappho.

However some metres have an overall rhythmic pattern to the line that cannot easily be described using feet. This occurs in Sanskrit poetry; see Vedic metre and Sanskrit metre). (Although this poetry is in fact specified using feet, each "foot" is more or less equivalent to an entire line.) It also occurs in some Western metres, such as the hendecasyllable favoured by Catullus, which can be described as:

x x — ∪ ∪ — ∪ — ∪ — —

(where "—" = long, "∪" = short, and "x x" can be realized as "— ∪" or "— —" or "∪ —")

Half-lines

In place of using feet, alliterative verse of old Germanic languages such as Old English and Old Norse divided each line into two half-lines. Each half-line had to follow one of five or so patterns, each of which defined a sequence of stressed and unstressed syllables, typically with two stressed syllables per line. Unlike typical Western poetry, however, the number of unstressed syllables could vary somewhat. For example, the common pattern "DUM-da-DUM-da" could allow between one and five unstressed syllables between the two stresses.

The following is a famous example, taken from The Battle of Maldon:

Hige sceal þe heardra, || heorte þe cēnre,
mōd sceal þe re, || swā ūre mægen lȳtlað

("Will must be the harder, courage the bolder,
spirit must be the more, as our might lessens.")

In the quoted section, the stressed syllables have been underlined. (Normally, the stressed syllable must be long if followed by another syllable in a word. However, by a rule known as syllable resolution, two short syllables in a single word are considered equal to a single long syllable. Hence, sometimes two syllables have been underlined, as in hige and mægen.) The first three half-lines have the type A pattern "DUM-da-(da-)DUM-da", while the last one has the type C pattern "da-(da-da-)DUM-DUM-da", with parentheses indicating optional unstressed syllables that have been inserted. Note also the pervasive pattern of alliteration, where the first and/or second stress alliterate with the third, but not with the fourth.

Caesurae

Another component of a verse's metre are the caesurae (literally, cuts), which are not pauses but compulsory word boundaries which occur after a particular syllabic position in every line of a poem. In Latin and Greek poetry, a caesura is a break within a foot caused by the end of a word.

For example, in the verse below, each odd line has a caesura (shown by a slash /) after the fourth syllable (daily, her, won'dring, mother) while each even line is without a caesura:

Daily, daily, / sing to Mary,
Sing my soul her praises due:
All her feasts, her / actions honour,
With the heart's devotion true.
Now in wond'ring / contemplation,
Be her majesty confess'd;
Call her Mother / call her Virgin,
Happy Mother, Virgin blest.

A caesura would split the word "devotion" in the fourth line or the word "majesty" in the sixth line.

Metric variations

Poems with a well-defined overall metric pattern often have a few lines that violate that pattern. A common variation is the inversion of a foot, which turns an iamb ("da-DUM") into a trochee ("DUM-da"). Another common variation is a headless verse, which lacks the first syllable of the first foot. Yet a third variation is catalexis, where the end of a line is shortened by a foot, or two or part thereof - an example of this is at the end of each verse in Keats' 'La Belle Dame sans Merci':

And on thy cheeks a fading rose (4 feet)
Fast withereth too (2 feet)
Foot type Style Stress pattern Syllable count
Iamb Iambic Unstressed + Stressed Two
Trochee Trochaic Stressed + Unstressed Two
Spondee Spondaic Stressed + Stressed Two
Anapest or anapaest Anapestic Unstressed + Unstressed + Stressed Three
Dactyl Dactylic Stressed + Unstressed + Unstressed Three
Amphibrach Amphibrachic Unstressed + Stressed + Unstressed Three
Pyrrhic Pyrrhic Unstressed + Unstressed Two

Source: Cummings Study Guides[1]

If the line has only one foot, it is called a monometer; two feet, dimeter; three is trimeter; four is tetrameter; five is pentameter; six is hexameter, seven is heptameter and eight is octameter. For example, if the feet are iambs, and if there are five feet to a line, then it is called a iambic pentameter.[1] If the feet are primarily dactyls and there are six to a line, then it is a dactylic hexameter.[1]

Meter in various languages

Sanskrit

Versification in Classical Sanskrit poetry is of three kinds.

1.Syllabic verse (akṣaravṛtta): metres depend on the number of syllables in a verse, with relative freedom in the distribution of light and heavy syllables. This style is derived from older Vedic forms, and found in the great epics, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana.

2. Syllabo-quantitative verse (varṇavṛtta): metres depend on syllable count, but the light-heavy patterns are fixed.

3.Quantitative verse (mātrāvṛtta): metres depend on duration, where each verse-line has a fixed number of morae, usually grouped in sets of four.

Standard traditional works on metre are Pingala's Chandaḥśāstra and Kedāra's Vṛttaratnākara. The most exhaustive compilations, such as the modern ones by Patwardhan and Velankar contain over 600 metres. This is a substantially larger repertoire than in any other metrical tradition

Greek and Latin

The metrical "feet" in the classical languages were based on the length of time taken to pronounce each syllable, which were categorized according to their weight as either "long" syllables or "short" syllables (indicated as daa and duh below). These are also called "heavy" and "light" syllables, respectively, to distinguish from long and short vowels. The foot is often compared to a musical measure and the long and short syllables to whole notes and half notes. In English poetry, feet are determined by emphasis rather than length, with stressed and unstressed syllables serving the same function as long and short syllables in classical metre.

The basic unit in Greek and Latin prosody is a mora, which is defined as a single short syllable. A long syllable is equivalent to two morae. A long syllable contains either a long vowel, a diphthong, or a short vowel followed by two or more consonants. Various rules of elision sometimes prevent a grammatical syllable from making a full syllable, and certain other lengthening and shortening rules (such as correption) can create long or short syllables in contexts where one would expect the opposite.

The most important Classical metre is the dactylic hexameter, the metre of Homer and Virgil. This form uses verses of six feet. The word dactyl comes from the Greek word daktylos meaning finger, since there is one long part followed by two short stretches.[2] The first four feet are dactyls (daa-duh-duh), but can be spondees (daa-daa). The fifth foot is almost always a dactyl. The sixth foot is either a spondee or a trochee (daa-duh). The initial syllable of either foot is called the ictus, the basic "beat" of the verse. There is usually a caesura after the ictus of the third foot. The opening line of the Æneid is a typical line of dactylic hexameter:

Armă vĭ | rumquĕ că | nō, Troi | ae quī | prīmŭs ăb | ōrīs
("I sing of arms and the man, who first from the shores of Troy...")

In this example, the first and second feet are dactyls; their first syllables, "Ar" and "rum" respectively, contain short vowels, but count as long because the vowels are both followed by two consonants. The third and fourth feet are spondees, the first of which is divided by the main caesura of the verse. The fifth foot is a dactyl, as is nearly always the case. The final foot is a spondee.

The dactylic hexameter was imitated in English by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in his poem Evangeline:

This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks,
Bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight,
Stand like Druids of old, with voices sad and prophetic,
Stand like harpers hoar, with beards that rest on their bosoms.

Notice how the first line:

This is the | for-est pri | me-val. The | mur-muring | pines and the | hem-locks

Follows this pattern:

dum diddy | dum diddy | dum diddy | dum diddy | dum diddy | dum dum

Also important in Greek and Latin poetry is the dactylic pentameter. This was a line of verse, made up of two equal parts, each of which contains two dactyls followed by a long syllable, which counts as a half foot. In this way, the number of feet amounts to five in total. Spondees can take the place of the dactyls in the first half, but never in the second. The long syllable at the close of the first half of the verse always ends a word, giving rise to a caesura.

Dactylic pentameter is never used in isolation. Rather, a line of dactylic pentameter follows a line of dactylic hexameter in the elegiac distich or elegiac couplet, a form of verse that was used for the composition of elegies and other tragic and solemn verse in the Greek and Latin world, as well as love poetry that was sometimes light and cheerful. An example from Ovid's Tristia:

Vergĭlĭ | um vī | dī tan | tum, nĕc ă | māră Tĭ | bullō
Tempŭs ă | mīcĭtĭ | ae || fātă dĕ | dērĕ mĕ | ae.
("I saw only Vergil, greedy Fate gave Tibullus no time for me.")

The Greeks and Romans also used a number of lyric metres, which were typically used for shorter poems than elegiacs or hexameter. In Aeolic verse, one important line was called the hendecasyllabic, a line of eleven syllables. This metre was used most often in the Sapphic stanza, named after the Greek poet Sappho, who wrote many of her poems in the form. A hendecasyllabic is a line with a never-varying structure: two trochees, followed by a dactyl, then two more trochees. In the Sapphic stanza, three hendecasyllabics are followed by an "Adonic" line, made up of a dactyl and a trochee. This is the form of Catullus 51 (itself an homage to Sappho 31):

Illĕ | mī pār | essĕ dĕ | ō vĭ | dētŭr;
illĕ, | sī fās | est, sŭpĕ | rārĕ | dīvōs,
quī sĕ | dēns ad | versŭs ĭ | dentĭ | dem tē
spectăt ĕt | audĭt
("He seems to me to be like a god; if it is permitted, he seems above the gods, he who sitting across from you gazes at you and listens to you.")

The Sapphic stanza was imitated in English by Algernon Charles Swinburne in a poem he simply called Sapphics:

Saw the white implacable Aphrodite,
Saw the hair unbound and the feet unsandalled
Shine as fire of sunset on western waters;
Saw the reluctant...

Classical Arabic

The metrical system of Classical Arabic poetry, like those of classical Greek and Latin, is based on the weight of syllables classified as either "long" or "short". The basic principles of Arabic poetic metre Arūḍ or Arud (Arabic: العروضal-ʿarūḍ) Science of Poetry (Arabic: علم الشعرʿilm aš-šiʿr), were put forward by Al-Farahidi (786 - 718 AD) who did so after noticing that poems consisted of repeated syllables in each verse. In his first book, Al-Ard (Arabic: العرضal-ʿarḍ), he described 15 types of verse. Al-Akhfash described one extra, the 16th.

A short syllable contains a short vowel with no following consonants. For example, the word kataba, which syllabifies as ka-ta-ba, contains three short vowels and is made up of three short syllables. A long syllable contains either a long vowel or a short vowel followed by a consonant as is the case in the word maktūbun which syllabifies as mak-tū-bun. These are the only syllable types possible in Classical Arabic phonology which, by and large, does not allow a syllable to end in more than one consonant or a consonant to occur in the same syllable after a long vowel. In other words, syllables of the type -āk- or -akr- are not found in classical Arabic.

Each verse consists of a certain number of metrical feet (tafāʿīl or ʾaǧzāʾ) and a certain combination of possible feet constitutes a metre (baḥr).

The traditional Arabic practice for writing o

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