For an in-depth explanation of poetry and poetic forms, see the PoetrySpark Chart. Rhythm and MeterRhythm and meter are the building blocks of poetry. Rhythm is the pattern of sound created by the varying length and emphasis given to different syllables. The rise and fall of spoken languageis called its cadence. MeterMeter is the rhythmic pattern created in a line of verse. There are four basic kinds of meter: Accentual (strong-stress) meter:The number of stressed syllables in a line is fixed, but the number of total syllables is not. This kind of meter is common in Anglo-Saxon poetry, such as Beowulf.Gerard Manley Hopkins developed a form of accentual meter called sprung rhythm, which had considerable influence on 20th-century poetry.Syllabic meter:The number of total syllables in a line is fixed, but the number of stressed syllables is not. This kind of meter is relatively rare in English poetry.Accentual-syllabic meter:Both the number of stressed syllables and the number of total syllables is fixed. Accentual-syllabic meter has been the most common kind of meter in English poetry since Chaucer in the late Middle Ages.
Quantitative meter:The duration of sound of each syllable, rather than its stress, determines themeter. Quantitative meter is common in Greek, Latin, Sanskrit, and Arabic but not in English.The FootThe foot is the basic rhythmic unit into which a line of verse can be divided. When reciting verse, there usually is a slight pause between feet. When this pause is especially pronounced, it iscalled a caesura. The process of analyzing the number and type of feet in a line is called scansion. These are the most common types of feet in English poetry.Iamb: An unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable: “to day ”Trochee: A stressed syllable followed by an unstressed syllable: “ car ry”Dactyl: A stressed syllable followed by two unstressed syllables: “ diff icult”Anapest: Two unstressed syllables followed by a stressed syllable: “it is time ”Spondee: Two successive syllables with strong stresses: “stop, thief”Pyrrhic: Two successive syllables with light stresses: “up to”Most English poetry has four or five feet in a line, but it is not uncommon to see as few as one oras many as eight.Monometer: One footDimeter: Two feetTrimeter: Three feetTetrameter: Four feetPentameter: Five feetHexameter: Six feetHeptameter: Seven feetOctameter: Eight feetTypes of Accentual-Syllabic MeterAccentual-syllabic meter is determined by the number and type of feet in a line of verse.
Iambic pentameter:Each line of verse has five feet (pentameter), each of which consists of an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable (iamb). Iambic pentameter is one of the most popular metrical schemes in English poetry.Blank verse:Unrhymed iambic pentameter. Blank verse bears a close resemblance to the rhythms of ordinary speech, giving poetry a natural feel. Shakespeare’s plays are written primarily in blank verse.