What is Meter in Poetry


In poetry, the meter is the basic rhythmic structure of a verse or lines in verse. It is the pattern of beats in a line of poetry, which is a combination of the number of beats and the arrangement of stresses. A metrical foot usually consists of two or three beats, arranged in an arrangement of unstressed and stressed syllables. The most common patterns are used throughout English poetry, including iambic pentameter, blank verse (or unrhymed iambic pentameter), and free verse. The latter refers to a poem that lacks a meter or rhymes entirely.

Here are some common types of meter:

  • Iamb: contains one unstressed and one stressed syllable. For example, the word “above” is an iamb.
  • Trochee: contains one stressed and one unstressed syllable. For example, the word “down” is a trochee.
  • Spondee: contains two stressed syllables. For example, the word “moon” is a spondee.
  • Anapest: consists of three beats, two unstressed and one stressed. For example, the word “unstressed” is an anapest.
  • Dactyl: consists of three beats, one stressed and two unstressed. For example, the word “butterfly” is a dactyl.

It’s important to note that an accentual meter, as described here, is how the verse is arranged in English. But that is not always the case. A quantitative verse is another option. It comes from the length of a syllable, meaning the amount of time it takes to pronounce it. It’s also quite normal to find a poem in which the writer changes the meter multiple times throughout.

Meter in Poetry Examples

For example, the poem “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe uses a variety of meters, including iambic pentameter, dactylic hexameter, and anapestic tetrameter. This variety of meters helps to create a sense of tension and suspense in the poem.

The meter of a poem can also be used to create a sense of rhythm or flow. For example, the poem “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost uses a regular iambic meter to create a sense of calm and reflection.

The meter of a poem can also be used to create a sense of emotion. For example, the poem “Sonnet 116” by William Shakespeare uses a regular iambic pentameter to create a sense of love and passion.

The meter of a poem is an important tool that poets use to create a variety of effects.

What is the difference between meter and rhyme?

A meter is an essential aspect of poetry, marking out the rhythmic alternation between stressed and unstressed syllables in a line of verse. English poetry typically employs three main meters: iambic pentameter, blank verse, and free verse – these typically alternate stressed/unstressed syllables along each line with each syllable alternately stressed/unstressed for every line; blank verse uses unrhymed iambic pentameter while free verse does not follow any particular meter/rhyme scheme or rhyme scheme at all!

Rhyme is the repetition of similar sounds within two or more words, usually at the ends of lines. End rhyme occurs when two or more last words of two or more lines rhyme while internal rhyme can include two or more words within a single line rhyming with one another. A rhyme scheme refers to any pattern of rhymed lines in a poem such as Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18 which has an ABAB CDCD EFEF GG pattern that ensures that every second quatrain rhymes, while the first and third lines rhyme, while the second and fourth lines do as well.

Here are a few poems which use different meter and rhyme schemes:

  • Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Raven” uses regular iambic pentameter meter.
  • “Sonnet 18” by William Shakespeare is an example of poetry with a regular rhyme scheme: ABAB CDCD EFEF GG.
  • “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” by T.S. Eliot is an example of an unrhymed poem.

Meter and rhyme can create many different effects in a poem. A regular meter can establish rhythm and flow while an orderly rhyme scheme establishes unity; its absence can provide freedom and flexibility.

A Holiday example to Carroll’s “The Hunting of the Snark” which is written chiefly in anapestic tetrameter. “in the middle of the world he was trying to say / In the midst of his laughter and glee / He had softly and quickly vanished away / for the snark was a boojum, you see.”

  •     Iamb- one unstressed syllable supported by a stressed syllable
  •          Trochee- one stressed syllable followed by an unstressed syllable
  •           Dactyl- one stressed syllable replaced by two unstressed syllable
  •           Anapest- two unstressed syllables replaced by one stressed syllable
  •           Spondee-two stressed syllable together
  •           Pyrrhic- two unstressed syllables commonly (rare, normally used to end dactylic hexameter)

The number of metrical feet in a line is defined in the Greek language as follows

  •          Diameter- two feet
  •          Trimester- three feet
  •          Tetrameter- four feet
  •          Pentameter- five feet
  •          Hexameter- six feet
  •          Heptameter- seven feet
  •          Octameter- eight feet

There is a broad range of names for other kinds of feet, right up to a choriamb of four syllables metric foot with a stressed syllable followed by two unstressed with a stressed syllable. The choriamb is obtained from some old Greek and Latin poetry.

A language that used vowel length or intonation rather than or in supplement to syllabic accents in managing meters, such as Ottoman Turkish or Vedic, usually has concepts related to the iamb and dactyl to describe the common mixture of long and short sound.

Each of these characters of feet has a certain “feel,” whether alone or in alliance with other feet. The iamb, for example, is the most common form of rhythm in the English language and usually delivers a subtle but stable verse. The dactyl, on the other hand, most gallops along. And, in the style of The Night Before Christmas or Dr Seuss, the anapest is said to create a light-hearted, comic feel.

There is discussion over how useful a multiplicity of many “feet” is in describing meter. For example, Robert Pinsky has shown that while dactyls are essential in classical verse, English dactylic verse uses dactyls very unevenly and can be better described based on patterns of iambs and anapests, feet which he reflects naturally to the language.

Actual rhythm is significantly more difficult than the basic scanned meter explained above, and many scholars have tried to develop systems that would scan such complexity. Vladimir Nabokov wrote that overlaid on top of the normal pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables in a line of verse was a separate pattern of accents resulting from the natural tone of the spoken words, and recommended that the term “scud” be used to identify an unaccented stress form ai accented stress.