Meter (poetry)

Meter (poetry)

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In poetry
Poetry
Poetry is a form of literary art in which language is used for its aesthetic and evocative qualities in addition to, or in lieu of, its apparent meaning...

, metre (meter in American English) is the basic rhythmic structure
Rhythm
Rhythm may be generally defined as a "movement marked by the regulated succession of strong and weak elements, or of opposite or different conditions." This general meaning of regular recurrence or pattern in time may be applied to a wide variety of cyclical natural phenomena having a periodicity or...

 of a verse
Verse (poetry)
A verse is formally a single line in a metrical composition, e.g. poetry. However, the word has come to represent any division or grouping of words in such a composition, which traditionally had been referred to as a stanza....

 or lines in verse
Line (poetry)
A line is a unit of language into which a poem or play is divided, which operates on principles which are distinct from and not necessarily coincident with grammatical structures, such as the sentence or clauses in sentences...

. 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
Linguistics
Linguistics is the scientific study of human language. Linguistics can be broadly broken into three categories or subfields of study: language form, language meaning, and language in context....

, "prosody
Prosody (linguistics)
In linguistics, prosody is the rhythm, stress, and intonation of speech. Prosody may reflect various features of the speaker or the utterance: the emotional state of the speaker; the form of the utterance ; the presence of irony or sarcasm; emphasis, contrast, and focus; or other elements of...

" is used in a more general sense that includes not only poetical metre but also the rhythmic aspects of prose
Prose
Prose is the most typical form of written language, applying ordinary grammatical structure and natural flow of speech rather than rhythmic structure...

, whether formal or informal, which vary from language to language, and sometimes between poetic traditions.)

Qualitative vs. quantitative metre


The metre of much poetry of the Western world and elsewhere is based on particular 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 pentameter
Iambic pentameter
Iambic pentameter is a commonly used metrical line in traditional verse and verse drama. The term describes the particular rhythm that the words establish in that line. That rhythm is measured in small groups of syllables; these small groups of syllables are called "feet"...

, typically every even-numbered syllable). Many Romance languages
Romance languages
The Romance languages are a branch of the Indo-European language family, more precisely of the Italic languages subfamily, comprising all the languages that descend from Vulgar Latin, the language of ancient Rome...

 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
Old Norse
Old Norse is a North Germanic language that was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia and inhabitants of their overseas settlements during the Viking Age, until about 1300....

 and Old English was radically different, but still was based on stress patterns.

Many classical languages, however, use a different scheme known as quantitative metre, where patterns are based on syllable weight
Syllable weight
In linguistics, syllable weight is the concept that syllables pattern together according to the number and/or duration of segments in the rime. In classical poetry, both Greek and Latin, distinctions of syllable weight were fundamental to the meter of the line....

 rather than stress. In dactylic hexametre of Classical Latin
Classical Latin
Classical Latin in simplest terms is the socio-linguistic register of the Latin language regarded by the enfranchised and empowered populations of the late Roman republic and the Roman empire as good Latin. Most writers during this time made use of it...

 and Classical Greek, for example, each of the six feet making up the line was either a dactyl
Dactyl (poetry)
A dactyl is a foot in meter in poetry. In quantitative verse, such as Greek or Latin, a dactyl is a long syllable followed by two short syllables, as determined by syllable weight...

 (long-short-short) or spondee
Spondee
In poetry, a spondee is a metrical foot consisting of two long syllables, as determined by syllable weight in classical meters, or two stressed syllables, as determined by stress in modern meters...

 (long-long), where 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
Classical Arabic
Classical Arabic , also known as Qur'anic or Koranic Arabic, is the form of the Arabic language used in literary texts from Umayyad and Abbasid times . It is based on the Medieval dialects of Arab tribes...

 (but not Biblical Hebrew).

Feet


In most Western
Western world
The Western world, also known as the West and the Occident , is a term referring to the countries of Western Europe , the countries of the Americas, as well all countries of Northern and Central Europe, Australia and New Zealand...

 classical poetic traditions, the metre of a verse can be described as a sequence of feet
Foot (prosody)
The foot is the basic metrical unit that generates a line of verse in most Western traditions of poetry, including English accentual-syllabic verse and the quantitative meter of classical ancient Greek and Latin poetry. The unit is composed of syllables, the number of which is limited, with a few...

, each foot being a specific sequence of syllable types — such as unstressed/stressed (the norm for English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 poetry) or long/short (as in most classical Latin and Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 poetry).

Iambic pentameter
Iambic pentameter
Iambic pentameter is a commonly used metrical line in traditional verse and verse drama. The term describes the particular rhythm that the words establish in that line. That rhythm is measured in small groups of syllables; these small groups of syllables are called "feet"...

, the most common meter in English poetry, is a sequence of five iambic feet or iambs, each consisting of an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed one ("da-DUM") :
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
da
DUM
da
DUM
da
DUM
da
DUM
da
DUM


This approach to analyzing and classifying metres originates from ancient Greek
Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek is the stage of the Greek language in the periods spanning the times c. 9th–6th centuries BC, , c. 5th–4th centuries BC , and the c. 3rd century BC – 6th century AD of ancient Greece and the ancient world; being predated in the 2nd millennium BC by Mycenaean Greek...

 tragedians and poets such as Homer
Homer
In the Western classical tradition Homer , is the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, and is revered as the greatest ancient Greek epic poet. These epics lie at the beginning of the Western canon of literature, and have had an enormous influence on the history of literature.When he lived is...

, Pindar
Pindar
Pindar , was an Ancient Greek lyric poet. Of the canonical nine lyric poets of ancient Greece, his work is the best preserved. Quintilian described him as "by far the greatest of the nine lyric poets, in virtue of his inspired magnificence, the beauty of his thoughts and figures, the rich...

, Hesiod
Hesiod
Hesiod was a Greek oral poet generally thought by scholars to have been active between 750 and 650 BC, around the same time as Homer. His is the first European poetry in which the poet regards himself as a topic, an individual with a distinctive role to play. Ancient authors credited him and...

, and Sappho
Sappho
Sappho was an Ancient Greek poet, born on the island of Lesbos. Later Greeks included her in the list of nine lyric poets. Her birth was sometime between 630 and 612 BC, and it is said that she died around 570 BC, but little is known for certain about her life...

.

Note that 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
Sanskrit metre
The verses of the Vedas have a variety of different meters. They are divided by number of padas in a verse, and by the number of syllables in a pada. Chandas , the study of Vedic meter, is one of the six Vedanga disciplines, or "organs of the vedas".*: 3 padas of 8 syllables-Principles:The main...

). (Although this poetry is in fact specified using feet, each "foot" is more or less equivalent to an entire line.) However, it also occurs in some Western metres, such as the hendecasyllable
Hendecasyllable
The hendecasyllable is a line of eleven syllables, used in Ancient Greek and Latin quantitative verse as well as in medieval and modern European poetry.-In quantitative verse:...

 favored by Catullus
Catullus
Gaius Valerius Catullus was a Latin poet of the Republican period. His surviving works are still read widely, and continue to influence poetry and other forms of art.-Biography:...

, which can be described approximately as "DUM-DUM-DUM-da-da-DUM-da-DUM-da-DUM-da", with some variation allowed in the first two syllables.

Half-lines


In place of using feet, alliterative verse
Alliterative verse
In prosody, alliterative verse is a form of verse that uses alliteration as the principal structuring device to unify lines of poetry, as opposed to other devices such as rhyme. The most commonly studied traditions of alliterative verse are those found in the oldest literature of many Germanic...

 of old Germanic languages
Germanic languages
The Germanic languages constitute a sub-branch of the Indo-European language family. The common ancestor of all of the languages in this branch is called Proto-Germanic , which was spoken in approximately the mid-1st millennium BC in Iron Age northern Europe...

 such as Old English and Old Norse
Old Norse
Old Norse is a North Germanic language that was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia and inhabitants of their overseas settlements during the Viking Age, until about 1300....

 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
The Battle of Maldon
The Battle of Maldon is the name given to an Old English poem of uncertain date celebrating the real Battle of Maldon of 991, at which the Anglo-Saxons failed to prevent a Viking invasion...

:


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 caesura
Caesura
thumb|100px|An example of a caesura in modern western music notation.In meter, a caesura is a complete pause in a line of poetry or in a musical composition. The plural form of caesura is caesuras or caesurae...

e (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 honor,
With the heart's devotion true.

Now in wond'ring / contemplation,
Be her majesty confessed;
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
Trochee
A trochee or choree, choreus, is a metrical foot used in formal poetry consisting of a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed one...

 ("DUM-da"). Another common variation is a headless verse, which lacks the first syllable of the first foot. Yet a third variation is catalexis
Catalectic
A catalectic line is a metrically incomplete line of verse, lacking a syllable at the end or ending with an incomplete foot. One form of catalexis is headlessness, where the unstressed syllable is dropped from the beginning of the line....

, 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 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

If there is one foot, it's called 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's called iambic pentameter. If the feet are primarily dactyls and there are six to a line, then it's dactylic hexameter
Dactylic hexameter
Dactylic hexameter is a form of meter in poetry or a rhythmic scheme. It is traditionally associated with the quantitative meter of classical epic poetry in both Greek and Latin, and was consequently considered to be the Grand Style of classical poetry...

.

Sanskrit


Classical Sanskrit and Vedic Sanskrit use metres for most ancient treatises that are set to verse. Prominent Vedic metres include Gayatri, Ushnik, Anushtupa, Brhati, Pankti, Tristubh and Jagati. The basic metres for epic verse is the Sloka. Sanskrit metre is quantitative, similar in general principles to classical Greek and Latin metre. The Bhagavad Gita
Bhagavad Gita
The ' , also more simply known as Gita, is a 700-verse Hindu scripture that is part of the ancient Sanskrit epic, the Mahabharata, but is frequently treated as a freestanding text, and in particular, as an Upanishad in its own right, one of the several books that constitute general Vedic tradition...

 is mainly written in anustupa (with some vasanta-tilaka sections) interspersed with some Tristubh
Tristubh
Tristubh is the name of a Vedic meter of 44 syllables , or any hymn composed in this meter. It is the most prevalent meter of the Rigveda, accounting for roughly 40% of its verses....

. For example, when Krishna
Krishna
Krishna is a central figure of Hinduism and is traditionally attributed the authorship of the Bhagavad Gita. He is the supreme Being and considered in some monotheistic traditions as an Avatar of Vishnu...

 reveals his divinity to Arjuna
Arjuna
Arjuna in Indian mythology is the greatest warrior on earth and is one of the Pandavas, the heroes of the Hindu epic Mahābhārata. Arjuna, whose name means 'bright', 'shining', 'white' or 'silver' Arjuna (Devanagari: अर्जुन, Thai: อรชุน, Orachun, Tamil: Arjunan, Indonesian and Javanese: Harjuna,...

 the metre changes to Tristubh
Tristubh
Tristubh is the name of a Vedic meter of 44 syllables , or any hymn composed in this meter. It is the most prevalent meter of the Rigveda, accounting for roughly 40% of its verses....

. Tristubh
Tristubh
Tristubh is the name of a Vedic meter of 44 syllables , or any hymn composed in this meter. It is the most prevalent meter of the Rigveda, accounting for roughly 40% of its verses....

 is the most prevalent metre of the ancient Rigveda
Rigveda
The Rigveda is an ancient Indian sacred collection of Vedic Sanskrit hymns...

, accounting for roughly 40% of its verses.

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
Syllable weight
In linguistics, syllable weight is the concept that syllables pattern together according to the number and/or duration of segments in the rime. In classical poetry, both Greek and Latin, distinctions of syllable weight were fundamental to the meter of the line....

 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
Mora (linguistics)
Mora is a unit in phonology that determines syllable weight, which in some languages determines stress or timing. As with many technical linguistic terms, the definition of a mora varies. Perhaps the most succinct working definition was provided by the American linguist James D...

, which is defined as a single short syllable. A long syllable is equivalent to two moras. A long syllable contains either a long vowel, a diphthong
Diphthong
A diphthong , also known as a gliding vowel, refers to two adjacent vowel sounds occurring within the same syllable. Technically, a diphthong is a vowel with two different targets: That is, the tongue moves during the pronunciation of the vowel...

, or a short vowel followed by two or more consonants. Various rules of elision
Elision
Elision is the omission of one or more sounds in a word or phrase, producing a result that is easier for the speaker to pronounce...

 sometimes prevent a grammatical syllable from making a full syllable, and certain other lengthening and shortening rules (such as correption
Correption
In Latin and Greek poetry, correption is the shortening of a long vowel at the end of one word before a short vowel at the beginning of the next...

) can create long or short syllables in contexts where one would expect the opposite.

The most important Classical metre is the dactylic hexameter
Dactylic hexameter
Dactylic hexameter is a form of meter in poetry or a rhythmic scheme. It is traditionally associated with the quantitative meter of classical epic poetry in both Greek and Latin, and was consequently considered to be the Grand Style of classical poetry...

, 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. The first four feet are dactyl
Dactyl (poetry)
A dactyl is a foot in meter in poetry. In quantitative verse, such as Greek or Latin, a dactyl is a long syllable followed by two short syllables, as determined by syllable weight...

s (daa-duh-duh), but can be spondee
Spondee
In poetry, a spondee is a metrical foot consisting of two long syllables, as determined by syllable weight in classical meters, or two stressed syllables, as determined by stress in modern meters...

s (daa-daa). The fifth foot is almost always a dactyl. The sixth foot is either a spondee or a trochee
Trochee
A trochee or choree, choreus, is a metrical foot used in formal poetry consisting of a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed one...

 (daa-duh). The initial syllable of either foot is called the ictus, the basic "beat" of the verse. There is usually a caesura
Caesura
thumb|100px|An example of a caesura in modern western music notation.In meter, a caesura is a complete pause in a line of poetry or in a musical composition. The plural form of caesura is caesuras or caesurae...

  after the ictus of the third foot. The opening line of the Æneid
Aeneid
The Aeneid is a Latin epic poem, written by Virgil between 29 and 19 BC, that tells the legendary story of Aeneas, a Trojan who travelled to Italy, where he became the ancestor of the Romans. It is composed of roughly 10,000 lines in dactylic hexameter...

 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
Caesura
thumb|100px|An example of a caesura in modern western music notation.In meter, a caesura is a complete pause in a line of poetry or in a musical composition. The plural form of caesura is caesuras or caesurae...

 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
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was an American poet and educator whose works include "Paul Revere's Ride", The Song of Hiawatha, and Evangeline...

 in his poem Evangeline
Evangeline
Evangeline, A Tale of Acadie, is an epic poem published in 1847 by the American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The poem follows an Acadian girl named Evangeline and her search for her lost love Gabriel, set during the time of the Expulsion of the Acadians.The idea for the poem came from...

:

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
Dactylic pentameter
Dactylic pentameter is a form of meter in poetry. It is normally found in the second line of the classical Latin or Greek elegiac couplet, following the first line of dactylic hexameter....

. 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
Caesura
thumb|100px|An example of a caesura in modern western music notation.In meter, a caesura is a complete pause in a line of poetry or in a musical composition. The plural form of caesura is caesuras or caesurae...

.

Dactylic pentameter is never used in isolation. Rather, a line of dactylic pentameter follows a line of dactylic hexameter in the elegiac
Elegy
In literature, an elegy is a mournful, melancholic or plaintive poem, especially a funeral song or a lament for the dead.-History:The Greek term elegeia originally referred to any verse written in elegiac couplets and covering a wide range of subject matter, including epitaphs for tombs...

 distich or elegiac couplet
Elegiac couplet
The elegiac couplet is a poetic form used by Greek lyric poets for a variety of themes usually of smaller scale than the epic. Roman poets, particularly Ovid, adopted the same form in Latin many years later...

, a form of verse that was used for the composition of elegies and other tragic
Tragedy
Tragedy is a form of art based on human suffering that offers its audience pleasure. While most cultures have developed forms that provoke this paradoxical response, tragedy refers to a specific tradition of drama that has played a unique and important role historically in the self-definition of...

 and solemn verse in the Greek and Latin world, as well as love poetry that was sometimes light and cheerful. An example from Ovid
Ovid
Publius Ovidius Naso , known as Ovid in the English-speaking world, was a Roman poet who is best known as the author of the three major collections of erotic poetry: Heroides, Amores, and Ars Amatoria...

's Tristia
Tristia
The Tristia is a collection of letters written in elegiac couplets by the Augustan poet Ovid during his exile from Rome. Despite five books of his copious bewailing of his fate, the immediate cause of Augustus's banishment of the greatest living Latin poet to Pontus in 8 AD remains a mystery...

:
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
Lyric poetry
Lyric poetry is a genre of poetry that expresses personal and emotional feelings. In the ancient world, lyric poems were those which were sung to the lyre. Lyric poems do not have to rhyme, and today do not need to be set to music or a beat...

 metres, which were typically used for shorter poems than elegiacs or hexameter. In Aeolic verse
Aeolic verse
Aeolic verse is a classification of Ancient Greek lyric poetry referring to the distinct verse forms characteristic of the two great poets of Archaic Lesbos, Sappho and Alcaeus, who composed in their native Aeolic dialect...

, one important line was called the hendecasyllabic, a line of eleven syllables. This metre was used most often in the Sapphic stanza
Sapphic stanza
The Sapphic stanza, named after Sappho, is an Aeolic verse form spanning four lines ....

, named after the Greek poet Sappho
Sappho
Sappho was an Ancient Greek poet, born on the island of Lesbos. Later Greeks included her in the list of nine lyric poets. Her birth was sometime between 630 and 612 BC, and it is said that she died around 570 BC, but little is known for certain about her life...

, 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
Stanza
In poetry, a stanza is a unit within a larger poem. In modern poetry, the term is often equivalent with strophe; in popular vocal music, a stanza is typically referred to as a "verse"...

, three hendecasyllabics are followed by an "Adonic" line, made up of a dactyl and a trochee. This is the form of Catullus
Catullus
Gaius Valerius Catullus was a Latin poet of the Republican period. His surviving works are still read widely, and continue to influence poetry and other forms of art.-Biography:...

 51 (itself an homage to Sappho 31
Sappho 31
Sappho 31 is a poem by Ancient Greek poet Sappho of Lesbos. It is also known as phainetai moi after the opening words of its first line, or Lobel-Page 31, Voigt 31, Gallavotti 2, Diehl 2, Bergk 2, after the location of the poem in various editions containing the collected works of Sappho...

):
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
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 by Algernon Charles Swinburne
Algernon Charles Swinburne
Algernon Charles Swinburne was an English poet, playwright, novelist, and critic. He invented the roundel form, wrote several novels, and contributed to the famous Eleventh Edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica...

 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".

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. 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 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, with very few exceptions, syllables of the type -āk- or -akr- are not found in classical Arabic.

Each verse consists of a certain number of metrical feet (tafā`īl or ajzā) and a certain combination of possible feet constitutes a metre (baħr.)

The traditional Arabic practice for writing out a poem's metre is to use a concatenation of various derivations of the verbal root F-`-L ( فعل). Thus, the following hemistich

qifā nabki min dhikrā ħabībin wamanzilī

قفا نبك من ذكرى حبيبٍ ومنزلِ

Would be traditionally scanned as

Fa`ūlun mafā`īlun fa`ūlun mafā`ilun

فعولن مفاعيلن فعولن مفاعلن

Which, according to the system more current in the west, can be represented as:

u-- u--- u-- u-u-

The Arabic Metres


Classical Arabic has sixteen established metres. Though each of them allows for a certain amount of variation, their basic patterns are as follows, using "-" for a long syllable, "u" for a short one, "x" for a syllable that can be long or short and "o" for a position that can either contain one long or two shorts:

The Ṭawīl (الطويل):

u-x u-x- u-x u-u-

فعولن مفاعيلن فعولن مفاعيلن

The Madīd (المديد):

xu—xu- xu-

فاعلاتن فاعلن فاعلاتن

The Basīṭ (البسيط):

x-u- xu- x-u- uu-

مستفعلن فاعلن مستفعلن فعلن

The Kāmil (الكامل):

o-u- o-u- o-u-

متفاعلن متفاعلن متفاعلن

The Wāfir (الوافر):

u-o- u-o- u--

مفاعلتن مفاعلتن فعولن

The Hajaz (الهجز):

u--x u--x

مفاعيلن مفاعيلن

The Rajaz (الرجز):

x-u- x-u- x-u-

مستفعلن مستفعلن مستفعلن

The Ramal (الرمل):

xu—xu—xu-

فاعلاتن فاعلاتن فاعلن

The Sarī` (السريع):

xxu- xxu- -u-

مستفعلن مستفعلن فاعلن

The Munsariħ (المنسرح):

x-u- -x-u -uu-

مستفعلن فاعلاتُ مستفعلن

The Khafīf (الخفيف):

xu—x-u- xu—فاعلاتن مستفعلن فاعلاتن

The Muḍāri` (المضارع):

u-x x-u--

مفاعلن فاعلاتن

The Muqtaḍib (المقتضب):

xu- u- uu-

فاعلاتُ مفتعلن

The Mujtathth (المجتث):

x-u- xu—مستفعلن فاعلاتن

The Mutadārik (المتدارك):

o- o- o- o-
(Here, each "o" can also be "xu")

فاعلن فاعلن فاعلن فاعلن

The Mutaqārib (المتقارب):

u-x u-x u-x u-

فعولن فعولن فعولن فعول

Classical Chinese



Classical Chinese
Classical Chinese
Classical Chinese or Literary Chinese is a traditional style of written Chinese based on the grammar and vocabulary of ancient Chinese, making it different from any modern spoken form of Chinese...

 poetic metric may be divided into fixed and variable length line types, although the actual scansion of the metre is complicated by various factors, including linguistic changes and variations encountered in dealing with a tradition extending over a geographically extensive regional area for a continuous time period of over some two-and-a-half millenia. Beginning with the earlier recorded forms: the Classic of Poetry tends toward couplets of four-character lines; and, the Chuci tends toward a more variable line length. The Han poetry
Han poetry
Han poetry refers to those types or styles of poetry particularly associated with the Han Dynasty era of China. This poetry reflects one of the poetry world's more important flowerings, as well as being a special period in Classical Chinese poetry, particularly in regard to a new style of shi...

 tended towards the variable line-length forms of the folk ballads and the Music Bureau
Music Bureau
Music Bureau , also known as the "Imperial Music Bureau", discontinuously and in various incarnations was an organ of the imperial governmental bureaucracy of several Chinese dynasties...

 yue fu
Yue fu
Yue fu are Chinese poems composed in a folk song style. The term literally means "Music Bureau", a reference to the government organisation originally charged with collecting or writing the lyrics....

. In the Jian'an
Jian'an poetry
Jian'an poetry, or Chien'an poetry refers to those types or styles of poetry particularly associated with the end of the Han Dynasty and the beginning of the Six dynasties era of China...

, Six Dynasties
Six Dynasties poetry
Six dynasties poetry refers to those types or styles of poetry particularly associated with the Six dynasties era of China . This poetry reflects one of the poetry world's more important flowerings, as well as being a unique period in Classical Chinese poetry' which, over this time period,...

, and Tang
Tang poetry
Tang poetry refers to poetry written in or around the time of and in the characteristic style of China's Tang dynasty, and/or follows a certain style, often considered as the Golden Age of Chinese poetry...

 poetry, poetic metre based on fixed-length lines of five, seven, (or, more rarely six) characters/verbal units tended to predominate, generally in couplet/quatrain
Quatrain
A quatrain is a stanza, or a complete poem, consisting of four lines of verse. Existing in various forms, the quatrain appears in poems from the poetic traditions of various ancient civilizations including Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, and China; and, continues into the 21st century, where it is...

-based forms, of various total verse lengths. The Song poetry
Song poetry
Song poetry refers to Classical Chinese poetry of or typical of the Song Dynasty of China . This dynasty is sometimes referred to as the "Sung Dynasty", especially in older sources). It was established by the Zhao family in China in 960 and lasted until 1279...

 is specially known for its use of the ci
Ci (poetry)
Ci is a kind of lyric Classical Chinese poetry using a poetic meter based upon certain patterns of fixed-rhythm formal types. For speakers of English, the word "ci" is pronounced somewhat like "tsuh"...

, using variable line lengths, but according to fairly strict limiting rules: these seem to be derived from specific musical song lyrics; thus they are known as fixed-rhythm forms. The Yuan poetry
Yuan poetry
Yuan poetry refers to those types or styles of poetry particularly associated with the era of the Yuan Dynasty , in China. Although the poetic forms of past literature were continued, the Yuan period is particularly known for the development of the poetic aspects included in the complex mix of...

 metres continued this practice with their qu
Qu (poetry)
In Chinese literature, qu , or yuanqu consists of sanqu and zaju . Together with the various shi and fu forms of poetry, the ci, qu, and the other fixed-rhythm type of verse comprise the three main forms of Classical Chinese poetry.Yuanqu is a form of Chinese opera, which became popular in Yuan...

 forms, similarly fixed-rhythm forms based on now obscure or perhaps completely lost original examples (or, ur-types). Not that Classical Chinese poetry
Classical Chinese poetry
thumb|right|300px|Attributed to [[Han Gan]], Huiyebai , about 750CE .Classical Chinese poetry is that type of poetry that is the traditional Chinese poetry written in Classical Chinese. It is typified by certain traditional forms, or modes, and certain traditional genres...

 ever lost the use of the shi
Shi (poetry)
Shi is the Chinese word for "poetry" or "poem", anciently associated with Chinese poetry. In modern times, shi can and has been used as an umbrella term to mean poetry in any form or language, whether or not Chinese; but, it may imply or be used to refer certain classical forms of poetry, for...

 forms, with their metrical patterns found in the (old style) gushi
Gushi (poetry)
Gushi is a type of Classical Chinese poem literally meaning "old poetry" or "old style poetry": gushi is a technical term for certain historically exemplary poems together with poetry composed in this formal style...

 and the regulated verse
Regulated verse
Regulated verse, also known as Jintishi is a development within Classical Chinese poetry of the shi main formal type. Regulated verse is one of the most important of all Classical Chinese poetry types...

 forms of the lüshi
Lushi (poetry)
Lushi lüshi refers a specific form of Classical Chinese poetry verse form. One of the most important poetry forms of Classical Chinese poetry, the lushi was an eight-line regulated verse form with lines made up of five, six, or seven characters; thus:*Five-character eight-line regulated verse : a...

 or jintishi. The regulated verse
Regulated verse
Regulated verse, also known as Jintishi is a development within Classical Chinese poetry of the shi main formal type. Regulated verse is one of the most important of all Classical Chinese poetry types...

 forms also prescribed patterns based upon linguistic tonality
Tone (linguistics)
Tone is the use of pitch in language to distinguish lexical or grammatical meaning—that is, to distinguish or inflect words. All verbal languages use pitch to express emotional and other paralinguistic information, and to convey emphasis, contrast, and other such features in what is called...

. The use of caesura is important in regard to the metrical analysis of Classical Chinese poetry forms.

Old English


The metric system of Old English poetry was different from that of modern English, and more related to the verse forms of most of older Germanic languages. It used alliterative verse
Alliterative verse
In prosody, alliterative verse is a form of verse that uses alliteration as the principal structuring device to unify lines of poetry, as opposed to other devices such as rhyme. The most commonly studied traditions of alliterative verse are those found in the oldest literature of many Germanic...

, a metrical pattern involving varied numbers of syllables but a fixed number (usually four) of strong stresses in each line. The unstressed syllables were relatively unimportant, but the caesurae played a major role in Old English poetry.

Modern English


Most English metre is classified according to the same system as Classical metre with an important difference. English is an accentual language, and therefore beats and offbeats (stressed and unstressed syllables) take the place of the long and short syllables of classical systems. In most English verse, the metre can be considered as a sort of back beat, against which natural speech rhythms vary expressively. The most common characteristic feet of English verse are the iamb in two syllables and the anapest in three. (See Foot (prosody)
Foot (prosody)
The foot is the basic metrical unit that generates a line of verse in most Western traditions of poetry, including English accentual-syllabic verse and the quantitative meter of classical ancient Greek and Latin poetry. The unit is composed of syllables, the number of which is limited, with a few...

 for a complete list of the metrical feet and their names.)

Metrical systems


The number of metrical systems in English is not agreed upon. The four major types are: accentual verse
Accentual verse
Accentual verse has a fixed number of stresses per line or stanza regardless of the number of syllables that are present. It is common in languages that are stress-timed, such as English—as opposed to syllabic verse, which is common in syllable-timed languages, such as French.- Children's poetry...

, accentual-syllabic verse
Accentual-syllabic verse
Accentual-syllabic verse is an extension of accentual verse which fixes both the number of stresses and syllables within a line or stanza. Accentual-syllabic verse is highly regular and therefore easily scannable...

, syllabic verse
Syllabic verse
Syllabic verse is a poetic form having a fixed number of syllables per line regardless of the number of stresses that are present. It is common in languages that are syllable-timed, such as Japanese or modern French or Finnish — as opposed to stress-timed languages such as English, in which...

 and quantitative verse. The alliterative verse
Alliterative verse
In prosody, alliterative verse is a form of verse that uses alliteration as the principal structuring device to unify lines of poetry, as opposed to other devices such as rhyme. The most commonly studied traditions of alliterative verse are those found in the oldest literature of many Germanic...

 of Old English could also be added to this list, or included as a special type of accentual verse. Accentual verse focuses on the number of stresses in a line, while ignoring the number of offbeats and syllables; accentual-syllabic verse focuses on regulating both the number of stresses and the total number of syllables in a line; syllabic verse only counts the number of syllables in a line; quantitative verse regulates the patterns of long and short syllables (this sort of verse is often considered alien to English). It is to be noted, however, that the use of foreign metres in English is all but exceptional.

Frequently-used Metres


The most frequently encountered metre of English verse is the iambic pentameter
Iambic pentameter
Iambic pentameter is a commonly used metrical line in traditional verse and verse drama. The term describes the particular rhythm that the words establish in that line. That rhythm is measured in small groups of syllables; these small groups of syllables are called "feet"...

, in which the metrical norm is five iambic feet per line, though metrical substitution is common and rhythmic variations practically inexhaustible. John Milton
John Milton
John Milton was an English poet, polemicist, a scholarly man of letters, and a civil servant for the Commonwealth of England under Oliver Cromwell...

's Paradise Lost
Paradise Lost
Paradise Lost is an epic poem in blank verse by the 17th-century English poet John Milton. It was originally published in 1667 in ten books, with a total of over ten thousand individual lines of verse...

, most sonnet
Sonnet
A sonnet is one of several forms of poetry that originate in Europe, mainly Provence and Italy. A sonnet commonly has 14 lines. The term "sonnet" derives from the Occitan word sonet and the Italian word sonetto, both meaning "little song" or "little sound"...

s, and much else besides in English are written in iambic pentameter. Lines of unrhymed iambic pentameter are commonly known as blank verse
Blank verse
Blank verse is poetry written in unrhymed iambic pentameter. It has been described as "probably the most common and influential form that English poetry has taken since the sixteenth century" and Paul Fussell has claimed that "about three-quarters of all English poetry is in blank verse."The first...

. Blank verse in the English language is most famously represented in the plays of William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

 and the great works of Milton, though Tennyson
Alfred Tennyson, 1st Baron Tennyson
Alfred Tennyson, 1st Baron Tennyson, FRS was Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom during much of Queen Victoria's reign and remains one of the most popular poets in the English language....

 (Ulysses
Ulysses (poem)
"Ulysses" is a poem in blank verse by the Victorian poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson , written in 1833 and published in 1842 in Tennyson's well-received second volume of poetry. An oft-quoted poem, it is popularly used to illustrate the dramatic monologue form...

, The Princess
The Princess (poem)
The Princess is a serio-comic blank verse narrative poem, written by Alfred Tennyson, published in 1847. Tennyson was Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom from 1850 to 1892 and remains one of the most popular English poets....

) and Wordsworth
William Wordsworth
William Wordsworth was a major English Romantic poet who, with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, helped to launch the Romantic Age in English literature with the 1798 joint publication Lyrical Ballads....

 (The Prelude
The Prelude
The Prelude; or, Growth of a Poet's Mind is an autobiographical, "philosophical" poem in blank verse by the English poet William Wordsworth. Wordsworth wrote the first version of the poem when he was 28, and worked over the rest of it for his long life without publishing it...

) also make notable use of it.

A rhymed pair of lines of iambic pentameter make a heroic couplet
Heroic couplet
A heroic couplet is a traditional form for English poetry, commonly used for epic and narrative poetry; it refers to poems constructed from a sequence of rhyming pairs of iambic pentameter lines. The rhyme is always masculine. Use of the heroic couplet was first pioneered by Geoffrey Chaucer in...

, a verse form which was used so often in the eighteenth century that it is now used mostly for humorous effect (although see Pale Fire
Pale Fire
Pale Fire is a novel by Vladimir Nabokov. The novel is presented as a 999-line poem titled "Pale Fire", written by the fictional John Shade, with a foreword and lengthy commentary by a neighbor and academic colleague of the poet. Together these elements form a narrative in which both authors are...

 for a non-trivial case). The most famous writers of heroic couplets are Dryden
John Dryden
John Dryden was an influential English poet, literary critic, translator, and playwright who dominated the literary life of Restoration England to such a point that the period came to be known in literary circles as the Age of Dryden.Walter Scott called him "Glorious John." He was made Poet...

 and Pope
Alexander Pope
Alexander Pope was an 18th-century English poet, best known for his satirical verse and for his translation of Homer. He is the third-most frequently quoted writer in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, after Shakespeare and Tennyson...

.

Another important metre in English is the ballad metre, also called the "common metre", which is a four-line stanza, with two pairs of a line of iambic tetrameter
Iambic tetrameter
Iambic tetrameter is a meter in poetry. It refers to a line consisting of four iambic feet. The word "tetrameter" simply means that there are four feet in the line; iambic tetrameter is a line comprising four iambs...

 followed by a line of iambic trimeter
Iambic trimeter
iambic trimeter is a meter of poetry consisting of three iambic units per line.In ancient Greek poetry, iambic trimeter is a quantitative meter, in which a line consisted of three iambic metra and each metron consisted of two iambi...

; the rhyme
Rhyme
A rhyme is a repetition of similar sounds in two or more words and is most often used in poetry and songs. The word "rhyme" may also refer to a short poem, such as a rhyming couplet or other brief rhyming poem such as nursery rhymes.-Etymology:...

s usually fall on the lines of trimeter, although in many instances the tetrameter also rhymes. This is the metre of most of the Border and Scots or English ballads. In hymn
Hymn
A hymn is a type of song, usually religious, specifically written for the purpose of praise, adoration or prayer, and typically addressed to a deity or deities, or to a prominent figure or personification...

ody it is called the "common metre", as it is the most common of the named hymn metres used to pair many hymn lyrics with melodies, such as Amazing Grace
Amazing Grace
"Amazing Grace" is a Christian hymn with words written by the English poet and clergyman John Newton , published in 1779. With a message that forgiveness and redemption are possible regardless of the sins people commit and that the soul can be delivered from despair through the mercy of God,...

:
Amazing Grace! how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me;
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.


Emily Dickinson
Emily Dickinson
Emily Elizabeth Dickinson was an American poet. Born in Amherst, Massachusetts, to a successful family with strong community ties, she lived a mostly introverted and reclusive life...

 is famous for her frequent use of ballad metre:
Great streets of silence led away
To neighborhoods of pause —
Here was no notice — no dissent —
No universe — no laws.


French


In French poetry
French poetry
French poetry is a category of French literature. It may include Francophone poetry composed outside France and poetry written in other languages of France.-French prosody and poetics:...

, metre is determined solely by the number of syllables in a line, because it is considered as less important than rhymes. A silent 'e' counts as a syllable before a consonant, but is elided before a vowel (where h aspiré counts as a consonant). At the end of a line, the "e" remains unelided but is hypermetrical (outside the count of syllables, like a feminine ending in English verse), in that case, the rhyme is also called "feminine", whereas it is called "masculine" in the other cases.

The most frequently encountered metre in Classical French poetry is the alexandrine
Alexandrine
An alexandrine is a line of poetic meter comprising 12 syllables. Alexandrines are common in the German literature of the Baroque period and in French poetry of the early modern and modern periods. Drama in English often used alexandrines before Marlowe and Shakespeare, by whom it was supplanted...

, composed of two hemistich
Hemistich
A hemistich is a half-line of verse, followed and preceded by a caesura, that makes up a single overall prosodic or verse unit. In Classical poetry, the hemistich is generally confined to drama. In Greek tragedy, characters exchanging clipped dialogue to suggest rapidity and drama would speak in...

es of six syllables each. Two famous alexandrines are
La fille de Minos et de Pasiphaë
(Jean Racine
Jean Racine
Jean Racine , baptismal name Jean-Baptiste Racine , was a French dramatist, one of the "Big Three" of 17th-century France , and one of the most important literary figures in the Western tradition...

)


(the daughter of Minos and Pasiphae), and
Waterloo ! Waterloo ! Waterloo ! Morne plaine!
(Victor Hugo
Victor Hugo
Victor-Marie Hugo was a Frenchpoet, playwright, novelist, essayist, visual artist, statesman, human rights activist and exponent of the Romantic movement in France....

)


(Waterloo! Waterloo! Waterloo! Gloomy plain!)

Classical French poetry also had a complex set of rules for rhymes that goes beyond how words merely sound. These are usually taken into account when describing the metre of a poem.

Spanish


In Spanish poetry
Spanish poetry
Spanish poetry is the poetic tradition of Spain. It may include elements of Spanish literature, and literatures written in languages of Spain other than Castilian, such as Catalan literature....

 the metre is determined by the number of syllables the verse has. Still it is the phonetic accent in the last word of the verse that decides the final count of the line. If the accent of the final word is at the last syllable, then the poetic rule states that one syllable shall be added to the actual count of syllables in the said line, thus having a higher number of poetic syllables than the number of grammatical syllables. If the accent lies on the second to last syllable of the last word in the verse, then the final count of poetic syllables will be the same as the grammatical number of syllables. Furthermore, if the accent lies on the third to last syllable, then one syllable is subtracted from the actual count, having then less poetic syllables than grammatical syllables.

Spanish poetry uses poetic licenses, unique to Romance languages, to change the number of syllables by manipulating mainly the vowels in the line.

Regarding these poetic licenses one must consider three kinds of phenomena: (1) syneresis, (2) umlaut and (3) hiatus

1. Syneresis. It is the phenomenon that occurs when inside a word has two vowels together are generally not diphthong: poe-ta, loyal-ty.

2. Umlaut. It is the opposite phenomenon of syneresis because it consists of separate two vowels which are usually diphthong: su-to-see, ru-i-ing.

3. Hiatus. It is the opposite phenomenon to pronounce sinalefa separately because it consists of two vowels, although belonging to different words, they should act together for sinalefa: mu-si-tion of a-the. Normally in this example would be five syllables of poetry, but the poet used the hiatus for the six syllables that the rhythm of his verse needs. For example:
Cuando salí de Collores,
fue en una jaquita baya,
por un sendero entre mayas,
arropás de cundiamores...

This stanza from Valle de Collores by Luis Llorens Torres
Luis Lloréns Torres
Luis Llorens Torres , was a Puerto Rican poet, playwright, and politician. He was an advocate for the independence of Puerto Rico.-Early years:...

, uses eight poetic syllables. Given that all words at the end of each line have their phonetic accent on the second to last syllables, no syllables in the final count is either added or subtracted. Still in the second and third verse the grammatical count of syllables is nine. Poetic licenses permit the union of two vowels that are next to each other but in different syllables and count them as one. "Fue en..." has actually two syllables, but applying this license both vowels unite and form only one, giving the final count of eight syllables. "Sendero entre..." has five grammatical syllables, but uniting the "o" from "sendero" and the first "e" from "entre", gives only four syllables, permitting it to have eight syllables in the verse as well. This license is called a synalepha
Synalepha
A synalepha or synaloepha is the merging of two syllables into one, especially when it causes two words to be pronounced as one.The original meaning in Greek is more general than modern usage, and also includes coalescence of vowels within a word...

 (Spanish: sinalefa).
There are many types of licenses, used either to add or subtract syllables, that may be applied when needed after taking in consideration the poetic rules of the last word. Yet all have in common that they only manipulate vowels that are close to each other and not interrupted by consonants.

Some common metres in Spanish verse are:
  • Septenary: A line with the seven poetic syllables
  • Octosyllable
    Octosyllable
    The octosyllable or octosyllabic verse is a line of verse with eight syllables. It is equivalent to tetrameter verse in iambs or trochees in languages with a stress accent. It is often used in French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese poetry...

    : A line with eight poetic syllables. This metre is commonly used in romances, narrative poems similar to English ballads, and in most proverbs.
  • Hendecasyllable
    Hendecasyllable
    The hendecasyllable is a line of eleven syllables, used in Ancient Greek and Latin quantitative verse as well as in medieval and modern European poetry.-In quantitative verse:...

    : A line with eleven poetic syllables. This metre plays a similar role to pentameter in English verse. It is commonly used in sonnets, among other things.
  • Alexandrine
    Alexandrine
    An alexandrine is a line of poetic meter comprising 12 syllables. Alexandrines are common in the German literature of the Baroque period and in French poetry of the early modern and modern periods. Drama in English often used alexandrines before Marlowe and Shakespeare, by whom it was supplanted...

    : A line consisting of fourteen syllables, commonly separated by two hemistiches of seven syllables each (In Anglo-Saxon or French contexts this term refers to twelve syllables lines, but not in a Spanish context).

Italian


In Italian poetry, metre is determined solely by the position of the last accent in a line. Syllables are enumerated with respect to a verse which ends with a paroxytone, so that a Septenary (having seven syllables) is defined as a verse whose last accent falls on the sixth syllable: it may so contain eight syllables (Ei fu. Siccome immobile) or just six (la terra al nunzio sta). Moreover, when a word ends with a vowel and the next one starts with a vowel, they are considered to be in the same syllable: so Gli anni e i giorni consists of only four syllables ("Gli an" "ni e i" "gior" "ni"). Even-syllabic verses have a fixed stress pattern. Because of the mostly trochaic
Trochee
A trochee or choree, choreus, is a metrical foot used in formal poetry consisting of a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed one...

 nature of the Italian language, verses with an even number of syllables are far easier to compose, and the Novenary is usually regarded as the most difficult verse.

Some common metres in Italian verse are:
  • Sexenary: A line whose last stressed syllabe is on the fifth, with a fixed stress on the second one as well (Al Re Travicello / Piovuto ai ranocchi, Giusti)
  • Septenary: A line whose last stressed syllable is the sixth one.
  • Octosyllable
    Octosyllable
    The octosyllable or octosyllabic verse is a line of verse with eight syllables. It is equivalent to tetrameter verse in iambs or trochees in languages with a stress accent. It is often used in French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese poetry...

    : A line whose last accent falls on the seventh syllable. More often than not, the secondary accents fall on the first, third and fifth syllable, especially in nursery rhymes for which this metre is particularly well-suited.
  • Hendecasyllable
    Hendecasyllable
    The hendecasyllable is a line of eleven syllables, used in Ancient Greek and Latin quantitative verse as well as in medieval and modern European poetry.-In quantitative verse:...

    : A line whose last accent falls on the tenth syllable. It therefore usually consists of eleven syllables; there are various kinds of possible accentations . It is used in sonnets, in ottava rima, and in many other works. The Divine Comedy
    The Divine Comedy
    The Divine Comedy is an epic poem written by Dante Alighieri between 1308 and his death in 1321. It is widely considered the preeminent work of Italian literature, and is seen as one of the greatest works of world literature...

    , in particular, is composed entirely of hendecasyllables, whose main stress pattern is 4th and 10th syllable.

Ottoman Turkish


In the Ottoman Turkish language
Ottoman Turkish language
The Ottoman Turkish language or Ottoman language is the variety of the Turkish language that was used for administrative and literary purposes in the Ottoman Empire. It borrows extensively from Arabic and Persian, and was written in a variant of the Perso-Arabic script...

, the structures of the poetic foot (تفعل tef'ile) and of poetic metre (وزن vezin) were indirectly borrowed from the Arabic poetic tradition
Arabic poetry
Arabic poetry is the earliest form of Arabic literature. Present knowledge of poetry in Arabic dates from the 6th century, but oral poetry is believed to predate that. Arabic poetry is categorized into two main types, rhymed, or measured, and prose, with the former greatly preceding the latter...

 through the medium of the Persian language
Persian language
Persian is an Iranian language within the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages. It is primarily spoken in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and countries which historically came under Persian influence...

.

Ottoman poetry, also known as Dîvân poetry, was generally written in quantitative, mora-timed metre. The moras
Mora (linguistics)
Mora is a unit in phonology that determines syllable weight, which in some languages determines stress or timing. As with many technical linguistic terms, the definition of a mora varies. Perhaps the most succinct working definition was provided by the American linguist James D...

, or syllables, are divided into three basic types:
  • Open, or light
    Syllable weight
    In linguistics, syllable weight is the concept that syllables pattern together according to the number and/or duration of segments in the rime. In classical poetry, both Greek and Latin, distinctions of syllable weight were fundamental to the meter of the line....

    , syllables (açık hece) consist of either a short vowel
    Vowel
    In phonetics, a vowel is a sound in spoken language, such as English ah! or oh! , pronounced with an open vocal tract so that there is no build-up of air pressure at any point above the glottis. This contrasts with consonants, such as English sh! , where there is a constriction or closure at some...

     alone, or a consonant
    Consonant
    In articulatory phonetics, a consonant is a speech sound that is articulated with complete or partial closure of the vocal tract. Examples are , pronounced with the lips; , pronounced with the front of the tongue; , pronounced with the back of the tongue; , pronounced in the throat; and ,...

     followed by a short vowel
    • Examples: a-dam ("man"); zir-ve ("summit, peak")
  • Closed, or heavy, syllables (kapalı hece) consist of either a long vowel alone, a consonant followed by a long vowel, or a short vowel followed by a consonant
    • Examples: Â-dem ("Adam
      Adam and Eve
      Adam and Eve were, according to the Genesis creation narratives, the first human couple to inhabit Earth, created by YHWH, the God of the ancient Hebrews...

      "); -fir ("non-Muslim"); at ("horse")
  • Lengthened, or superheavy, syllables (meddli hece) count as one closed plus one open syllable and consist of a vowel followed by a consonant cluster
    Consonant cluster
    In linguistics, a consonant cluster is a group of consonants which have no intervening vowel. In English, for example, the groups and are consonant clusters in the word splits....

    , or a long vowel followed by a consonant
    • Examples: kürk ("fur"); âb ("water")


In writing out a poem's poetic metre, open syllables are symbolized by "." and closed syllables are symbolized by "–". From the different syllable types, a total of sixteen different types of poetic foot—the majority of which are either three or four syllables in length—are constructed, which are named and scanned as follows:
      fa‘ (–) fe ul (. –) fa‘ lün (– –) fe i lün (. . –)
      fâ i lün (– . –) fe û lün (. – –) mef’ û lü (– – .) fe i lâ tün (. . – –)
      fâ i lâ tün (– . – –) fâ i lâ tü (– . – .) me fâ i lün (. – . –) me fâ’ î lün (. – – –)
      me fâ î lü (. – – .) müf te i lün (– . . –) müs tef i lün (– – . –) mü te fâ i lün (. . – . –)

These individual poetic feet are then combined in a number of different ways, most often with four feet per line, so as to give the poetic metre for a line of verse. Some of the most commonly used metres are the following:
  • me fâ’ î lün / me fâ’ î lün / me fâ’ î lün / me fâ’ î lün
    . – – – / . – – – / . – – – / . – – –
          Ezelden şāh-ı ‘aşḳuñ bende-i fermānıyüz cānā
    Maḥabbet mülkinüñ sulţān-ı ‘ālī-şānıyüz cānā
    Oh beloved, since the origin we have been the slaves of the shah of love
    Oh beloved, we are the famed sultan of the heart's domain

Bâkî
Bâkî
Bâḳî was the pen name of the Ottoman Turkish poet Mahmud Abdülbâkî...

 (1526–1600)
  • me fâ i lün / fe i lâ tün / me fâ i lün / fe i lün
    . – . – / . . – – / . – . – / . . –
          Ḥaţā’ o nerkis-i şehlādadır sözümde degil
    Egerçi her süḥanim bī-bedel beġendiremem
    Though I may fail to please with my matchless verse
    The fault lies in those languid eyes and not my words

—Şeyh Gâlib (1757–1799)
  • fâ i lâ tün / fâ i lâ tün / fâ i lâ tün / fâ i lün
    – . – – / – . – – / – . – – / – . –
          Bir şeker ḥand ile bezm-i şevķa cām ettiñ beni
    Nīm ṣun peymāneyi sāḳī tamām ettiñ beni
    At the gathering of desire you made me a wine-cup with your sugar smile
    Oh saki, give me only half a cup of wine, you've made me drunk enough

Nedîm
Nedîm
Ahmet Nedîm Efendi was the pen name of one of the most celebrated Ottoman poets. He achieved his greatest fame during the reign of Ahmed III, the so-called Tulip Era from 1718 to 1730. Both his life and his work are often seen as being representative of the relaxed attitude and European...

 (1681?–1730)
  • fe i lâ tün / fe i lâ tün / fe i lâ tün / fe i lün
    . . – – / . . – – / . . – – / . . –
          Men ne ḥācet ki ḳılam derd-i dilüm yāra ‘ayān
    Ḳamu derd-i dilümi yār bilübdür bilübem
    What use in revealing my sickness of heart to my love
    I know my love knows the whole of my sickness of heart

Fuzûlî
Fuzûlî
Fużūlī was the pen name of the Azerbaijani or the Bayat branch of Oghuz Turkish and Ottoman poet, writer and thinker Muhammad bin Suleyman...

 (1483?–1556)
  • mef’ û lü / me fâ î lü / me fâ î lü / fâ û lün
    – – . / . – – . / . – – . / – – .
          Şevḳuz ki dem-i bülbül-i şeydāda nihānuz
    Ḥūnuz ki dil-i ġonçe-i ḥamrāda nihānuz
    We are desire hidden in the love-crazed call of the nightingale
    We are blood hidden in the crimson heart of the unbloomed rose

Neşâtî
Nesâtî
Neşāṭī was the pen name of an Ottoman poet. He was a Sufi, or Islamic mystic, of the Mevlevî order, and his poetry is often considered exemplary of the "Indian style" of Ottoman poetry, a movement which flourished beginning in the 17th century.-Life:Though one source claims that Neşâtî's real...

 (?–1674)

Brazilian Portuguese


Metres were extensively explored in Brazilian literature, notably during Parnassianism. The most notable ones were:
  • Redondilha menor: composed of 5 syllables.
  • Redondilha maior: composed of 7 syllables.
  • Decasyllable
    Decasyllable
    Decasyllable is a poetic meter of ten syllables used in poetic traditions of syllabic verse...

     (decassílabo): composed of 10 syllables. Mostly used in Parnassian sonnet
    Sonnet
    A sonnet is one of several forms of poetry that originate in Europe, mainly Provence and Italy. A sonnet commonly has 14 lines. The term "sonnet" derives from the Occitan word sonet and the Italian word sonetto, both meaning "little song" or "little sound"...

    s.
  • Heroic (heróico): stresses on the sixth and tenth syllables.
  • Sapphic
    Sapphic stanza
    The Sapphic stanza, named after Sappho, is an Aeolic verse form spanning four lines ....

     (sáfico): stresses on the fourth, eighth and tenth syllables.
  • Martelo: stresses on the third, sixth and tenth syllables.
  • Gaita galega or moinheira: stresses on the fourth, seventh and tenth syllables.
  • Hendecasyllable
    Hendecasyllable
    The hendecasyllable is a line of eleven syllables, used in Ancient Greek and Latin quantitative verse as well as in medieval and modern European poetry.-In quantitative verse:...

     (dodecassílabo): composed of 12 syllables.
  • Alexandrine
    Alexandrine
    An alexandrine is a line of poetic meter comprising 12 syllables. Alexandrines are common in the German literature of the Baroque period and in French poetry of the early modern and modern periods. Drama in English often used alexandrines before Marlowe and Shakespeare, by whom it was supplanted...

     (alexandrino): divided into two hemistich
    Hemistich
    A hemistich is a half-line of verse, followed and preceded by a caesura, that makes up a single overall prosodic or verse unit. In Classical poetry, the hemistich is generally confined to drama. In Greek tragedy, characters exchanging clipped dialogue to suggest rapidity and drama would speak in...

    es.
  • Barbarian (bárbaro): composed of 13 or more syllables.
  • Lucasian (lucasiano): composed of 16 feet, divided into two hemistich
    Hemistich
    A hemistich is a half-line of verse, followed and preceded by a caesura, that makes up a single overall prosodic or verse unit. In Classical poetry, the hemistich is generally confined to drama. In Greek tragedy, characters exchanging clipped dialogue to suggest rapidity and drama would speak in...

    es of 8 syllables each.

History



Metrical texts are first attested in early Indo-European languages
Indo-European languages
The Indo-European languages are a family of several hundred related languages and dialects, including most major current languages of Europe, the Iranian plateau, and South Asia and also historically predominant in Anatolia...

. The earliest known unambiguously metrical texts, and at the same time the only metrical texts with a claim of dating to the Late Bronze Age, are the hymns of the Rigveda
Rigveda
The Rigveda is an ancient Indian sacred collection of Vedic Sanskrit hymns...

. That the texts of the Ancient Near East
Ancient Near East
The ancient Near East was the home of early civilizations within a region roughly corresponding to the modern Middle East: Mesopotamia , ancient Egypt, ancient Iran The ancient Near East was the home of early civilizations within a region roughly corresponding to the modern Middle East: Mesopotamia...

 (Sumerian, Egyptian or Semitic) should not exhibit metre is surprising, and may be partly due to the nature of Bronze Age writing. There were, in fact, attempts to reconstruct metrical qualities of the poetic portions of the Hebrew Bible
Hebrew Bible
The Hebrew Bible is a term used by biblical scholars outside of Judaism to refer to the Tanakh , a canonical collection of Jewish texts, and the common textual antecedent of the several canonical editions of the Christian Old Testament...

, e.g. by Gustav Bickell
Gustav Bickell
Gustav Bickell was a German orientalist. He was born in Kassel, and died in Vienna.His father, Johann Wilhelm Bickell, was professor of canon law at the University of Marburg, and died as minister of justice of Hesse-Kassel...

 or Julius Ley, but they remained inconclusive (see Biblical poetry
Biblical poetry
The ancient Hebrews perceived that there were poetical portions in their sacred texts, as shown by their entitling as songs or chants such passages as Exodus 15:1-19 and Numbers 21:17-20; and a song or chant is, according to the primary meaning of the term, poetry.- Rhyme :It is often stated that...

). Early Iron Age metrical poetry is found in the Iranian Avesta
Avesta
The Avesta is the primary collection of sacred texts of Zoroastrianism, composed in the Avestan language.-Early transmission:The texts of the Avesta — which are all in the Avestan language — were composed over the course of several hundred years. The most important portion, the Gathas,...

 and in the Greek works attributed to Homer
Homer
In the Western classical tradition Homer , is the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, and is revered as the greatest ancient Greek epic poet. These epics lie at the beginning of the Western canon of literature, and have had an enormous influence on the history of literature.When he lived is...

 and Hesiod
Hesiod
Hesiod was a Greek oral poet generally thought by scholars to have been active between 750 and 650 BC, around the same time as Homer. His is the first European poetry in which the poet regards himself as a topic, an individual with a distinctive role to play. Ancient authors credited him and...

.
Latin verse
Latin poetry
The history of Latin poetry can be understood as the adaptation of Greek models. The verse comedies of Plautus are the earliest Latin literature that has survived, composed around 205-184 BC, yet the start of Latin literature is conventionally dated to the first performance of a play in verse by a...

 survives from the Old Latin
Old Latin
Old Latin refers to the Latin language in the period before the age of Classical Latin; that is, all Latin before 75 BC...

 period (ca. 2nd c. BC), in the Saturnian metre
Saturnian (poetry)
Saturnian meter or verse is an old Latin and Italic poetic form, of which the principles of versification have become obscure. Only 132 complete uncontroversial verses survive. 95 literary verses and partial fragments have been preserved as quotations in later grammatical writings, as well as 37...

. Persian poetry arises in the Sassanid era. Tamil
Tamil language
Tamil is a Dravidian language spoken predominantly by Tamil people of the Indian subcontinent. It has official status in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu and in the Indian union territory of Pondicherry. Tamil is also an official language of Sri Lanka and Singapore...

 poetry of the early centuries AD may be the earliest known non-Indo-European

Medieval poetry
Medieval poetry
Because most of what we have was written down by clerics, much of extant medieval poetry is religious. The chief exception is the work of the troubadours and the minnesänger, whose primary innovation was the ideal of courtly love. Among the most famous of secular poetry is Carmina Burana, a...

 was metrical without exception, spanning traditions as diverse as European Minnesang
Minnesang
Minnesang was the tradition of lyric and song writing in Germany which flourished in the 12th century and continued into the 14th century. People who wrote and performed Minnesang are known as Minnesingers . The name derives from the word minne, Middle High German for love which was their main...

, Trouvère
Trouvère
Trouvère , sometimes spelled trouveur , is the Northern French form of the word trobador . It refers to poet-composers who were roughly contemporary with and influenced by the troubadours but who composed their works in the northern dialects of France...

 or Bardic poetry
Bardic poetry
Bardic Poetry refers to the writings of poets trained in the Bardic Schools of Ireland and the Gaelic parts of Scotland, as they existed down to about the middle of the 17th century, or, in Scotland, the early 18th century. Most of the texts preserved are in Middle Irish or in early Modern Irish,...

, Classical Persian and Sanskrit poetry, Tang dynasty
Tang Dynasty
The Tang Dynasty was an imperial dynasty of China preceded by the Sui Dynasty and followed by the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period. It was founded by the Li family, who seized power during the decline and collapse of the Sui Empire...

 Chinese poetry
Chinese poetry
Chinese poetry is poetry written, spoken, or chanted in the Chinese language, which includes various versions of Chinese language, including Classical Chinese, Standard Chinese, Mandarin Chinese, Cantonese, Yue Chinese, as well as many other historical and vernacular varieties of the Chinese language...

 or the Japanese
Japanese poetry
Japanese poets first encountered Chinese poetry during the Tang Dynasty. It took them several hundred years to digest the foreign impact, make it a part of their culture and merge it with their literary tradition in their mother tongue, and begin to develop the diversity of their native poetry. For...

 Heian period
Heian period
The is the last division of classical Japanese history, running from 794 to 1185. The period is named after the capital city of Heian-kyō, or modern Kyōto. It is the period in Japanese history when Buddhism, Taoism and other Chinese influences were at their height...

 Man'yōshū. Renaissance and Early Modern poetry in Europe is characterized by a return to templates of Classical Antiquity, a tradition begun by Petrarca
Petrarch
Francesco Petrarca , known in English as Petrarch, was an Italian scholar, poet and one of the earliest humanists. Petrarch is often called the "Father of Humanism"...

's generation and continued into the time of Shakespeare and Milton
John Milton
John Milton was an English poet, polemicist, a scholarly man of letters, and a civil servant for the Commonwealth of England under Oliver Cromwell...

.

Dissent


Not all poets accept the idea that metre is a fundamental part of poetry. 20th-century American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 poets Marianne Moore
Marianne Moore
Marianne Moore was an American Modernist poet and writer noted for her irony and wit.- Life :Moore was born in Kirkwood, Missouri, in the manse of the Presbyterian church where her maternal grandfather, John Riddle Warner, served as pastor. She was the daughter of mechanical engineer and inventor...

, William Carlos Williams
William Carlos Williams
William Carlos Williams was an American poet closely associated with modernism and Imagism. He was also a pediatrician and general practitioner of medicine, having graduated from the University of Pennsylvania...

, and Robinson Jeffers
Robinson Jeffers
John Robinson Jeffers was an American poet, known for his work about the central California coast. Most of Jeffers' poetry was written in classic narrative and epic form, but today he is also known for his short verse, and considered an icon of the environmental movement.-Life:Jeffers was born in...

, were poets who believed that metre was imposed into poetry by man, not a fundamental part of its nature. In an essay titled "Robinson Jeffers, & The Metric Fallacy" Dan Schneider
Dan Schneider (writer)
Dan Schneider is a United States poet, critic, film critic, essayist, and fiction writer best known for his criticism and literary website Cosmoetica. Schneider discovered poetry as a young adult, and has since published his poetry and essays in a number of magazines and newspapers...

 echoes Jeffers' sentiments: "What if someone actually said to you that all music was composed of just 2 notes? Or if someone claimed that there were just 2 colors in creation? Now, ponder if such a thing were true. Imagine the clunkiness & mechanicality of such music. Think of the visual arts devoid of not just color, but sepia tones, & even shades of gray." Jeffers called his technique "rolling stresses".

Moore went even further than Jeffers, openly declaring her poetry was written in syllabic form, and wholly denying metre. These syllabic lines from her famous poem "Poetry" illustrate her contempt for metre, and other poetic tools (even the syllabic pattern of this poem does not remain perfectly consistent):
nor is it valid
to discriminate against "business documents and

school-books": all these phenomena are important. One must make a distinction
however: when dragged into prominence by half poets, the result is not poetry


Williams tried to form poetry whose subject matter was centered on the lives of common people. He came up with the concept of the variable foot. Williams spurned traditional metre in most of his poems, preferring what he called "colloquial idioms." Another poet that turned his back on traditional concepts of metre was Britain's Gerard Manley Hopkins
Gerard Manley Hopkins
Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J. was an English poet, Roman Catholic convert, and Jesuit priest, whose posthumous 20th-century fame established him among the leading Victorian poets...

. Hopkins' major innovation was what he called sprung rhythm
Sprung rhythm
Sprung rhythm is a poetic rhythm designed to imitate the rhythm of natural speech. It is constructed from feet in which the first syllable is stressed and may be followed by a variable number of unstressed syllables...

. He claimed most poetry was written in this older rhythmic structure inherited from the Norman side of the English literary heritage, based on repeating groups of two or three syllables, with the stressed syllable falling in the same place on each repetition. Sprung rhythm is structured around feet with a variable number of syllables, generally between one and four syllables per foot, with the stress always falling on the first syllable in a foot.

See also

  • Foot (prosody)
    Foot (prosody)
    The foot is the basic metrical unit that generates a line of verse in most Western traditions of poetry, including English accentual-syllabic verse and the quantitative meter of classical ancient Greek and Latin poetry. The unit is composed of syllables, the number of which is limited, with a few...

  • Prosody (Latin)
    Prosody (Latin)
    Latin prosody deals with the science of Latin versification and its laws of meter. This article provides an overview of those laws as practised by Latin poets in the late Roman republic and early Roman empire, with verses by Catullus, Horace and Virgil as models...

  • Line (poetry)
    Line (poetry)
    A line is a unit of language into which a poem or play is divided, which operates on principles which are distinct from and not necessarily coincident with grammatical structures, such as the sentence or clauses in sentences...

  • List of classical metres
  • Metre(music)
  • Francisco de Quevedo
    Francisco de Quevedo
    Francisco Gómez de Quevedo y Santibáñez Villegas was a Spanish nobleman, politician and writer of the Baroque era. Along with his lifelong rival, Luis de Góngora, Quevedo was one of the most prominent Spanish poets of the age. His style is characterized by what was called conceptismo...