is a poetic rhythm designed to imitate the rhythm of natural speech. It is constructed from feet
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...
in which the first syllable
A syllable is a unit of organization for a sequence of speech sounds. For example, the word water is composed of two syllables: wa and ter. A syllable is typically made up of a syllable nucleus with optional initial and final margins .Syllables are often considered the phonological "building...
is stressed and may be followed by a variable number of unstressed syllables. The British
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...
poet 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...
claimed to have discovered this previously-unnamed poetic rhythm in the natural patterns of English
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...
in folk songs, spoken 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...
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"...
John Milton was an English poet, polemicist, a scholarly man of letters, and a civil servant for the Commonwealth of England under Oliver Cromwell...
, et al.
He used diacritic
A diacritic is a glyph added to a letter, or basic glyph. The term derives from the Greek διακριτικός . Diacritic is both an adjective and a noun, whereas diacritical is only an adjective. Some diacritical marks, such as the acute and grave are often called accents...
al marks on syllables to indicate which should be drawn out (acute e.g. á ) and which uttered quickly (grave e.g. è ).
Some critics believe he merely coined a name for poems with mixed, irregular feet, like free verse
Free verse is a form of poetry that refrains from consistent meter patterns, rhyme, or any other musical pattern.Poets have explained that free verse, despite its freedom, is not free. Free Verse displays some elements of form...
. However, while sprung rhythm allows for an indeterminate number of syllables to a foot, Hopkins was very careful to keep the number of feet he had per line consistent across each individual work, a trait that free verse does not share. Sprung rhythm may be classed as a form of 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...
, due to its being stress-timed, rather than syllable-timed, and while sprung rhythm did not become a popular literary form, Hopkins's advocacy did assist in a revival of accentual verse more generally.
Glory be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trades, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spáre, strange;
Whatever is fickle, frecklèd (who knows how?)
With swíft, slów; sweet, sóur; adázzle, dím;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is pást change:
—Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889)
A system of scansion is a way to mark the metrical patterns of a line of poetry. In classical poetry, these patterns are based on the different lengths of each syllable, and in English poetry, they are based on the different levels of stress placed on each syllable. In both cases, the meter often...
|Glory|be to|God for|dappled|things—
For|skies of|couple-|colour as a|brinded|cow;
For|rose-moles|all in|stipple upon|trout that|swim;
|Landscape|plotted and|pieced—fold,|fallow, and|plough;
And|all|trades, their|gear and|tackle and|trim.
|All things|counter, o|riginal,|spare,|strange;
What|ever is|fickle,|freckled|(who knows|how?)
With|swift,|slow; sweet,|sour; a|dazzle,|dim;
He|fathers-|forth whose|beauty is|past|change: