A Poetic Terminology Glossary In English poetry, the most common forms of foot are the iamb, trochee, dactyl, anapest, spondee, and pyrrhic (two unstressed syllables). These names are often used interchangeably, but it is important to note that not all combinations of stressed and unstressed syllables make a good poem. For example, a spondee (stress on first and third syllables) with an anapestic (unstressed syllable at the end of a line) would be unusual if not impossible to understand.
The term "foot" comes from the Greek word for "step" or "stride": peras. As in many languages, the combination of stressed and unstressed syllables determines how people sound when they read or recite poems. Stress marks placed on the page show which parts of the poem are likely to be spoken slowly and which words or lines should be held steady so that they do not get lost in noise: the drumbeat or melody while reading music; the voice while singing.
In English poetry, the most common form of foot is the iamb. It consists of one stressed syllable followed by one unstressed syllable.
A foot generally has one stressed syllable and one unstressed syllable. Therefore, the foot consists of one vowel plus one consonant. Since each letter in the English alphabet can represent more than one sound, a single word can contain several feet.
Syllables are the basic unit of measurement in poetry. A line of poetry will usually have a fixed number of syllables. Sometimes two or more lines may consist of identical or similar syllabic counts to show parallelism or contrast between them. A poem with an odd number of syllables is called tercet/triplet/tripody while one with an even number of syllables is called quatrain/quadrangle/quadruplet.
There are about as many different ways of counting syllables in English as there are poets and prose writers. Some count by pairs, some triplets, and some even groups of four. The most common system was probably established in the 17th century by John Dryden and later refined by William Alexander (who added a special symbol for the long "a" sound).
In poem, the rhythmical pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables. Accentual-syllabic meter is the most common in English poetry. Rising meter is made up of iambs and anapests (one or two unstressed syllables followed by a stressed one) while falling meter consists of dactyls (three stressed syllables) and spondees (two stressed and two unstressed syllables).
Stressed and unstressed syllables are called heavy and light syllables, respectively.
In English, most words contain equal numbers of heavy and light syllables. However, when light syllables become enjambed (i.e., connected to each other as a group), the result is a heavy syllable: "mountain" and "mystery". On the other hand, when heavy syllables are put together they form a light unit: "ballroom" and "obey".
However, not all light syllables can be enjambed. For example, "father" and "mother" are both composed of four letters, but only one of them can be an enjambment: "father". The other three letters are light sounds (or "silences") that help create the melody of the word. These three letters make up what is called a "heavy syllable".
Similarly, not all heavy syllables can be disjoined.
As a result, pentameter is a poetic line composed of five metrical feet, or five sets of unstressed and stressed syllables. An example of a pentameter verse sentence is "The rain drops hit the ground."
Iambic pentameter has been used in English poetry since the early 15th century. The first known use of it in a published work was in 1450 by William Caxton at the beginning of his book Le Roman de la Rose; this is also the earliest evidence of any kind of standardized length for a poem in English.
It is based on the classical model of pentameter, which includes four kinds of lines: an iambic pentameter, a dactylic hexameter, a heptameter, and an octosyllabic ottava rima.
Iambic pentameter has a strong rhythmic quality to it, which makes it ideal for expressing emotion. It is used extensively in English-language poetry, especially dramatic poetry such as epic, tragedy, and comedy. Shakespeare is usually regarded as the greatest poet who ever lived, and one of his most important contributions to the art of writing poetry is his understanding of how different types of poems should be structured in terms of meter and rhyme scheme.