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Poetic Feet. —The kinds of feet most used in English are four; namely, the iambus, the trochee, the anapest, the dactyl. Iambus.— The multitude 1 of angels
, with | ă shout. In this line the five accents give the character and the meter also of five feet. This foot of two syllables, with the accent on the last, is called an iambus (- -), and the rhythm of such feet, iambic.
Trochee.-Great men die and I are forgotten.
In this line the number of accents gives a meter of four feet; and the accent, falling on the first of the two syllables, thus changes the rhythm. This foot is called a trochee (- -), and the rhythm of such feet, trochaic.
Anapest. For the sunset of life I gives me mys|tical lore.
In this line we have twelve syllables, but the same num ber of natural accents as in the line of only eight syllables above, and so the same number of feet, or the same “meter."! But the rhythm and the measure are greatly changed by double the number of unaccented syllables in these four feet. This trisyllabic foot, with the accent on the last syllable, is called an anapest (---), and the rhythm of such feet, anapestic. Dactyl.—Bird of the wilderness,
Blithesome and | cumberless,
Emblem of happiness,
Blest is thy | dwelling-place!
O, to asbide in the desert with thee! In these lines, the meter changes from two feet to four
in every third line; while the rhythm is the same except in the last foot of the longer lines, where “lea” and “thee” —the one long syllable in each line-pleasantly break the monotony of the regular foot. This foot of three syllables, with the accent on the first, is called a dactyl (---), and the rhythm of such feet, dactylic.
Every poem in the English language of any character, whatever the meter, is founded on one or another of the four “regular feet" illustrated above. But this perfect regularity of any standard measure, which so pleases the ear for a while, becomes monotonous if not in some way varied now and then. In many poems the various meters are combined, -iambics in one line being followed by trochees in another, and dactyls by anapests. These combinations are almost endless, and yet verse may be still further varied by the introduction of secondary feet. They are as follows:
(1) The spondee, two accented syllables, (--).
(3) The amphibrach, first unaccented, second accented, third unaccented, (---).
(4) The tribrach, three unaccented syllables, (v).
Mixed Verse.—Sometimes the verse is so varied by an intermixture of the different kinds of feet that it is difficult to recognize the preponderance of any one kind of foot. Some attempts have been made in English to write continued poems in this kind of verse. Longfellow has given us conspicuous examples in The Courtship of Miles Standish, and the soliloquy of Friar Claus from the Golden Legend. The first may be described as prevailingly dactylic, but with a free intermixture of iambuses, trochees, anapests, and spondees.
Hawtrey, in the following lines, has given perhaps the most successful specimen of this verse ever produced:
Clearly the rest I belhold of the dark-eyed | sons of Aschaia; Known to me well are the | faces of | all; their names I remember; Two, two | only remain, whom I see not among the commanders, Castor fleet in the car, Polysdeuces | brave with the cestus.
Another fine example is found in Boker's Ivory Carver:
Silently I sat the artist allone,
Till the work stood up, , a growling thought. Mixed verse seems to succeed best when combined with rhyme, and when the lines are comparatively short
Kinds of Verse.- Verse is named according to two characteristics:
1. According to the kind of foot prevailing in a line. 2. According to the number of feet contained in a line.
We have seen how the kind of foot characterizes verse. Now by combining the name of the foot-the metric unit by which the line is measured—and the name for the number of feet in a line, we can accurately describe the meter and the rhythm of any poem.
If the metric unit, or foot, is contained in the line but once, we have Monometer, a line of one foot; if twice, Dimeter, a line of two feet; if three times, Trimeter, a line of three feet; if four times, Tetrameter, a line of four feet;
if five times, Pentameter, a line of five feet; if six times, Hexameter, a line of six feet; if seven times, Heptameter, a line of seven feet; if eight times, Octometer, a line of eight feet.
The combination of kind of foot with number of feet gives rise to such designations as iambic dimeter, iambic trimeter, etc.; trochaic dimeter, trochaic tetrameter, etc.; anapestic dimeter, anapestic trimeter, etc.
Iambic Verse.-Of all measures, the iambic is the most easily continued to great length: hence it is in very common use, and is peculiarly adapted for long poems. Until quite recently, about nine tenths of English verse was iambic, and probably three fourths of it iambic pentameter. Monometer. .How sure. Dimeter . . .With ravlished ears. Trimeter. . .Ă thousand cups 1 of gold. Tetrameter. . Let me not cast | to endless shade. Pentameter. .Roll on, I thou deep | and dark | blue Ocean-roll! Hexameter. .Celestial as I thou art, 1 o, do I not love that wrong. Heptameter. He looked lupon his people, and a tear/ was in his eye. Octometer. . All peolple that I on earth | do dwell, I sing to the Lord |
with cheerful voice. The iambic monometer and dimeter are too short to be continued through any great number of lines, but as individual lines they are met with in stanzas. Thus:
(Trimeter) No:—'Tis | a fast | to dole,
The iambic trimeter is rarely used by itself, but is often found in combination with tetrameter, these two alternating, and with divers unions of rhymes. Thus:
We build with fruitless cost, I unless
The Lord | the pile | sustain;
The watchsman wakes | in vain.
Blest be I the tie | that binds
Our hearts in Christian love:
Is like to that above. The iambic tetrameter is largely used uncombined; it is the meter of most of Sir Walter Scott's works:
The way I was long, the wind was cold,
Iambic pertameter is the “heroic measure" of English poetry. Most of our epic, dramatic, and descriptive poetry is written in iambic pentameter. In its rhymed form it is the measure of Chaucer, Spenser, Dryden, Pope, Campbell, and Byron; as,
Three polets in three distant alges born,
Greece, Itsaly, I and England did | adorn. In its unrhymed form the iambic pentameter is the stately blank verse of Milton and Wordsworth.
The iambic hexameter is commonly called the Alexandrine, from the fact that old French poems in praise of Alexander were written in this measure. It is now sel