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Poetic Metre

A note on today’s lesson regarding the metre of the poem: (from www.poetryarchive.org)

METRE: Metre is from the Greek word for measuring; at its most basic, metre is a system of describing what we can measure about the audible features of a poem. The systems that have been used in history to structure metres are: the number of syllables; the duration of syllables; the number of stressed syllables; and combinations of the above.

To describe the pattern, the stressed and unstressed syllables are gathered into groups known as feet, and the number of feet to a line gives a name thus:

1 foot: monometer
2 feet: dimeter
3 feet: trimeter
4 feet: tetrameter – This is what Irish Airman is written in
5 feet: pentameter
6 feet: hexameter
7 feet: heptameter
8 feet: octameter

Within the metre of verse, the syllables, stressed and unstressed, are measured in FEET.

FEET:  a unit of metre, consisting of a combination of stressed and unstressed syllables. If stressed syllables are marked “/” and unstressed “u”, the main types can be shown thus:

Iamb: [ u / ], such as “delight”. (The adjective is “iambic”.)
Trochee: [ / u ], such as “badger” (Trochaic)
Anapest, or anapaest: [ u u / ], such as “unaware” (Anapestic / anapaestic)
Dactyl: [ / u u ], such as “multiple” (Dactylic)

A fair bit of info here, but the explanation of ‘feet’ in terms of words which fall into the iamb/trochee etc category are very helpful.

If you use this info to mark the stressed and unstressed syllables in Irish Airman, it should look like this throughout:

U    /       U     /    U       /       U      / 

I know that I shall meet my fate

U             /         U     /    U       /        U      /

Somewhere among the clouds above;

Although the formatting makes the lines look different, you can see that the pattern is the same throughout – unstressed, followed by a stressed syllable, four times each line. This is what creates the iambic tetrameter.

The key thematic ideas of this are:

  • Constancy – the continual progression of life, regardless of occurrences
  • Regularity – this relates to the regimented idea fo the military

A fair bit of complicated terminology here, but these points are particularly relevant to the structure questions in the exam papers.

Any questions, post a message.

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