Metre refers to the rhythmic structure of present of verse. The bulk of English verse since Chaucer is inaccentual-syllabic metre, which is composed of alternative stressed and also unstressed syllables in ~ a addressed total number of syllables in every line. The metrical valuation is hence the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables in each line. Groups of syllables are recognized as metrical feet; every line of verse is made up of a set number of feet. Thus:

Monometer: one foot every lineDimeter: 2 feet per lineTrimeter: three feet every lineTetrameter: four feet per linePentameter: five feet per lineHexameter: six feet every lineHeptameter: 7 feet every lineOctameter: eight feet per line

Each foot usually consists of a solitary stressed syllable—though there room some important variations—therefore these patterns correspond to the number of stressed rate in a line; thus tetrameter has four, pentameter five, etc.

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There room two species of metrical feet in English accentual-syllabic metre: duple metre, consisting of disyllabic (2-syllable) feet, in which stressed syllables (x) and unstressed syllables (o) alternate in pairs; and also triple metre, consists of trisyllabic (3-syllable) feet, in which solitary stressed syllables are grouped with a pair of unstressed syllables. Duple metre is the metre most frequently found in English verse.

The following metrical feet comprise the most typical rhythmical patterns:

Duple metre:

Iamb (iambic foot): o xTrochee (trochaic foot): x oSpondee (spondaic foot): x xPyrrhus / dibrach (pyrrhic foot): o o

Triple metre:

Dactyl (dactylic foot): x o oAnapaest (anapaestic foot): o o xAmphibrach: o x oMolossus: x x x

Note the the spondee, pyrrhus and also molossus do not usually form the communication for totality lines of verse, but are taken into consideration forms of substitution: that is, when a foot required by the metrical pattern being provided is changed by a different sort that foot. A frequently-found instance of substitution is the instead of of the initial iamb in one iambic line by a trochee, e.g. (underlined syllables stand for stressed syllables):

In me you seest the twilight of together dayAs after sunset fadeth in the west,Which by and also by black night doth take it away,Death’s 2nd self, the seals up every in rest.

—Shakespeare, Sonnet 73

(The very first three lines of this quatrain room perfectly iambic; the initial foot the the fourth line is an instance of trochaic substitution, also known as inversion.)

Other variations in metrical rate include acephalexis, in which the an initial syllable that a heat that would certainly be supposed according come the consistent metre that the line, is lacking; and also catalexis, in i beg your pardon a line lacks the last syllable intended by that metrical pattern. Amasculine ending is a line that ends on a emphasize syllable, while a feminine ending is a line the ends on an unstressed syllable.

Free verse is poetry the does no conform to any regular metre.

Examples of different meters and metrical substitutions:

Iambic pentameter:

We few, we happy few, we band that brothers.For he today that sheds his blood v meShall it is in my brother; it is in he ne’er therefore vile,This day shall gentle his condition.Shall think us accursed lock were not here,And organize their manhoods cheap whiles any kind of speaksThat fought through us top top Saint Crispin’s day.

—Shakespeare, Henry V, IV.iii

An instance of perfect iambic pentameter. Keep in mind the feminine ending in l.1 (in iambic metre a feminine finishing adds an extra syllable to the line), and also how the stresses monitor the feeling of the lines.

Trochaic tetrameter:

In what far-off deeps or skiesBurnt the fire of thine eyes?On what wings dare he aspire?What the hand challenge seize the fire?

—Blake, “The Tyger”

The an initial two lines exhibition masculine endings, and also thus are catalectic follow to the consistent pattern of trochaic metre; the is, they lack their last syllable. Arguably, the second foot in l.4 might be review as a spondaic substitution (if dare is stressed).

Spondaic substitution in iambic pentameter (l.3):

Or if thy mistress some well-off anger shows,Em prison she soft hand, and also let her rave,And feed deep, deep upon she peerless eyes.

—Keats, “Ode ~ above Melancholy”

Pyrrhic substitution in iambic tetrameter (l.2):

The woods room lovely, dark and deep.But I have promises to keep,And miles come go before I sleep,And miles come go before I sleep.

—Frost, “Stopping by Woods ~ above a Snowy Evening”

Dactylic dimeter:

Theirs no to make reply,Theirs not to factor why,Theirs yet to do and die

—Tennyson, “The charge of the light Brigade”

Anapaestic metre:

There was an Old Lady of Chertsey,Who made a exceptional curtsey;She twirled round and also round,Till she sunk underground,Which distressed all the human being of Chertsey.

—Edward Lear, “There to be an Old Lady the Chertsey”

As is usual in limericks, this example contains multiple iambic substitutions, here in the initial syllables of lines 1-3.


And now come an act of massive enormance!No former performer’s perform this performance!

—Dr. Seuss, If i Ran the Circus


Break, break, break,On thy cold gray stones, O Sea!And I would that my tongue could utterThe thoughts the arise in me.

—Tennyson, “Break, Break, Break”

The an initial line is an instance of a molossus; it is likewise an instance of epizeuxis (see below).


When a city is separated into sections, each section is well-known as a stanza. Stanzas commonly share the very same structure together the various other stanzas in ~ the poem.

Tercet: a unit or stanza of 3 verse linesQuatrain: a unit or stanza of 4 verse linesQuintain: a stanza of 5 verse linesSestet: a unit or stanza of six verse linesSeptet or heptastich: a stanza of seven linesOctave: a unit or stanza that eight city linesDecastich: a stanza or poem of ten lines

Note that many of this terms describe a unit of this variety of lines within a larger stanza or within a poem not split into stanzas (e.g. A shakespearean sonnet, which consists of three quatrains followed by a couplet).

Refrain: a heat or lines consistently repeated transparent a poem, traditionally at the finish of each stanza. Very often discovered in ballads; the was additionally used to an excellent effect by Yeats (see for example ‘The Withering of the Boughs’ or ‘The black Tower’). Commonly nowadays published in italic to distinguish it from the key body the the poem.

Enjambment: as soon as the sense of a city line runs over right into the next line through no punctuated pause. The contrary is recognized as one end-stopped line. An example of enjambment in iambic pentameter:

A dungeon horrible, on all sides round

As one an excellent furnace flamed, yet from those flames

No light, however rather darkness visible

Served just to discover sights the woe

—Milton, Paradise Lost, I


End rhyme: rhyme emerging on emphasize syllables at the ends of city lines. The many common kind of rhyme. Couplet: a pair that end-rhyming city lines, generally of the same length. E.g.:

Had we but World enough, and also Time,

This coyness Lady were no crime.

We would certainly sit down, and think i beg your pardon way

To walk, and also pass our lengthy Loves Day.

—Marvell, “To his Coy Mistress”

Internal rhyme: rhyme arising within a solitary verse line.

Crossed rhyme: the rhyming that one indigenous in the middle of a city line through a indigenous in the middle of the adhering to line.

Half rhyme: likewise known together slant rhyme; one incomplete type of luck in which final consonants match however vowel sounds do not. E.g.:

I have actually heard that hysterical females say

They room sick the the palette and also fiddle-bow.

Of poets that are always gay,

For everybody to know or else need to know

That if naught drastic is done

Aeroplane and also Zeppelin will come out.

Pitch favor King Billy bomb-balls in

Until the town lie to win flat.

—Yeats, “Lapis Lazuli”

The very first quatrain is an example of full end rhyme; the second quatrain an instance of fifty percent rhyme.

Para-rhyme: a form of half rhymel; when all the consonants of the pertinent words match, not just the last consonants. E.g.:

It appeared that the end of fight I escapedDown some profound dull tunnel, long since scoopedThrough granites i m sorry titanic wars had groined.Yet also there encumbered sleepers groaned,Too rapid in thought or death to be bestirred.Then, as I probed them, one sprang up, and also staredWith piteous recognition in addressed eyes,Lifting distressful hands, as if come bless.And by his smile, i knew the sullen hall, –By his dead smile I knew we stood in Hell.

—Wilfred Owen, “Strange Meeting”

Eye rhyme: a visual-only rhyme; i.e. Once spellings match however in pronunciation there is no rhyme, e.g. Want/pant, five/give.

Double rhyme: a happiness on 2 syllables, the first stressed, the 2nd unstressed. E.g.

I desire a hero: —an unusual want,

When every year and also month sends forth a new one,

Till, after cloying the gazettes with can’t,

The age discovers he is no the true one

—Byron, Don Juan, I.i

The second and 4th lines are dual rhymes; the first and third lines are instances of fifty percent rhyme/eye rhyme.

Assonance: the recurrence of comparable vowel sound in neighbouring words wherein the consonants do not match. E.g.:

For the rare and also radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore—Nameless here for evermore.

—Poe, “The Raven”

Consonance: the recurrence of comparable consonants in neighbouring words where the vowel sounds carry out not match. The most frequently found develops of consonance, other than half rhyme and para-rhyme, are alliteration and sibilance.

Alliteration: the repetition of initial consonants in a sequence of adjoining words. E.g.:

Hear the loud alarum bells—

Brazen Bells!

What a tale of terror, now, your turbulency tells!

—Poe, “The Bells”

Sibilance: the repetition of sibilants, i.e. Consonants creating a hissing sound. E.g.:

Ships the pass in the night, and also speak each other in passing;

Only a signal shown and a distant voice in the darkness

—Longfellow, Tales that a Wayside Inn

Blank verse: metrical verse the does not rhyme. Milton’s Paradise lost is one example; the majority of Shakespeare is also in blank verse.

Figurative, rhetorical, and structural devices

Metaphor: once one thing is stated to be another thing, or is described in terms normally linked to another thing, in order to imply a quality mutual by both. E.g.:

Love, fame, ambition, avarice—’tis the same,

Each idle, and all ill, and none the worst—

For all are meteors v a various name,

And fatality the sable smoke whereby vanishes the flame.

—Byron, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, IV

Simile: once one point is directly contrasted with another thing; indicated by usage of the indigenous “as” or “like.” E.g.:

I wandered lonely together a cloud

—Wordsworth, “Daffodils”

Metonymy: when something is referred to by an facet or attribute that it, or by something linked with it. E.g.:

Now is the winter of our discontent

Made glorious summer through this child of York . . .

—Shakespeare, Richard III, I.i

Here “winter” and also “summer” are examples of metaphor; “son of York” is an example of metonymy, being an attribute of Richard’s brother, Edward IV, here the person being referred to.

Synecdoche: a type of metonymy in which something is described by a specific part of that whole. “All hands on deck” is an example, in which the crew room being referred to by one details part—their hands. E.g.:

Take thy confront hence.

—Shakespeare, Macbeth, V.iii

Personification or prosopopoeia: as soon as inanimate objects, pets or concepts are described as if they to be human. Comparable terms space anthropomorphism, when human type is ascribed come something no human, e.g., a deity; and also the pathetic fallacy, when organic phenomena are described as if they could feel as people do. Shelley’s ‘Invocation come Misery’ is an example.

Onomatopoeia: a word that imitates the sound come which that refers. E.g. “clang,” “crackle,” “bang,” etc.

Synaesthesia: the applications of terms relating come one sense to a different one, e.g., “a heat sound.” because that example:

Odours there are . . . Green as meadow grass

—Baudelaire, “Correspondences”

Oxymoron: the mix of two contradictory terms. E.g.:

Feather that lead, bright smoke, cold fire, ailing health,

Still-waking sleep the is not what that is!

—Shakespeare, Romeo and also Juliet, I.i

Hendiadys: as soon as a solitary idea is to express by 2 nouns, supplied in conjunction. E.g. “house and home” or Hamlet’s “Angels and also ministers that grace” (Hamlet, I.iv).

Anaphora: the repeat of the same word or group of words at the beginnings of succeeding lines or clauses. E.g.:

Is this the region, this the soil, the clime,

Said then the lost archangel, this the seat

That we must adjust for sky . . .

—Milton, Paradise Lost, I

Epistrophe: the repeat of the exact same word or group of words in ~ the end of successive lines or clauses. E.g.:

I know thee, ns have found thee, & I will not let thee go

—Blake, “America—a Prophecy”

Epizeuxis: the repeat of a word v no intervening words. E.g., Tennyson’s “Break, break, break,” quoted above.

Polysyndeton: usage of more than the required amount that conjunctions. E.g.:

Havoc and spoil and ruin space my gain.

—Milton, Paradise Lost, II

The opposite of asyndeton, which describes the intentional omission that conjunctions.

Anachronism: as soon as an object, practice or idea is misplaced external of its suitable historical time. A famous example is the clock in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.

Apostrophe: an attend to to an inanimate object, abstraction, or a dead or absent person. E.g.:

Busie old foole, unruly Sunne,

Why dost she thus,

Through windowes, and through curtaines speak to on us?

—Donne, “The Sunne Rising”

Hyperbole: extreme exaggeration, no intended literally. E.g.:

Since Hero’s time hath half the civilization been black.

—Marlowe, Hero and Leander

Adynaton: a form of hyperbole—a figure of speech the stresses the inexpressibility of something, commonly by stating the words cannot explain it. H. P. Lovecraft’s brief story “The Unnamable” is essentially a riff on this figure of speech, satirizing Lovecraft’s own continual use of it in his work.

Meiosis: an intentional understatement in i m sorry something is explained as less significant than it yes, really is. A well-known example is discovered in Romeo and Juliet when Mercutio defines his death-wound together ‘a scratch’ (III.iii).

Litotes: a kind of meiosis; the affirmation of something by the refusal of that is opposite, e.g. “not uncommon,” “not bad.” Erotesis (rhetorical question): questioning a inquiry without requiring an answer, in order to assert or deny a statement. E.g.:

What though the field be lost? every is not shed . . .

Paradise Lost, I

In medias res: the method of start a narrative in the middle of the action, prior to relating preceding occasions at a later point. Paradise shed is an example (following the convention of epic poetry).

Leitmotif: a phrase, picture or case frequently repetitive throughout a work, sustaining a central theme. An instance is the personification of the mine pillar lift as a devouring biology in Zola’sGerminal, repetitive throughout the novel. Remember! merely being may be to recognize the devices and also knowing the state is no enough. Lock are just a means to one end. Girlfriend must always consider: why they space being used, what effect they have, and also how they affect meaning(s).

Further reading

Baldick, C., Oxford dictionary of literature Terms, Oxford: Oxford college Press, 2008.

Preminger, A., Brogan, T. And Warnke, F. (eds), The new Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and also Poetics, Princeton, NJ: Princeton college Press, 1993.

Hollander, J., Rhyme’s Reason: A overview to English Verse, brand-new Haven, CT: Yale university Press, 2001.

Attridge, D., Poetic Rhythm: one Introduction, Cambridge: Cambridge college Press, 1995.

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Strand, M., The make of a Poem: A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms, brand-new York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2001.