Monday, March 27, 2006

Heard Melodies Are Sweet/ But Those Unheard Are Sweeter

Meter is the music in poetry. What's that? You can't hear it, you say? Listen to the sound of the words. Read your poetry aloud. Re-read it, sounding each word as you say it. You'll hear it. Most often, meter is more subtle than the instruments used to create the rhythm in songs. At least in good, serious poetry (I know, I'm J. Evans Pritchard-ing), it doesn't lead us into a sing-song game or a funeral march. The use of meter is more impressive when it's unnoticed, like a good referee at a basketball game, who recognizes the flow of the game and calls his game accordingly. He's NOT showboating or making the big game-changing calls. Meter functions in the same manner. Subtle, but strong.

Anyway, I'm afraid that I could go one defending and explaining the poet's use of meter forever without converting a soul. I will leave you with a link to meter so you might better understand it. But there's going to be some "sock-knocking" action some day when I break out my favorite rhythmic poems.

Here's the page (click) that gives you tons of examples of iambs, trochees, dactylls, and anapests.

You are interested, you say? Read (aloud) the pneumonic verse by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. His trochee lines are trochaic, his "slow Spondee [line] stalk." Awesome.

Trochee trips from long to short;
From long to long in solemn sort
Slow Spondee stalks; strong foot yet ill able
Ever to come up with Dactylic trisyllable.
Iambics march from short to long -
With a leap and a bound the swift Anapests throng.

Ok, this is just cute. A nice juggling act. What about using meter to sustain real emotion? To compliment the sweetest words a guy ever did say to his gal, Willy Shakespeare (a JEPritchard's fave) chose good ol' iambic pentameter.

Even though you might not be able to scan the meter, you CAN hear how this rising rhythm accentuates the beauty of the poet's words, and in doing so, adds a deeper tribute to the poet's subject. But you can HEAR it only if you read it aoud. Once, twice, three times, more, sound the words to yourself. Go ahead.

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature's changing course, untrimm'd;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest;
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

Now wouldn't you like it if someone went through all of this trouble just for you?


At 10:57 PM, Anonymous Adam Woo said...

I listened to the "sound" of the words. Actually I've been doing that for the last HOUR and i still have only written one line, which may or may not be in proper iambic tetrameter. I understand what I'm looking for, but finding it is a whole other perhaps a few tips? otherwise it's going to be another long night (with nothing to show for it).

At 11:11 PM, Anonymous Adam Woo said...

I almost have 3 lines...YAY for me...

At 11:13 PM, Anonymous Adam Woo said...

By the way, I am using this blogging thing for procrastination and will continue. so just kinda skim through whatever im writing.

At 11:15 PM, Anonymous adam woo said...

heh, i like how it says: "adam woo said..."

it almost makes me wanna type "dixit" at the end of everything. maybe i will...


At 11:17 PM, Anonymous Adam Woo said...

adding dixit did add some flourish. if only you knew what dixit meant, you too would find it funny.

At 11:18 PM, Anonymous Adam Woo said...


At 11:29 PM, Anonymous Adam Woo said...

Oh right, so as to not sound flip or anything, when i said, "You dont know what it means," i wasn't referring to Fio. Cause then he would just fail me.
I just meant anyone else reading it :)


At 8:15 PM, Blogger JTF said...


Guess you haven't heard many melodies. Anyway, it appears you gave it a try.


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