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Passions in Poetry

How to Use Meter

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Essorant
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0 posted 03-23-2010 11:28 PM       View Profile for Essorant   Email Essorant   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Essorant's Home Page   View IP for Essorant


How to Use Meter

This is a page I newly added to Algonquin's Table.  I hope some people that have difficulty understanding/using meter may find it helpful.  

Balladeer
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1 posted 03-23-2010 11:51 PM       View Profile for Balladeer   Email Balladeer   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Balladeer's Home Page   View IP for Balladeer

That's an excellent presentation, Ess. I didn't take the time yet to read all of it but it seems very thorough and should help many writer who have a problem with meter.

One thing did jump out at me, though.

This experimenTAtion SHOWS

I have a difficult time with the word experimentation having more stress on "ex" than "per". I have never heard it that way and would never say it that way. To me, the word reads ex- PER-i-men-TA-tion.

Your thoughts?
Essorant
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2 posted 03-24-2010 12:59 AM       View Profile for Essorant   Email Essorant   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Essorant's Home Page   View IP for Essorant

Thanks Balladeer.  


quote:
I have a difficult time with the word experimentation having more stress on "ex" than "per".


The flow of the rhythm in unstressed syllables moves up and down alternatingly away from the stress of the word.  This is the way it works for all words that have more than two syllables:

supercalifragilisticexpialiDOcious


Every second syllable  away from the stress (the syllable DO in this case) has higher "up" point (indicated by bold letters) in the rhythm than the other unstressed syllables and it is these kinds of unstressed syllables that can be used as beats in a meter when using longer words.   The p after an x may sound more prominant, because there is actually an s involved making it a "sp" sound, but the -per and the pi- syllables in both experimentation and supercalifragilisticexpialidocious are both not higher points of the rhythm/stress of the word.  That's why we can't just go by how it "feels", we need to take into account the inner rhythm of the language.  
 
Balladeer
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3 posted 03-24-2010 08:15 AM       View Profile for Balladeer   Email Balladeer   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Balladeer's Home Page   View IP for Balladeer

Thanks, Ess, but I see no similarity between your example and experimentation. DO is a clearly defined syllable, as anyone who knows the song will attest to. Same goes with -per and pi-.

If I were to hear anyone say EXperImenTATion, I would think that English was not their primary language. I would find it EX-as-PER-a-TING.    

That's why we can't just go by how it "feels", we need to take into account the inner rhythm of the language. No, we need to go by how it sounds and is spoken, either orally or mentally. Poetry is a "sound" medium of expression. If it sounds bad, regardless of fixed rules, it IS bad.

If you have difficulty recognizing the stress of a word, try pronouncing each syllable of the word with more emphasis. That is an excellent litmus test. If you do that with "experimentation", you will see that the example doesn't pass. It has nothing to do with the p following the x. You have another example word, "expectation" with a p following the x, in which it is very feasible to put the beat on the ex, instead of the -pec. i WAIT with EXpecTATion. "Experimentation would allow no such leeway.


DO not let my little nit-pick here mean that I don't admire the entire lesson. I think you did a brilliant job with it. One thing I know is meter and your lesson will be extremely helpful to many.
Essorant
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4 posted 03-24-2010 10:44 AM       View Profile for Essorant   Email Essorant   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Essorant's Home Page   View IP for Essorant

Balladeer

No, that is alright.  I appreciate questioning things, it is something I always do as well.  

But try using your example in a meter and see how it works.  I don't think you will find that it works as well as in the example I gave with the word:

This experimenTAtion SHOWS
How RHYTHm in this MEter FLOWS

I think your treatment of the word will clash, because experimenTAtion has the main stress on TA and the other syllables need to be pronounced relative to that syllable.  They won't chime in a way that corresponds with TA- though if you are pronouncing -per- with more stress than the "ex" and "i" syllables.

Another thing that you may be doing is thinking of the word experiment that is pronounced exPERiment.  But the longer word experimenTAtion doesn't have the same rhythm, but has the (main) stress on TA.   There is a marked difference between the two, unless you are pronouncing it somewhat abnormally, which may indeed be if you are more used to the rhythm of the shorter exPERiment.
  



[This message has been edited by Essorant (03-24-2010 12:33 PM).]

nakdthoughts
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5 posted 03-24-2010 06:12 PM       View Profile for nakdthoughts   Email nakdthoughts   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for nakdthoughts

Ess, try listening to Miriam Webster's Dictionary site on ex PER i men TA tion...

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/experimentation
Balladeer
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6 posted 03-24-2010 07:53 PM       View Profile for Balladeer   Email Balladeer   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Balladeer's Home Page   View IP for Balladeer

We will have to agree to disagree, Ess. The hardest stress is indeed on the TA but -per carries a stronger beat than ex. It is simply not possible any other way. Ask the next 10 people you talk to...pronounce it with the stronger stress on ex and then with the stronger stress on per. I'll wager that 9 out of ten will agree with -per being the stronger syllable...and the tenth will be from Transylvania!
Essorant
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7 posted 03-25-2010 02:56 AM       View Profile for Essorant   Email Essorant   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Essorant's Home Page   View IP for Essorant

Alas, sorry, it is my mistake.  There seem to be two exceptions:

1. Some compound words (like "hangover") that are easy to recognize because of the words that make up the compound.

2. And some exceptionally long words (over five syllables) like experimentation, as you showed me.  Personification also seems to do the same thing because of its length.  


But otherwise, don't most words with more than two syllables consistently follow an alternating rhythm: personALity, inspiRAtion, harMOnious etc.?



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8 posted 03-25-2010 09:42 AM       View Profile for Balladeer   Email Balladeer   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Balladeer's Home Page   View IP for Balladeer

Yes, Ess, on that we can agree. There will always be exceptions, such as marginally, which will pop up but, as a rule, multi-syllable words normally carry either the iambic or trochaic form throughout the word. That's one reason why rhymers, and balladeers, love to use multi-syllable words in their poetry.  

There are also two-syllable words that will have their meter completely changed by adding more syllables, such as human and humanity.

Another point to be taken is that the meter does not always depend on the number of syllables, but the number of syllables that are spoken or read. Poe, who was probably the greatest student and teacher of meter, always stressed that point. He could write a 17 syllable line, in which 14 syllables only were used, and in perfect iambic. SO, sometimes, it's not as simple as counting syllables or placing stresses, like the dissection of a frog in chemistry class. The great structured poets will MAKE the readers put the stresses where they want them to be placed and that's one of the most difficult challenges in writing good structured poetry.

Enjoyed the exchange of thoughts  

[This message has been edited by Balladeer (03-25-2010 10:38 AM).]

Bob K
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     There is sometimes a difference in the way the syllables fall in the word, which is how they're laid out in the dictionary, and the relative stress they carry within a line, which is not simply a series of words strung together.  The ghost of the metric tends to pull at the metrics of the word itself, so that you will scan a word by itself one way, and (while it still scans that way as a word) it will scan differently as a part of a line.  This, I believe, is why people do a lot of fighting about how to scan lines; it's the uneven pull of the scansion of the line and how a given syllable fits into the line, and how the same syllable fits into the word that gets people going.  One person champions one point of view, the other person hears more of the other.  

     My belief is that it's the tension between the two that helps produce some of the music of a given line, how the real (syllable stress in the word) slips into the ideal (metrical stresses that are demanded by a given foot).  Think of a line of single syllable words, each one theoretically stressed, yet I'd say close to impossible if not impossible to crowd a ten stress line into a ten syllable line in English metrics.  The line will often go iambic, not because each of the words isn't stressed, but because the relative stresses are different and because the actual stresses we work with as writers are more subtle than we will usually admit.

     The word, the line, the sentence and the meter all have different pulls on the stressing of a given line, and it's part of the art to play them all off against each other.  Homing in on the number of syllables and their dictionary stressing, therefore, is not a reliable guide as to how a line is to be scanned.  Is that confusing enough?

     At any rate, that's what I think.
Essorant
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10 posted 03-26-2010 11:36 AM       View Profile for Essorant   Email Essorant   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Essorant's Home Page   View IP for Essorant

Balladeer,

Glad we are in agreement, Balladeer.  Thank you (and Nakdthoughts) for correcting me about that syllable.   I changed that section to include words that are less long than experimentation.   I think words  words like harmonious, beautiful, melancholy, personality etc. will better represent most words over two syllables that a poet is more likely to use in a metrical poem.


quote:
He could write a 17 syllable line, in which 14 syllables only were used, and in perfect iambic.


Not sure what you mean by that, Balladeer, unless they are syllables that are sometimes spelt but not pronounced, as in wandering (="wand'ring"), and every (ev'ry), or extra syllables if rhyme-words are two syllables instead of one, as in brother/mother.   Do you have an example?    


Essorant
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11 posted 03-26-2010 12:19 PM       View Profile for Essorant   Email Essorant   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Essorant's Home Page   View IP for Essorant

Bob,

quote:
There is sometimes a difference in the way the syllables fall in the word, which is how they're laid out in the dictionary, and the relative stress they carry within a line,


That is a good point.  That is why I make the distinction of "stress" and "beat".  The stress is the main "pulse" of the word, while the beat is the main pulse of the meter.   I think both are very important, but the first importance is still the stresses of words and then learning HOW they are used in meter to make "beats".  If one doesn't first recognize stresses of words, he won't have much success in the next step of recognizing how they are used to make the beats of a meter in a poem.
Balladeer
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12 posted 03-26-2010 01:07 PM       View Profile for Balladeer   Email Balladeer   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Balladeer's Home Page   View IP for Balladeer

Ess, yes, wand'ring is a good example. Also,  ways that the sentence is constructed cause the reader to fly over syllables and basically ignore them or combine them with other syllables with one beat.

Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,

In this sentence, for example, the word over simply gets a touch and a skip over to "many". it is basically pronounced as two unaccented syllables spoken quickly and used as one unaccented syllable to arrive to MAny, which maintains the iambic.  You may note that the first line has 16 syllables which this one, the second, has  17, and yet they both have basically the same rhythm.

Many time the following word dictates how a preceeding word will be spoken. In the above sentence, you can see how "over" is rushed through to get to many. However, in a line such as "I came over to the graveyard", both syllables of over would be clearly used.  Or...

He's a wandering  minstrel, wandering around.

The first wandering would basically be treated as a two syllable word, whereas the second would be treated as three.

That's why purists, whwo count syllables and claim that one sentence has too many actual syllables to be compared to another  sentence are missing the point. It's not the number of syllables, it's the number of syllables used.
Essorant
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13 posted 03-26-2010 01:27 PM       View Profile for Essorant   Email Essorant   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Essorant's Home Page   View IP for Essorant

Balladeer,

Are you sure there are seventeen syllables in that line and that they are iambic?


OVer MAN-ya QUAINT and CUR-yous VOLume of forGOTten LORE,

Balladeer
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14 posted 03-26-2010 05:43 PM       View Profile for Balladeer   Email Balladeer   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Balladeer's Home Page   View IP for Balladeer

OVer MAN-ya QUAINT and CUR-yous VOLume of forGOTten LORE.

yes, there are seventeen actual syllables, taken one by one.
o
ver
ma
ny
a
cur
i
ous
and
quaint
vol
umes
of
for
got
ten
lore

man-ya doesn't work at all. It makes little sense without the "e" sound in there. Same goes with cur-yous.

No, it is not iambic but it's meter depends on how you read it.

over(o'er) MAN-y a CUR-i-OUS and QUAINT Volumes of for-GOT-ten LORE.

or

O-ver MAN-y a CUR-i_OUS and QUAINT VOL-umes of forGOTten LORE.

I've also heard it recited this way....

O-ver MAN-y a CUR-i-ous AND quaint VOL-umes OF forGOTten LORE.

No matter how you pronounce it, quaint+volumes together makes it impossible to be pure iambic, unless you go anapestic..

over MANy a CURious AND quaint VOL-umes  of FORgotten LORE.

It all depends on the reader - and speaker
Bob K
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OVer MAN-ya QUAINT and CUR-yous VOLume of forGOTten LORE,


     I count 17 syllables, yes, but not iambic.  

     It is not entirely clear to me that Poe was writing syllabic-stress verse, since thqat sort of verse tends to exclude feet longer than three syllables as a matter of practicality in scanning most English verse.  I won't say this is always true; I say this as a matter of practicality only.

     I believe that this line is a version of the seven foot line.  Ususally in English this breaks down into what essentially a sort of ballad stanza stretched out in a single line, a four foot and a three foot line jammed together, such as we see Kipling using a fair amount.  This is sometimes called the fourteener.

     But as Poe is using it here, he substitutes an initial four syllable foot, such as one finds in Latin quantitative verse, and likely intends the other feet to be read as quantitiies as well.   The initial foot scans differently than the actual scansion of the words themselves, but the difference is on the basis of relative  weight rather than dictionary weight.
I'd suggest

over MANY/ a QUAINT/ and CU RI/ us VOL/ ume OF/ for GOT/ ten LORE

but you could go hexameter on the thing if you want, if you want to read more tri-syllabic feet.  Trying to nail it down to one single and absolute reading would prove, I think, a nightmare.

Balladeer
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16 posted 03-26-2010 06:40 PM       View Profile for Balladeer   Email Balladeer   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Balladeer's Home Page   View IP for Balladeer

I did hear one recording performed by Vincent Price and he made the whole thing trochaic (or iambic with a preceeding syllable)

ONCE upON a MIDnight DRE-ary
AS i PONdered WEAK and WEARy
O-er MAN-y a CUR-ious AND quaint VOLumes OF for GOTten LORE
Essorant
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17 posted 03-27-2010 12:57 AM       View Profile for Essorant   Email Essorant   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Essorant's Home Page   View IP for Essorant

quote:
man-ya doesn't work at all. It makes little sense without the "e" sound in there. Same goes with cur-yous.



Are you writing those off so quickly Balladeer?   I could find many examples of other poets that do the same thing.  Those are normal conventions that are used in many poems, especially around Poe's time.   I listed some examples under "special pronunciations" near the bottom of the page.   Did you read that part?  


It is not all up to the reader, it is up to the way the poem is written.  And everything about this indicates the Trochaic Meter:  

ONCE upON a MIDnight DREARy, WHILE I PONDered WEAK and WEARy,
OVer MANya QUAINT and CURyous VOLume of forGOTten LORE,
WHILE I NODded, NEARly NAPping, SUDdenly there CAME a TAPping,
As of SOME one GENTly RAPping, RAPping at my CHAMber DOOR.
`'Tis SOME VISitor,' I MUTtered, `TAPping at my CHAMber DOOR -
ONly this, and NOTHing MORE.'

Balladeer
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18 posted 03-27-2010 08:05 AM       View Profile for Balladeer   Email Balladeer   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Balladeer's Home Page   View IP for Balladeer

Are you writing those off so quickly Balladeer?   I could find many examples of other poets that do the same thing.

Oh, yes, there are many words that can be treated that way, especially in the past. Over to o'er pops immediately to mind. I have just never heard something like "manya" used. If you have, then I have missed them.

Yes, as I said with the Price recital, one can make a strong case for trochaic (or iambic with a preceeding stressed ayllable). I've also heard it recited in basically anapestic, with a mixture of trochaic.

ONCE up-ON a MID-night DRE-ary
as i PONdered WEAK and WE-ary

There have been many recitals of The Raven and, when I was in high school, enthralled by the poem, I listened to many! I agree with you that the poem is best recited in trochaic, yet there are those who will claim you must say "as i PON-dered" or "as i SAT" or even "once up-ON". The speaker decides which was to go. As far as simply reading it, I would use trochaic because it is the wave that carries the poem with the most fluidity.
 
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