05 Oct Meter in Poetry: Types, Usage, and Examples
Meter in poetry can be part of its beauty. See exactly what it is and the different forms it can take with these meter examples in poetry.
Many elements can be used to structure a poem. Rhyme is perhaps the most common of these elements, appearing in countless poetic works ranging from limericks to epic poems to pop lyrics.
Meter, which imposes specific length and emphasis on a given line of poetry, is also important.
What is Meter?
Meter is defined in English literature as “the systematic arrangement of words involving stressed and unstressed syllables.” Meter is a type of poetic measure that refers to the length and rhythm of a line in poetry. The study of meter is referred to as prosody.
This is distinct from the term “meter,” which refers to a metric unit of measurement that is slightly longer than a yard. A meter is 3.26 feet (39.37 inches) long, while a yard is precisely 3 feet long (36 inches).
Meter in poetry creates a rhythm and often adds formality, elevating the language of a poem. The pattern of stressed and unstressed meter creates a lovely, lyrical tone and contributes to the reader’s enjoyment and experience of the poem, particularly when combined with rhyme and other poetic devices.
Meter enhances the quality of poems that address larger themes (such as love) and ask (or attempt to answer) life’s big questions.
Meter enhances the language and the reading experience of a poem.
Meter in poetry, writing, poems, typewriter, meter in literature, William Shakespeare is all examples of meter.
Some poets still use formal meter today, while others prefer to write poems without rhyme or meter (also called free verse).
Types of Meter
The following meter types (also known as poetic devices) aid in the creation of rhythm, flow, and meter within a poem. These terms refer to the placement of stresses on specific syllables.
Iamb Meter Examples
Iamb meter has the first syllable unaccented and the second accented so it sounds like duh DUH. Here are examples of iamb meter:
That time / of year / thou mayst / in me / be hold – William Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 73”
Shall I /com pare /thee to / a sum / mer’s day? – William Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 18”
Come live / with me / and be / my love
And we / will all / the plea / sures prove – Christopher Marlowe’s “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love”
All I / could see / from where / I stood / Was three / long moun / tains and / a wood; – Edna St. Vincent Millay’s “Renascence”
To swell / the gourd, / and plump / the ha / zel shells – John Keats’ “To Autumn”
Trochee Meter Examples
Trochee meter has the first syllable accented and the second unaccented so it sounds like DUH duh. Here are examples of trochee meter:
Tell me / not in / mournful / numbers
By the / shores of / Gitche / Gumee,
By the / shining / Big-Sea- / Water – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “Song of Hiawatha”
Why so / pale and / wan, fond / Lover?
Prithee / why so / pale?
Will, when / looking / well can’t / move her,
Looking / ill pre / vail?
Prithee / why so / pale? – Sir John Suckling’s “Song: Why so pale and wan fond lover?”
The Grizz / ly Bear / is huge / and wild;
He has / devoured / an in / fant child.
The in / fant child / is not / aware
It has / been eat / en by / the bear. – A. E. Housman’s “Infant Innocence”
Earth, re / ceive / an hon / oured guest;
William / Yeats is / laid to / rest:
Let this / Irish / vessel / lie
Emptied / of its / poet / ry. – W. H. Auden’s “In Memory of W. B. Yeats”
Dactyl Meter Examples
Dactyl meter has the first syllable accented and the second and third unaccented so it sounds like DUH duh duh. Here are examples of dactyl meter:
This is the / forest pri / meval,
the murmur / ing pines and / the hemlock – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “Evangeline”
Cannon to / right of them,
Cannon to / left of them,
Cannon in / front of them
Volley’d and / thunder’d; – Alfred Lord Tennyson’s “The Charge of the Light Brigade”
Half a league, / half a league
Half a league / onward, – Alfred Lord Tennyson’s “The Charge of the Light Brigade”
We that had / Loved him so
Followed him / Honoured him, – Robert Browning’s “The Lost Leader”
Just for a / handful of / silver he / left us
Just for a / riband to / stick in his / coat – Robert Browning’s “The Lost Leader”
Anapest Meter Examples
Anapest meter has the first two syllables unaccented and the third syllable accented so it sounds like duh duh DUH. Here are examples of anapest meter:
The Assy / rian came down / like a wolf / on the fold
And his co / horts were gleam / ing in pur / ple and gold – Lord Byron’s “The Destruction of Sennacherib”
And the sheen / of their spears / was like stars / on the sea, – Lord Byron’s “The Destruction of Sennacherib”
In the midst / of the word / he was try / ing to say,
In the midst / of his laugh / ter and glee,
He had soft / ly and sud / denly van / ished away –
For the Snark / was a Boo / jum, you see. – Lewis Carroll, “The Hunting of the Snark”
Oh, Potter, / you rotter, / oh, what have / you done,
You’re kill / ing off stu / dents, you think / it’s good fun. – Peeves’s song from Harry Potter
His eyes are / as green as / a fresh pick / led toad – Harry’s valentine from Harry Potter
From the cen / tre all round / to the sea,
I am lord / of the fowl / and the brute. – Will Cowper’s “Verses Supposed To Be Written By Alexander Selkirk, During His Solitary Abode In The Island Of San Fernandez”
Spondee Meter Examples
Spondee meter follows the two-syllable rhyming pattern, but both are stressed to sound like DUH DUH. Here are examples of spondee meter:
With / swift, slow; / sweet, sour; / adazzle, dim; – Gerald Manley Hopkins “Pied Beauty”
Break, break, / break
On thy cold gray / stones, / O Sea! – Alfred, Lord Tennyson “Break, Break, Break”
Slow, slow, / fresh fount, / keep time / with my / salt tears; – Ben Johnson “Slow, Slow, Fresh Fount”
As yet but knock, / breathe, shine, / and seek to mend; – John Donne “Holy Sonnet XIV”
Given that spondee provides irregular feet to the poetry, it’s commonly only used in areas of a poem.
Pyrrhic Meter Examples
While not a modern meter type, pyrrhic meter was used in Greek poetry and is two unstressed meters that sound like duh duh. Here are a few examples of pyrrhic meter:
To a / green thought / in a / green shade. – Andrew Marvell’s “The Garden”
My way / is to / begin / with the / beginning. – Lord Byron “Don Juan”
When the / blood creeps / and the / nerves prick. – Alfred, Lord Tennyson “In Memoriam”
Since pyrrhic meter creates monotony, it’s typically used in parts of poetry rather than the entire poem.
You’ve learned a lot about the different types of meter in poetry. More examples can be found in iambic pentameter and iambic tetrameter.
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