Rhythm is what gives sound to poetry. Poets use different literary elements in different ways to create rhythm. Rhythm can be defined simply as patterns of stressed and unstressed syllables in poetry. Meter and feet are two significant poetic elements that are used to create rhythm. Before looking at the relationship between rhythm meter and feet, let’s first look at some poetic terms that are going to be frequently used in this article.
Syllable: A syllable is the smallest unit of pronunciation. It has at least one vowel and a word can be made of more than one syllable. For example, ‘water’ is made of two syllables: wa & ter. If a word has more than one syllable, one syllable is often pronounced more strongly than others. This strongly pronounced syllable is known as accented or stressed syllable.
Line: A line in a poem is equal to a sentence in a paragraph.
How are Rhythm Meter and Feet Related
Feet is a combination of stressed and unstressed syllables. There are five common types of feet used in poetry.
Types of Feet
Iamb: an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable [daDUM]
Trochee: a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed syllable [DUMda]
Anapest: two unstressed syllables followed by a stressed syllable [dadaDUM]
Dactyl: a stressed syllable followed by two unstressed syllables [DUMdada]
Spondee: two consecutive stressed syllables [DUMDUM]
These feet can be repeated in a line. Meter and rhythm of the poem depend on the type and number of feet in a line. Meter can be roughly defined as the number of feet in a line.
There are five common types of meter in poetry.
Types of Meter
- A monometer has one foot.
- A dimeter has two feet.
- A trimeter has three feet.
- A tetrameter has four feet.
- A pentameter has five feet.
There are other types of meters such as hexameter (six meter), heptameter (seven feet), octameter (eight feet). It is important to note that a line in poetry can have more than one type of foot.
As seen from the above explanation, feet, and meter are the building blocks that help to create the rhythm in a poem.
Observe the following lines carefully and try to identify the feet, meter and rhyme of the line. (stressed syllables are in bold and | symbol denotes a foot.)
- That time | of year | thou mayst | in me | behold
– feet: iambic ( unstressed syllable followed by stressed syllable)
– meter: pentameter (five feet)
- And the sound | of a voice | that is still
– feet: anapest (two unstressed syllables followed by a stressed one)
– meter: trimeter (three feet)
– Anapestic trimeter
- The Assyr | ian came down | like the wolf | on the fold,
– feet: anapaest (two unstressed syllables followed by a stressed one)
– meter: tetrameter (four feet)
– Anapestic tetrameter