A study of Metrical Writing, Part 15: Anapest and other matters of meter

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Today I wanted to take a look at Anapest poems, using Anapest in Iambic Pentameter and take a look at a few other minor facets of Meter.

Anapest poems tend to be used in a lot of light verses (non-series/fun poems) and was used a bit by Dr. Suess. Here are two lines from his children story Oh, The Places you will go.

Oh, the places you’ll go! There is fun to be done! (Anapest/Anapest/Anapest/Anapest)
There are points to be scored. There are games to be won. (Anapest/Anapest/Anapest/Anapest)

Anapest, like Trochee, lends itself nicely to Terameter (four Feet) poems. A Common Substitution that occurs in Anapest poems is putting an Iamb in the first foot.

Here is a line from Robert Frost's Blueberries that Illustrates the above point (If you are interested in studying an Anapest poem, this would be the one to look at.)

That's always the way with the blueberries, though:

That's al/ways the way/ with the blue/berries, though: (Iamb/Anapest/Anapest/Anapest)


But can we use an Anapest in Iambic Pentameter? Yes, in loose Iambic you may. In serious poems, poets tend to avoid using Anapest -with one exception I'll address shortly- The reason is not that Anapest is a terrible foot, but because of the tradition of them being used in 'fun' verse, poets tend to stay away from them in serious narratives. I would highly suggest that a poem master writing in Iambic Pentameter without Anapest, before throwing them in. When used wrongly, they tend to disrupt the Rhythm of the poem.

Midline Hyper Metrical endings.

Occasionally you will see the following, which gets misread as an anapest.

Not proven, who swept the dust of ruin'd Rome. -Line 133 Idylls of the King.

Not prov(en), (II) /who swept/ the dust/ of ru/in'd Rome. (Iamb(Hyper)/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)

The 'en, who SWEPT' is not an anapest. Poets sometimes run into a jam due to phrasing issues and are forced to use a midline Hyper-Metrical ending before a Ceasrual pause. This practice is not wide-used today, and I'd be wary to say that it is an acceptable practice, but I do see modern poets occasionally use it.


There is a few minors thing I wanted to make a note for anyone that has been reading this.

There is a foot called Dactylics that is used as a meter. They are a stress/unstressed/unstressed foot.

Example: BEAUT-i-ful/ TAP-es-tray (Dactylic/Dactylic)

Another triple foot that exists is called the Amphibrach which is a Unstreesed/Stressed/Unstressed foot. Example: a-TTAC-ing.

I will not be going into great detail about these feet as they are not used in Blank Verse, but you should be aware of them.


The last thing I wanted to focus on is two other types of Meter that exist.

English verse is primarily an Accentual-Syllabic verse, meaning we have x amount of Accents per line and x amount of Syllables per line. This came to be because of the fact that both Romance Languages and Germanic has influenced the English Langauge.

In essence, Romance Languages (Italian, Spanish, French) focus on syllable count in their meter, and German-based languages focus on Accent.

While 90% of English meter is Accentual-Syllabic, some poems are written either as pure Syllabic, or focuses purely on the Accents per line.

It is not my intention to slight these meters, (As many great poems have been written in them) but they outside the scope of this study.

I will in the far future be doing a study on Blue and Jazz poems which do use an accent-based meter as the core of their Rhythm.


This ends today's post. We are nearing the end our study on meter and will now be focusing on the most complex parts of meter: Stress in compound words, Elisions, Ambiguous syllables, Syllable weight, and Metrical-Rhetorical Phrasing.

If you are still struggling with writing meter, I'd re-read this series before we get to the last 1/4 of this Study.

If have any questions or thoughts, please leave a comment or like!

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