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A study of Metrical Writing, Part 2: The Arguement against Rhyme

Published by OJB in the blog OJB's blog. Views: 361

Welcome to part 2 of our study on Metrical writing. Today we will be looking at two things: Muti-syllable words vs 1 Syllable words, and how they work with each other in terms of meter, and we will be looking at Rhyme.

So last time we talked about how Metrical writing is where you place stressed and unstressed syllables in a certain order to create a Rhythm in your writing. We are right now looking at Iambic Pentameter, the most used form of Metrical writing in English. Here is an example that was used in Riddley Scott's Alien: Covenant; it is from the poem Ozymandias written by Percy Bysshe Shelley.

Look on/ my works,/ ye might/y, and /despair! (Trochee/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)

While we've not gotten to Variations and Substitutions yet in Iambic Pentameter (That will be the next post) we can see that this quote is written in Iambic Pentameter and has a Rhythm, a beat to it.

So let us get into the next layer of Meter: 1 syllable words vs. 2 syllable words vs 3 syllable words.

Often Metrical writing involves us using a whole vocabulary of words, and we have to be aware of how these words interact with each other in terms of meter. Now our last post I said that articles (The, a, an) are rarely stressed. I want to present a case where they are.
Now Stand/ing the .... Anytime you have a two syllable word, the weakest syllable will be less stressed than any single syllable word; However, the opposite is also true.

Example: Max, Stand/ing next/ to Mike,/ is big /and strong.

Notice how Max is unstressed?

The stressed Syllable in a muti-syllable word will be more stressed than a single syllable word (such as a noun or verb).

What about three syllable words?

This is where things get a little tricky.

The Tapestry

Tap is the stressed part of the word, so does that mean you will have two unstressed syllables after that? Not exactly. You have two options, but for now, I want to look at just one.

The Tap/estry,/ a strange....

Because a (a low stressed word) is after the -try-, -try- becomes more stressed than -es-.

The second option we will cover later, as it requires far more experience and knowledge about meter. Meter is a fluid craft filled with subtleties and nuances that require a careful ear and real understanding. The purpose of this blog is to build this knowledge and experience slowly and carefully, and not to jam advance and complex theory down your throat right off the bat.

To expand on the above example a little bit more lets take the word: Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane

Now, looking in a dictancory (which you should be doing if you don't know where the stress falls on a word) the word would look like this:


So now that we see where the stressed Syllable is, we know that on either side of it that Syllables are going to be very weak. So applying the same Idea from Tapestry,

Di(1)-chlor(2)/-o(1)-di(2)/-phen(1)-yl(2)/-tri(1)-chlor(2)/-o(1)-eth(4)-ane(1) (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb (Hyper)

(I've used the numbering system -something we will get into later- to help show the level of different stresses.)

The above example is how 4+ syllable words work in Meter.

Now we are going to touch upon Rhyme ever so lightly.


John Milton said that Rhyme is a monstrous device. While I don't agree with this statement, I do understand the frustration of beginner poets rushing right into End Rhymes.

End Rhyme is one the most complex devices used in poetry. Beginner poets often are unaware of this fact, but Rhyme does not work without Meter.

Bullshit you say?

End Rhymes is NOT two similar sounding words. Rhyme (in English) is two similar STRESSED sounds.

So the words Happy and Sappy Rhyme, not because of the -py part but because of the Hap and Sap parts.

The second reason is that End Rhyming requires Meter is because they meter sets up an equal distance between the two.

Why does that matter? I think women will understand why better than men.

Ladies, have you ever been on a date, and you were like "I'm going make this man work for every inch before giving him the gold"?

Same principle. Make the reader wait for that End Rhyme. (The real reason has to be with Syllable spacing and it might require a whole book to explain.)

So my advice for poets wanting to learn how to use end Rhyme, just take a year and learn Blank Verse (Iambic pentameter without Rhyme) before adding Rhyme in it. Once you've mastered Meter, Rhyming will become so much easier as you don't have to try to think about good Rhyme's and still strain on making sure your Meter is solid.


I wanted to end Today's Blog by looking at a poem written by the Master of Iambic Pentameter himself, William Shakespeare. (I'll post one clean version and one studied version)

Sonnet 18
William Shakespeare

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;
Sometimes too hot the eye of heaven shines;
And Often is his gold complexion dimm'd
and every fair from fair sometimes declines
By chance or nature's changing course untrimm'd:
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st;
Nor Shall death brag though wand'rest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time though grow'st;
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long live this, and this gives life to thee.


Shall I /compare/ thee to/ a sum/mer's day? (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
Thou Art/ more Lov/ely and /more Temp/erate. (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
Rough Winds do shake the darling buds of May, (Spondee/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
And sum/mer's lease/ hath all /too short /a date; (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
Sometimes/ too hot /the eye/ of heav/en shines; (Trochee/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
And Oft/en is/ his gold /complex/ion dimm'd (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
and eve/ry fair /from fair/ sometimes/ declines (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Trochee/Iamb)
By chance/ or nat/ure's chang/ing course/ untrimm'd: (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
Nor lose/ posses/sion of/ that fair /thou ow'st; (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
Nor Shall/ death brag/ though wand'/rest in /his shade, (Iamb/Spondee/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
When in/ eter/nal lines/ to time /though grow'st; (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see, (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
So long live this, and this gives life to thee. (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/IAmb/Iamb)*

My ear hears the Live as more stressed than this, but the play on words of live this, and this, makes This an important word.

Next post we will be looking at a basic introduction of Varations and Subistutions that can be used in Iambic Pentameter.

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

Previous post: https://www.writingforums.org/entry/a-study-of-metrical-writing-part-1-introduction.63871/
Next Post: https://www.writingforums.org/entry/a-study-of-metrical-writing-part-3-variations-and-substitutions.63879/
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