What is Meter in Poetry?

Do you want to understand the meter of a poem? In this post you will discover the importance of meter and how it affects the flow and musicality of the verses.

Metrics of a Poem

Metrics is an essential aspect in poetry, since it refers to the number of syllables in a verse, but taking into account a series of rules. It includes the study of the verse, the stanza and the poem and is essential to understand the musicality and structure of a poetic text.

Definition of Metrics in Poetry

Metrics in poetry focuses on understanding and analyzing the elements that make up the structure of the poem. It examines the number of syllables in each line, as well as the distribution of accents and the arrangement of rhymes, if present. In short, metrics seeks to establish a structure and regularity in the rhythm and sonority of the verses.

Importance of Metrics in Poetry

Metrics contribute to the musicality and harmony of the text. Through it, a particular cadence and rhythm is established that allows the reader or listener to immerse themselves in the aesthetic experience of poetry. Furthermore, by studying the meter of a poem, its structure and communicative intention can be better understood.

What is Meter in Poetry? 4

Spanish Metrics

Spanish meter is characterized by the use of a fixed number of syllables and a specific distribution of accents in the verse. In this type of meter, rhyme can be optional, which allows for a great variety of combinations and structures.

Hendecasyllabic and Other Verse Types

One of the most commonly used verses in Spanish metrics is the hendecasyllable, which consists of eleven metrical syllables. The hendecasyllable is used in different stanzas such as the royal octave, the sonnet, the chained tercets, the lyric, the song in stanzas, the syllable and the compositions in loose or white hendecasyllables.
In addition to the hendecasyllable, there are other types of verse used in Spanish poetry, such as the alexandrine, which has fourteen metrical syllables.

Metrics in Other Languages

Metrics are not only limited to the Spanish language, but there are also metrical rules and structures in other languages. For example, French poetry uses Alexandrine French verse, which consists of twelve metrical syllables. Greco-Latin meter is based on the repetition of sequences of long and short syllables to create a musical rhythm in the poem. In addition, in Hebrew metrics, parallelism is used to shape the verse. In English, one can find what is known as iambic pentameter, which consists of five combinations of a short syllable followed by a long syllable.

It is important to keep in mind that each language has its own metrical rules and characteristics, which provides a wide range of possibilities and poetic styles in different cultures and literary traditions.

Metrics and Rhyme

Metrics and rhyme are two closely related elements. Metrics refers to the structure and regularity of the verse, that is, the number of syllables and accents that make it up. On the other hand, rhyme deals with the repetition of the final sounds of the verses. Both characteristics contribute to the musicality and harmony of the poem.

Types of rhyme

There are several forms of rhyme used in Spanish poetry, among which the following stand out:

- Consonant rhyme: Occurs when the final words of two lines of verse have a complete coincidence of all sounds, both vowel and consonant sounds. For example, "night" and "car".

- Assonant rhyme: In this case, only the vowels of the final words of the lines of verse coincide in sound. For example, "sea" and "sing".

- Embraced rhyme: Also known as cross rhyme, occurs when the first line rhymes with the last line and the second line rhymes with the second to last line. That is, it follows the ABBA rhyme format.

- Chained rhyme: Consists of a linear sequence of rhymes in which the rhyme is interwoven throughout the stanzas. It is frequent in poetic forms such as the sonnet, where the verses are grouped in quatrains and tercets, with a structure ABBA ABBA CDC DCD.

- Free rhyme: In this case, there is no established formal rhyme structure and the poet is free to establish the rhymes he/she wishes or to dispense with them.

What is Meter in Poetry? 9

Examples of metrics in Spanish verse

In Spanish poetry, meter is regulated by the number of metrical syllables and the distribution of accents in the verses. Here are some examples:

- Silva: The silva is a combination of heptasyllabic and hendecasyllabic verse. Machado writes:

«Cuando murió su amada
pensó en hacerse viejo
en la mansión cerrada,
solo, con su memoria y el espejo
donde ella se miraba un claro día».

- Sonnets: Sonnets are composed of fourteen lines, generally hendecasyllabic, and are divided into two quatrains and two tercets. Example of a sonnet by Francisco de Quevedo.

«Es hielo abrasador, es fuego helado,
es herida que duele y no se siente,
es un soñado bien, un mal presente,
es un breve descanso muy cansado.
Es un descuido que nos da cuidado,
un cobarde, con nombre de valiente,
un andar solitario entre la gente,
un amar solamente ser amado.
Es una libertad encarcelada,
que dura hasta el postrero parasismo,
enfermedad que crece si es curada.
Este es el niño Amor, este es su abismo.
¡Mirad cuál amistad tendrá con nada
el que en todo es contrario de sí mismo!».

- Octave: The octave is composed of octosyllabic verses with consonant rhyme. Here is an example in a poem by Garcilaso de la Vega:

«Cerca de Tajo, en soledad amena,
de verdes sauces hay una espesura,
toda de hiedra revestida y llena,
que por el tronco va hasta el altura,
y así la teje arriba y encadena,
que el sol no halla paso a la verdura;
el agua baña el prado con sonido
alegrando la vista y el oído».

Example of a Sonnet in English:

Sonnet 18: Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
By 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;

Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature's changing course untrimm'd;

But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wanderest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to Time thou growest:

So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee».

Sonnet 18 by William Shakespeare, is also an example of iambic pentameter, one of the most common meters in English poetry, where each line consists of five iambs (pairs of unstressed and stressed syllables), to create a smooth and natural rhythm.

Frequently asked questions about the meter of a poem

The metrical syllable is a fundamental unit in the meter of a poem. Unlike the grammatical syllable, which is counted according to the rules of the language, the metrical syllable is counted according to the accents and rhythmic distribution of the verse. In Spanish metrics, each metrical syllable can be accented or unaccented and its correct identification allows us to understand the structure and rhythm of the poem.

How do you count syllables in a verse?

The counting of syllables in a verse is done taking into account the rules of metrics. In Spanish, a syllable is counted when there is a vowel neither preceded nor followed by another vowel, and syllables can be added or deleted according to poetic licenses. For example, if a line ends in an acute word, an additional syllable is added; if it ends in a flat word, no syllable is added or subtracted; and if it ends in a sdrújula word, one syllable is subtracted.

In English verse, counting syllables involves determining the number of individual sound units within a word or a line of poetry. Here are some general guidelines for counting syllables in English verse:

1. Counting Syllables in Words:

- A syllable typically consists of a vowel sound or a combination of vowel and consonant sounds.

For example:
"Cat" has one syllable.
"Elephant" has three syllables.

2. Counting Syllables in a Line of Verse:

- To count syllables in a line of verse, read each word in the line and count the syllables in each word.
Consider vowel and consonant combinations that may affect the number of syllables.

3. Stressed and Unstressed Syllables:

- Syllables can also be classified as stressed or unstressed. A stressed syllable is one that is pronounced with more emphasis.
- English verse often involves patterns of stressed and unstressed syllables.

4. Iambic Pentameter:

In English poetry, iambic pentameter is common. It consists of five pairs of syllables, where each pair has one stressed syllable followed by an unstressed syllable.

5. Practice:

- Practice reading verses aloud to identify syllable count, stress patterns, and rhythmic flow.

6. Understanding Meter:

- Meter in poetry refers to the rhythmic pattern created by the arrangement of stressed and unstressed syllables.
- Common meters include iambic, trochaic, anapestic, and dactylic.

Example of iambic pentameter:

Shall I / com / pare / thee / to a / sum / mer's / day?

In this line from Shakespeare, each line consists of five pairs of syllables (pentameter), and the stress pattern follows an iambic pattern.

It's important to note that these are general guidelines, and the pronunciation of words may vary based on context and regional accents. Regular practice and familiarity with English poetry will help develop a more intuitive understanding of syllable counting and meter.

What is Meter in Poetry? 18

What poetic licenses exist in metrics?

- Synalepha: It consists of the union of two syllables when one word ends in a vowel and the following one begins with a vowel, "h" or "y".

- Syneresis: Joins two vowels in a single syllable, even though they should be separated according to grammatical rules.

- Dieresis: Separates two vowels that should form a diphthong according to grammatical rules.

In conclusion, meter is the pulse of the poem, the hidden compass that guides the dance of the words.
Mastering it is not only a matter of technique, but a path to beauty and expressive depth in poetry. If you want to shape your verses, don't miss Domestika's writing courses.

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