In poetry, meter is the pattern of the basic rhythmic structure of verse or lines in the verse following stressed and/or unstressed syllables in each line.
Each line of poetry is divided into feet (the basic repeating rhythmic unit), containing a repetitive rhythmic pattern of sound or beat.
Related: A Huge List of Poetry Themes
Understand more about meter in poetry by reading this card.
Yet confused about the use of meter in poetry then let’s learn it from the basics.
Types of Meter in Poetry
- Monometer (containing one foot in a line of poetry)
- Dimeter (containing two feet in a line of poetry)
- Trimeter (containing three feet in a line of poetry)
- Tetrameter (containing four feet in a line of poetry)
- Pentameter (containing five feet in a line of poetry)
- Hexameter (containing six feet in a line of poetry)
- Heptameter (containing seven feet in a line of poetry)
- Octameter (containing eight feet in a line of poetry)
Examples of Meter in Poetry-
- Structure- First unstressed and second stressed syllable.
- Sound- duh DUH.
Example of Iambic Meter in Poetry-
Example #1-”Sonnet 18” by William Shakespeare
Shall I / compare / thee to/ a sum/mer’s day?
Thou art / more love/ly and / more tem/per-ate
Rough Winds / do shake / the dar/ling buds/ of May,
And sum/mer’s lease /hath all/ too short /a date.Sonnet 18
These lines from Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18 are written in Iambic pentameter, a type of meter in poetry, containing five feet (you can see the above line is divided into five parts which become five feet), where each foot is composed of an unstressed and a stressed syllable making it iambic in nature.
Example #2 – ”Alexander’s Feast” by John Dryden
With rav/ished ears
The mon/arch hears
Assumes / the God
Affects / to nod,
And seems / to shake / the spheres.
These first four lines from John Dryden’s poem Alexander’s Feast or the power of music is in iambic dimeter (two feet) and the fifth and the last line is in iambic trimeter as has three feet.
Example #3 – ”Lucy and Colin” by Thomas Tickell
Confu/sion, shame,/ remorse,/ despair,
At once/ his bos/om swell
The damps/ of death/ bedewed/ his brow;
He shook,/ he groaned,/ he fell.
These four lines from Thomas Tickel’s poem Lucy and Colin alternate iambic trimeter with iambic tetrameter as the first and third lines are in iambic tetrameter, containing four feet and the second & fourth lines are in iambic trimeter containing three feet.
Note- Iambic Pentameter is the most common meter used in English poetry.
Learn more about Iambic Meter, here
- Structure- First stresses and second unstressed syllable.
- Sound- DUH duh
Example of Trochaic Meter in Poetry-
Example #1 –”The Tyger” by William Blake
Tyger / Tyger,/ burning /bright
In the / forest /of the/ night;The Tyger
These lines from William Blake’s poem The Tyger are written in Trochaic Tetrameter, a meter in poetry containing four feet with the first stressed and second unstressed syllable.
Example #2 –”To May” by Leigh Hunt
May thou/ mouth of/ rosy/ beauty,
Month when /pleasure /is a/ duty,
Month of/ bees and/ month of/ flowers,
Month of /blossom /laden /bowers.
These lines from Leigh Hunt’s poem ”To May” are also in trochaic tetrameter as you can see it has first stressed and second unstressed syllables containing four feet in every line.
Example #3 –”Song of the Witches” by William Shakespeare
Double / double / toil and / trouble
Fire / burn and / cauldron / bubble.
Cool it /with a/ baboon’s /blood,
Then the / charm is /firm and/ good.–Macbeth
A popular example of Trochaic Meter from Shakespeare’s Play
William Shakespeare may prefer using iambic pentameter in most of his works but he wrote these lines of Macbeth in Trochaic Tetrameter, where the first accented and second unaccented word is divided into four feet in each line as you can see in the above example.
Learn more about Trochee Meter, here
- Structure- First & second stressed and third unstressed syllable.
- Sound- DUH duh duh.
Example of Dactyl Meter in Poetry-
Cannon to / right of them,
Cannon to / left of them,
Cannon in / front of them
Volley’d and / thundere’d;-The Charge of the Light Brigade
These lines from The Charge of the Light Brigade by Alfred Lord Tennyson is written in Dactyl Dimeter as its pattern contains two feet with first stressed and second & third unstressed syllable.
Learn more about the dactyl meter, here
- Structure- First & second unstressed and third stressed syllable.
- Sound- duh duh DUH.
Example of Anapest Meter in Poetry-
Example #1 – ”The Hunting of the Snark” by Lewis Carroll
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/den ly van/ ish ed away
For the Snark / was a Boo/jum, you see.-The Hunting of the Snark
These lines from Lewis Carroll’s poem The Hunting of the Snark are written in Anapest Tri and Tetrameter as you can see the pattern following the first & second unstressed and third stressed syllable with the first line written in four feet and the second in three feet.
Example #2 –”The Solitude of Alexander Selkirk” by William Cowper
I am mon/arch of all/ I survey,
My right/ there is none/ to dispute;
From the cen/tre all round/ to the sea
I am lord/ of the bird/ and the brute
These lines from William Cowper’s poem are written in Anapest Trimeter as the pattern following first & second unstressed syllables and third with stressed syllable in three feet except the first foot of the second line in iambus (containing an unstressed and stressed syllable).
Learn more about Anapest Meter, here
- Structure- Both first and second syllables are stressed.
- Sound- DUH DUH
Example of Spondee Meter in Poetry-
”Slowly, Slowly, fresh found” by Ben Jonson
Slow slow, / fresh font, / keep time / with my / salt tears;–Slowly, slowly, fresh fount
This line from Ben Jonson’s poem is written in spondee pentameter as it is following both the first and second stressed syllables containing five feet.
Learn more about Spondee Meter, here
- Structure- Both first and second syllables are unstressed.
- Sound- duh duh.
Example of Pyrrhic Meter in Poetry-
When the/ blood creeps /and the /nerve prick.
-In Memoriam by Alfred Lord Tennyson
This line from Tennyson’s poem In Memoriam is written in pyrrhic tetrameter as it is following both the first and second unstressed syllables containing four feet.
Learn more about Pyrrhic Meter, here
Know More Examples of Meter in Poetry here
Related: Examples of Assonance in Poetry
Watch this below informative video by Ted-Ed to learn more about the poetic pattern.