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I found this poem a while ago, and I'm wondering what verse form and meter it utilises:

The wrinkling sea shone dimly
Beneath a waxen moon.
The bitter gale blew bleakly
Against a mermaid’s croon.
And beneath the wistful silence,
As the sweaty seamen slept,
While sighing into the somber sky,
The rueful raven wept.

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    It's loose iambic trimeter, except for the penultimate line, which is iambic tetrameter. There should be a term for lengthening the last or second last line of a stanza or poem, as this is a pretty common technique, but I don't know it. May 29, 2017 at 13:02
  • Yes, the 1-2-3 rhythm is called iambic. The rhyme is on every second line, called ABCB May 29, 2017 at 13:07
  • You should remove the comma from the title. It makes an unnatural separation. Say it aloud and you will see.
    – David
    Jul 2, 2017 at 11:23

1 Answer 1

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Reference Quick guide to forms

This is pretty straight forward, a ballad stanza in an iambic trimeter.

[EDITED: Majority opinion is leaning toward iambs -/ | -/ | -/ | - :The wrink | ling sea | shone dim | ly pause.]

There's a few extra syllables for stress but not a lot of variation. To determine the meter, slap your thigh regularly as you recite the poem, repeat if necessary until you find an easy beat. I talk over 3 beats per line, alternating between iambic and trochaic. The 2nd and 4th lines rhyme, basic ballad stanza.

The wrinkling sea shone dimly

-/ | -/ | -/ | - : iambic trimeter extra syllable

Beneath a waxen moon.

/- | /- | /- : trochaic trimeter

The bitter gale blew bleakly

-/ | -/ | -/ | - : iambic trimeter extra syllable

Against a mermaid’s croon.

/- | /- | /- : trochaic trimeter

And beneath the wistful silence,

-| -/ | -/ | -/ | - : iambic trimeter extra syllables

As the sweaty seamen slept,

-| -/ | -/ | -/ | : iambic trimeter extra syllable

While sighing into the somber sky,

-| /- | /-- | /- | / : trochaic trimeter extra syllables plus pyrrhic substitution (/-- replaces /-)

The rueful raven wept.

-/ | -/ | -/ | : iambic trimeter

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    Those are not trochees. You don't say BEneath A waxEN moon. It's iambic: beNEATH a WAXen MOON. May 29, 2017 at 21:20
  • Emphasis on BEneath and AGainst, it sounds better as trochees. May 30, 2017 at 8:40
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    In iambic meter, you are allowed to make an occasional substitution of a trochee, spondee, or dibrach for an iambic foot. If you read the whole line BEneath A waxEN moon in trochaic trimeter (as you have indicated in your notation), I think it sounds ridiculous. May 30, 2017 at 11:07
  • The definition of ridiculous is "deserving or inviting derision or mockery". Poetry is subjective and no opinion is deserving derision or mockery. Jun 3, 2017 at 16:34
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    I have to agree with @PeterShor that those are not intended to be trochees; reading them as such makes the lines sound unnatural and forced, while reading them as iambs is flowing and graceful.
    – Hellion
    Jun 29, 2017 at 5:06

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