When we grab you by the ankles,
Where our mark is to be made,
You'll soon be doing noble work,
Although you won't be paid.

When we drive away in secret,
You'll be a volunteer,
So don't scream when we tell you:
"The world is quiet here."

And how is it so "catchy" (if that's the right word), even when the line lengths are uneven?

  • I'm coming that this from a poetry point of view. My attempt at marking the stress patterns for the first four lines look something like xx/x/x/x, xx/x/x/, x/x/x/x/, x/x/x/. The last two look iambic, first two look like xx/, then iambic-ish. Nothing I recognize though.
    – Liam Loroy
    May 10, 2021 at 21:12
  • Looks like trochaic tetrameter: Compare it to: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's The Song of Hiawatha. But not all the lines are exact.
    – Lambie
    May 10, 2021 at 21:14
  • "By the shore of Gitche Gumee, \ By the shining Big-Sea-Water, \ At the doorway of his wigwam, \ In the pleasant Summer morning" Interesting, the first four lines match the first line here, rhythm-wise. That means my stress markings there are inaccurate then: should be /x/x/x/x.
    – Liam Loroy
    May 10, 2021 at 21:17
  • 1
    This is called poetic meter, not rhythm per se. The stress patterns are called feet. "l"is for the strong syllables and "u" is for the weak ones. But here, you are better off using: duh-DUM= When we //grab you = duh-DUM etc.
    – Lambie
    May 10, 2021 at 21:36
  • Some searching later: it seems to be something like the common meter (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_metre), if the common meter were trochaic instead of iambic. Line lengths here almost work: 8/6/8/6, then 8/6/7/6, 7 being the outlier.
    – Liam Loroy
    May 10, 2021 at 22:02

2 Answers 2


The poem is a variable combination of Trochaïc: four pairs of two syllables with stress on the first.

Whén we gráb you bÿ the ánkles,

Then an Iambic tetrameter: four pairs of two syllables with emphasis on the second.

You'll sóon be ing noble work

Then a final iambic trimeter: three pairs of two syllables with emphasis on the second.

Althóugh you wón't be páid.

The second stanza is not quite the same as the first and takes a few minor liberties. Unlike the first, the second is alternate trochaïc tetrameter and iambic trimeter. The third line is one syllable short. There is a technical term for this. It's called 'catalexis' (which in ancient Greek only means leaving out). So they would call the line an 'iambic tetrameter catalectic' (i.e. and iambic tetrameter leaving out the last syllable!).

I am sure the writer was not thinking in these terms. But the use of trocháic metre tends to be bouncy. Short lines enhances the bounce. The fact each line is more-or-less a self-contained unit of sense rather than flowing on into the next also makes for bounce. Similarly, the shortening of each fourth line gives you a clear metrical ending to each stanza. So the rhythm is highly defined.


It uses the same metre as a great many music hall songs but is less competently written IMHO. Writing "You'll" (twice) where the meter needs "You will" means the reader has, mentally, to smudge the word: "You-wool."

Gracie Field's Little Pudden Basin from the 20's or 30's (words and music by Reginald S. Low) rolls two lines into one but sounds the same:

They've settled down at Brixton, but a flat were hard to find
At last they got a bedroom-parlour-kitchen all combined.
They bought some lovely furniture - gave two pounds for the lot
And standing on the dresser is the nicest thing they've got.

It's the little pudden basin that belonged to Auntie Flo.
They've everything for comfort there or very nearly so
They haven't got a bathroom but they don't mind that, you know
For they use the pudden basin that belonged to Auntie Flo.

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