Friday, October 17, 2008

Metrical Feet -- A Lesson for a Boy by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Metrical Feet -- A Lesson for a Boy

Trochee trips from long to short;
From long to long in solemn sort
Slow Spondee stalks, strong foot!, yet ill able
Ever to come up with Dactyl's trisyllable.
Iambics march from short to long.
With a leap and a bound the swift Anapests throng.
One syllable long, with one short at each side,
Amphibrachys hastes with a stately stride --
First and last being long, middle short, Amphimacer
Strikes his thundering hoofs like a proud high-bred Racer.

If Derwent be innocent, steady, and wise,
And delight in the things of earth, water, and skies;
Tender warmth at his heart, with these meters to show it,
With sound sense in his brains, may make Derwent a poet --
May crown him with fame, and must win him the love
Of his father on earth and his father above.
My dear, dear child!
Could you stand upon Skiddaw, you would not from its whole ridge
See a man who so loves you as your fond S.T. Colerige.
--Samuel Taylor Coleridge

I found this poem at my favorite poetry site while doing earlier posts when I was still trying to make this a blog about poetry rathern than a blog about my life with a poetic soundtrack.

For those of you who are confused about this poem and why it's so difficult to read smoothly, I'll offer a quick explanation, with a chart I'm stealing outright from the above-linked site.

Most poems pick a meter and stick with it the whole way through, and your mouth knows what to expect as you read aloud -- think how easy it is to read Dr. Seuss aloud even with all the nonsense words. In this poem, he takes each of the well known meters, and as soon as you get used to reading one, he changes to another. It's like running a race where you hop for ten steps, then grapevine, then skip then run, then walk backwards. It's doable, and interesting, but not elegant. This one was written as a study aide for his son.
The metres (where /, -, s and l are stressed, unstressed, short and long
syllables respectively)

Trochee / -
Spondee / /
Dactyl / - -
Iamb - /
Anapest - - /
Amphibrach s l s
Amphimacer l s l

The latter two feet are based on short and long rather than stressed and
unstressed syllables, and apply to Greek and Latin poetry.

When Mom sent me a link to a "poetic table of the elements" and said, "You MUST do a blog post on this!" I thought that it was going to be something similar where somebody had somehow organized poetic terms or "the elements" of poetry in a clever way.

It turned out to be a site that had a poem for each (well for most) of the elements in the regular old periodic table. It's a fun idea, and for a chemestry nerd like my brother David (and I say that with all the love in the world) it might be worth exploring. I don't know or care enough about chemestry to see which poems have clever ways of describing elements through words (I imagine something like having the number of words in each line indicate the electron levels while describing the physical properties, or assigning a style of poetry to each subgroup on the table). The site also has lots of annoying popup ads, so I didn't spend much time ther. I'll leave that to the chemestry nerds.

Mom also tagged me in a blog game where you pick the fourth folder in your My Pictures folder and post the fourth picture in that folder. My pictures are a bit more organized than most people's (big surprise there), and you have to go several folders deep before you get to actual pictures, but I just kept going fourth, fourth, fourth till I found the one posted above.

It's Kari Seaver and a guy named Chris, who may now be her fiance? Husband? I don't know. I'm sure somebody told me at the time (I think it was taken sometime in 2007), but I've forgotten. Kari is Steve's age. They were born at almost the same time, but Steve was always about twice as big as Kari. The Seavers are very good friends of our family from when we lived in Mighigan (lo many years ago), and one of the few families we've kept in touch with over the years. Kari also lived with us for a school year when she was having some trouble with friends at her own school in Detroit. Her Dad took the black and white photos of the six of us kids that hang on the wall in the dining room at Mom's house.

Well there you go mom! This post is for you. I'll tag Mike, Helena, Kathey, and Marci.


  1. OK. I got the tag and tagged a couple of others!-K

  2. Hadn't read this poem in so many years. Like finding the songbook, it was as welcoming and delightful as a favorite robe -- familiar, soft in some places, ragged in others, and so much of it still fits! Thank you again.