Anapestic tetrameter

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Anapestic tetrameter is a poetic meter that has four anapestic metrical feet per line. Each foot has two unstressed syllables followed by a stressed syllable. It is sometimes referred to as a "reverse dactyl", and shares the rapid, driving pace of the dactyl.[1][2][3][4]

Description and uses[edit]

Anapestic tetrameter is a rhythm for comic verse, and prominent examples include Clement Clarke Moore's "'Twas the night before Christmas" and the majority of Dr. Seuss books. When used in comic form, anapestic tetrameter is often highly regular, as the regularity emphasizes the breezy, melodic feel of the meter, though the initial unstressed beat of a line may often be omitted.

Non comic usage[edit]

The verse form is not solely comic. Lord Byron's epic Don Juan contains much anapestic tetrameter. Eminem's hit song The Way I Am uses the meter for all parts of the song except the chorus. In non-comic works, it is likely that anapestic tetrameter will be used in a less regular manner, with caesuras and other meters breaking up the driving regularity of the beat.

Example[edit]

An anapestic foot is two unstressed syllables followed by a stressed syllable. We could write the rhythm like this:

da da DUM

A line of anapestic tetrameter is four of these in a row:

da da DUM da da DUM da da DUM da da DUM


We can scan this with a 'x' mark representing an unstressed syllable and a '/' mark representing a stressed syllable. In this notation a line of anapestic tetrameter would look like this:

x x / x x / x x / x x /


The following lines from Dr. Seuss' Yertle the Turtle are examples, showing both a complete line of anapestic tetrameter and a line with the first beat omitted:


"And today the Great Yertle,
That marvelous he
Is King of the Mud.
That is all he can see."


We can notate the scansion of this as follows:

x
x
/
x
x
/
x
x
/
x
x
/
And to- day the Great Yer- tle, that Mar- vel ous he
x
/
x
x
/
x
x
/
x
x
/
Is King of the Mud. That is all he can see

References[edit]

  1. ^ The Oxford Companion to Shakespeare (2001) Ed. Michael Dobson and Stanley Wells, Oxford University Press.
  2. ^ The Oxford Companion to English Literature 7th Ed. (2009) Edited by Dinah Birch, Oxford University Press Inc.
  3. ^ Oxford English Dictionary 2nd Ed. (1989)
  4. ^ The Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms (2008) Chris Baldick, Oxford University Press.