Substitution (poetry)

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"Anaclasis" redirects here. For other uses, see Anaclasis – A Haunting Gospel of Malice & Hatred.

In English poetry substitution, also known as inversion, is the use of an alien metric foot in a line of otherwise regular metrical pattern.[1] For instance in an iambic line of "da DUM", a trochaic substitution would introduce a foot of "DUM da".

Trochaic substitution[edit]

In a line of verse that normally employs iambic meter, trochaic substitution describes the replacement of an iamb by a trochee.

The following line from John Keats' To Autumn is straightforward iambic pentameter:[2]

To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells

Using '°' for a weak syllable, '/' for a strong syllable, and '|' for divisions between feet it can be represented as:

 
°
/
°
/
°
/
°
/
°
/
To swell | the gourd, | and plump | the ha- | zel shells

The opening of a sonnet by John Donne demonstrates trochaic substitution of the first foot ("Batter"):

 
/
°
°
/
°
/
°
/
°
/
Bat- ter | my heart | three- per- | soned God, | for you |

Donne uses an inversion (DUM da instead of da DUM) in the first foot of the first line to stress the key verb, "batter", and then sets up a clear iambic pattern with the rest of the line

Shakespeare's Hamlet includes a well-known example:

To be, or not to be: that is the question:

Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune'

Here, that is emphasized rather than is, which would be a wrenched, or unnatural accent. The first syllable of Whether is also stressed, making it a trochaic beginning.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Fry, Stephen (2005). The Ode Less Travelled. Arrow Books. ISBN 978-0-09-950934-9. 
  2. ^ Steele, Timothy (1999). All the fun's in how you say a thing. Ohio University Press. ISBN 0-8214-1260-4. 

External links[edit]

The dictionary definition of anaclasis at Wiktionary