Meter (hymn)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Metre (hymn))
Jump to: navigation, search

A hymn meter or metre indicates the number of syllables for the lines in each stanza of a hymn. This provides a means of marrying the hymn's text with an appropriate hymn tune for singing.

Hymn and poetic meter[edit]

In the English language poetic meters and hymn meters have different starting points but there is nevertheless much overlap. Take the opening lines of the hymn Amazing Grace:

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
that saved a wretch like me.

Analyzing this, a poet would see a couplet with four iambic metrical feet in the first line and three in the second. A musician would more likely count eight syllables in the first line and six in the second.

Completing that verse:

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
that saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found,
was blind, but now I see.

the hymnist describes it as 8.6.8.6 (or 86.86).

Conventionally most hymns in this 86.86 pattern are iambic (weak-strong syllable pairs). By contrast most hymns in an 87.87 pattern are trochaic, with strong-weak syllable pairs:

Love divine, all loves excelling,
joy of heav'n to earth come down,...

In practice many hymns conform to one of a relatively small number of meters (syllable patterns), and within the most commonly used ones there is a general convention as to whether its stress pattern is iambic or trochaic (or perhaps dactylic). It is rare to find any significant metrical substitution in a well-written hymn; indeed, such variation usually indicates a poorly constructed text.

Representation[edit]

All meters can be represented numerically. In addition, some of those most frequently encountered are named:

  • C.M., or CMCommon Meter, 8.6.8.6; a quatrain (four-line stanza) with alternating lines of iambic tetrameter and iambic trimeter, which rhymes in the second and fourth lines and sometimes in the first and third.
  • L.M., & or LMLong Meter, 8.8.8.8; a quatrain in iambic tetrameter, which rhymes in the second and fourth lines and often in the first and third.
  • S.M., or SMShort Meter, 6.6.8.6; iambic lines in the first, second, and fourth are in trimeter, and the third in tetrameter, which rhymes in the second and fourth lines and sometimes in the first and third.

Often a longer verse will, in effect, be two short verses joined together or doubled. So:

A large number of hymns, including many well known ones, use other meters: examples are "Abide With Me" (10.10.10.10) and "Come Down, O Love Divine" (6.6.11.D).

Metrical index[edit]

Hymns written in a particular meter may be sung to any tune in that same meter, as long as the poetic foot (such as iambic, trochaic) also conforms.

Most hymnals include a metrical index of the book's tunes.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]