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No article entitled "Spondee"[edit]

? On my screen, I see a notice that there is no article entitled "spondee" - yet this is the discussion page of the "spondee" article!

Well, there is now -- Nat 16:26, 1 January 2007 (UTC)

A Poor Example[edit]

The article tries hard, but can't someone come up with an example that doesn't have to introduced with 'This is, unfortunately, a poor example'!?

Isn't the prologue in Romeo and Juliet spondaic?

Answer to your first question: it doesn't say that it's poor, just that it's difficult. Difficult in the sense of "complex to explain" not in the sense "not illustrating the matter well. I think it's a very good example; also that its difficulty (=intricacy) gives way to an informative and interesting account of how this metre functions. The word "unfortunately" should probably be removed; the author was apparently being modest.

The Prologue to Romeo and Juliet[edit]

Isn't the prologue in Romeo and Juliet spondaic? I don't know. Let's have a look:

I get:

Two households, both alike in dignity,
iamb, iamb, iamb, iamb, iamb.

To be fair, most people (unencumbered by poetic theory) would probably read it as: stressed, trochee, trochee, trochee, dactyl. That begins with with two stressed syllables, which likes a spondee. The problem is that it's hard to draw a line between two stresses being used as one and as two feet. (The example being used works well by sticking three stresses in a row, to leave no ambiguity.)

In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
iamb, iamb, iamb, iamb, iamb.

From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
iamb, iamb, iamb, stressed, stressed, stressed, dactyl.

You've got some extra syllables somewhere, and you appear to be stressing "to" (!): iamb, iamb, stressed, iamb, dactyl

Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
iamb, iamb, iamb, iamb, iamb.

From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
iamb, iamb, iamb, iamb, iamb.

A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life;
iamb, iamb, iamb, iamb, iamb.

Whole misadventured piteous overthrows
iamb, iamb, iamb, (pit-yis) iamb, iamb.

I think the natural spacing in spoken English yields: iamb (or trochee), amphibrach (u-s-u) (or anapest + unstressed), trochee, trochee, stressed (or a cretic replacing the last two). You would say the "yis" of "pit-yis" together with the "pit", not with the following "ov".

Do with their death bury their parents' strife.
iamb, iamb, spondee, iamb, iamb.

Naahhh. Trochee, iamb, trochee, iamb, iamb. (feel that nice inverted parabola, that choriamb: DAH-duh-duh-DAH; pause; then repeat.)

The fearful passage of their death-mark'd love,
iamb, iamb, iamb, iamb, iamb.

No, here's the spondee we've all been eagerly awaiting: amphibrach, trochee, anapest, spondee (Hold back all the stresses for a long buildup . . ., then let go with "Death-marked love", big solid emphasis all the way through, DAH-DAH-DAH.) Perhaps, rather: amphibrach, trochee, pyrrhic (u-u), spondee, stress (to get five feet).

And the continuance of their parents' rage,
iamb, iamb, (?)iamb, iamb, iamb.

"and THE"? No, if anything "AND the": trochee, iamb, iamb, iamb, iamb.

Which, but their children's end, nought could remove,
iamb, iamb, iamb, iamb, iamb.

change numbers one and four to trochees. Choriamb, iamb, choriamb

Is now the two hours' traffic of our stage;
iamb, iamb, iamb, iamb, iamb.

The which if you with patient ears attend,
iamb, iamb, iamb, iamb, iamb.

What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.
iamb, iamb, iamb, iamb, iamb.

So, on the whole, no: it isn't spondaic but iambic, as one might expect. Nat 16:26, 1 January 2007 (UTC)

Well, sure, but in a more complex way.

Bold text=== A better example? ===

How about:

Praise Him! Praise Him!
Praise Him! Praise Him!
Praise the everlasting King!

Seven spondees in a row? Or three trochees in the last line? Are you allowed to choose? When I sung this last line at school, it seems to me we sumg them as spondees, but one could choose to recite them as trochees.

Nat 15:41, 1 January 2007 (UTC)

You can't go by singing: music shuffles all the emphases around. (That's why rock musicians write such terrible poetry: they're used to writing lyrics where the music can justify otherwise idiotic stress arrangements.) Consider the difference between reading and singing the hymn of the poem Jerusalem by William Blake.

I think a simpler example might be in Tennyson's In Memoriam, number 50:
Be near me when my light is low,
When the blood creeps and the nerves prick
And tingle; and the heart is sick,
And all the wheels of Being slow.
Blowery 23:08, 30 April 2007 (UTC)
Hmm, just reading through my Tennyson again, and I think I found another. It's in Ulysses; I mark it thus:
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfil
This labour, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and thro' soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good.
At least three spondees in two lines, maybe four if you stress "This," which wouldn't be unreasonable. Also, four pyrrhics if I count correctly. —The preceding [[Wikipedia:Sign your posts on talk pages
I'll have to read some of his stuff again; he seems rather fond of pyrrhic and spondaic substitutions.
Blowery 23:14, 1 May 2007 (UTC)
Another possibility, this time from Longfellow's A Psalm of Life. The poem is otherwise pretty much strictly trochaic, possibly with a few iambic substitutions, but I found a spondee in the sixth stanza:
Trust no future, howe'er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act, - act in the living Present!
Heart within and God o'erhead!
I guess "Act, - act" could also be one, but "dead Past" is pretty obvious; if you say them with unequal stress, they sound completely ridiculous.
Blowery 23:14, 1 May 2007 (UTC)


Spondee isn't the only foot with two long syllables! What about Amphimacer? 01:54, 5 December 2006 (UTC)

Good point. Gingermint (talk) 05:29, 13 August 2010 (UTC)


The introduction to this article states that the spondee is the only example in English verse of a metrical foot with only stressed syllables. What about the molossus, the ternary foot of three stresses? This is found specifically in "To Sit in Solemn Silence," by W.S. Gilbert:

_ / _ / _ / _ _ _ / / /

To sit in solemn silence in a dull dark dock,

_ _ / _ / _ / _ _ _ / / /

In a pestilential prison, with a life-long lock,

_ / _ _(/) _ / _ _ _ / / /

Awaiting the sensation of a short, sharp shock,

_ _ / _ / _ / _ _ _ / / /

From a cheap and chippy chopper on a big black block!

Blowery 18:29, 23 April 2007 (UTC)

Are those last three syllables functioning as a single foot? To my ear, which admittedly isn't well, trained, they don't seem to be. It's necessary to distinguish between a single three-syllable foot and three one-syllable feet.
I'm fairly certain that this is a true molossus. The poem, when read aloud, has a chant-like quality. The pauses that you hear are naturally going to occur with three stresses in a row, not to mention with alliteration thrown in. However, I think to divide meter to the point where you have "single-syllable" feet is generally a mistake; if you get this far, there's probably a better way to do it. Sure, syllables can stand alone, but they are generally attached to some other foot, possibly as an add-on to an iamb or trochee. Even then, one could make a legitimate argument that they are in fact three-syllable amphibrachs or amphimacers, respectively. Granted, metrical divisions, especially when examining odd meters, are ultimately subjective in nature, but I think this one is a genuine molossus. Even if it weren't, the fact remains that the molossus is a legitimate ternary foot with three stresses, and thus the spondee is not the only foot with only stressed syllables. There is even, technically, a quarternary foot called the dispondee, with four stresses, but I think it makes more sense in that case to stick to binary divisions and simply call it what its name implies: two spondees. But the point is, the spondee is not exclusive in this regard. Blowery 14:43, 7 July 2007 (UTC)

Wikiskot (talk) 13:11, 20 May 2013 (UTC) To me this is iambic hexameter that goes spondaic in the last foot (and sometimes anapestic in the first).

Wikiskot (talk) 18:03, 20 May 2013 (UTC) Or: primus paeon, primus paeon, molossus, with one or two unstressed syllables allowed as lead-in...?

No poems entirely in spondees[edit]

"It is unrealistic to construct a whole, serious poem with spondees, except in languages like Chinese " What about "The Tyger" of Blake ?

Tyger Tyger burning bright,
/ _ / _ / _ / => spondees
In the forests of the night;
/ _ / _ / _ / => spondees
What immortal hand or eye
/ _ / _ / _ / => spondees
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
_ / _ / _ / _ / => iambs
In what distant deeps or skies.
/ _ / _ / _ / => spondees
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
/ _ / _ / _ / => spondees
On what wings dare he aspire?
/ _ / _ / _ / (_) => spondees
What the hand, dare sieze the fire?
/ _ / _ / _ / => spondees
And what shoulder, & what art,
/ _ / _ / _ / => spondees
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
_ / _ / _ / _ / => iambs
And when thy heart began to beat.
_ / _ / _ / _ / => iambs
What dread hand? & what dread feet?
/ / / || _ / / / => molussus ? (which you say do not exist in english) + iamb + spondee
What the hammer? what the chain,
/ _ / _ / _ / => spondees
In what furnace was thy brain?
/ _ / _ / _ / => spondees
What the anvil? what dread grasp.
/ _ / _ / / / => spondee + molossus ?
Dare its deadly terrors clasp!
/ _ / _ / _ / => spondees

When the stars threw down their spears
/ _ / _ / _ / => spondees
And water'd heaven with their tears:
_ / _ / _ / _ / => iambs
Did he smile his work to see?
/ _ / (_)_ / _ / => spondees
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?
_ / _ / _ / _ / => iambs
Tyger Tyger burning bright,
/ _ / _ / _ / => spondees
In the forests of the night;
/ _ / _ / _ / => spondees
What immortal hand or eye.
/ _ / _ / _ / => spondees
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
_ / _ / _ / _ / => iambs

I think we can consider this as being a poem written in spondees, no ? — Preceding unsigned comment added by Davidtsm (talkcontribs) 16:41, 2 June 2012 (UTC)

Wikiskot (talk) 13:37, 20 May 2013 (UTC) I think you're confusing spondee ( ¯ ¯ ) with trochee ( ¯ ˘ ). But this meter isn't truly trochaic either. A genuine trochaic line would end with unstressed syllable, eg "Tyger Tyger burning brightly." But "Tyger Tyger burning bright" is ambiguous: is it a trochaic line with its final syllable missing or an iambic with its first syllable missing? There are 6 true iambic lines in the poem, which argues for the latter analysis, but probably the right way to think about it is that this is a mutant meter of Blake's own invention in which most lines start with a strong trochaic feeling but end iambically.

Wikiskot (talk) 13:55, 20 May 2013 (UTC) Actually I just thought of another example of this meter: Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. Clearly this a pattern that satisfies the ear although it causes problems for the hapless prosodist trying to identify feet. If I had to choose I would call it a modified iambic, since iambic is more prevalent in English generally, and cheating on the first syllable is common practice.