Trochaic octameter

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Trochaic octameter is a poetic meter that has eight trochaic metrical feet per line. Each foot has one stressed syllable followed by an unstressed syllable. Trochaic octameter is a rarely used meter.

Description and uses[edit]

The best known work in trochaic octameter is Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven," which utilizes five lines of trochaic octameter followed by a "short" half line (in reality, 7 beats) that, by the end of the poem, takes on the qualities of a refrain.


Another well-known work is Banjo Paterson's "Clancy of the Overflow", which uses four lines of trochaic octameter for each verse throughout.

Because of the length of the line, trochaic octameter lends itself to the heavy use of internal rhyme and alliteration and is also extraordinarily difficult to use consistently. The Raven, for example, breaks into two half-lines of approximately 8 syllables, generally with a caesura between them.

Example[edit]

A trochee foot is a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed syllable. We could write the rhythm like this:

DUM da

A line of trochaic octameter is eight of these in a row:

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

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 trochaic octameter would look like this:

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

The following first verse from "The Raven" shows the use of trochaic octameter. Note the heavy use of dactyls in the second and fifth line, which help to emphasize the more regular lines, and the use of strong accents to end the second, fourth and fifth lines, reinforcing the rhyme:

We can notate the scansion of this as follows:

/
x
/
x
/
x
/
x
/
x
/
x
/
x
/
x
Once up- on a mid- night drear- y, while I pon- dered weak and wear- y
/
x
/
x
x
/
x
/
x
x
/
x
/
x
/
x
/
O- ver man- y a quaint and cur- i- ous vol- ume of for- got- ten lore,
/
x
/
x
/
x
/
x
/
x
/
x
/
x
/
x
While I nod- ded, near- ly nap- ping, sud- den ly there came a tap- ping,
/
x
/
x
/
x
/
x
/
x
/
x
/
x
/
As of some- one gent- ly rap- ping, rap- ping at my cham- ber door.
/
x
/
x
/
x
/
x
/
x
/
x
/
x
/
"'Tis some vis- i- tor," I mut- tered, "tap- ping at my cham- ber door;
/
x
/
x
/
x
/
On- ly this, and noth- ing more

See also[edit]