Meter is a unit of rhythm in poetry, the pattern of the beats. It is also called a foot. Each foot has a certain number of syllables in it, usually two or three syllables. The difference in types of meter is which syllables are accented and which are not.
Iamb meter has the first syllable unaccented and the second accented. Here are examples:
- That time l of year l thou mayst l in me l behold
Shall I l com pare l thee to l a sum l mer’s day? – Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 18″
- Come live | with me | and be | my love
And we | will all | the plea|sures prove – Christopher Marlowe’s “Come live with me and be my love”
- All I could see from where I stood
Was three long mountains and a wood; – Edna St. Vincent Millay’s “Renascence”
- To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells – John Keats’ “To Autumn”
Trochee meter has the first syllable accented and the second unaccented. Here are examples:
- Tell me | not in l mournful l numbers
By the | shores of | Gitche | Gumee,
By the | shining | Big-Sea-|Water – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “Song of Hiawatha”
- (I could) wait forever, Face a thousand lifetimes, Ponder your embraces, Just to live in your time.
Why so pale and wan, fond Lover?
Prithee why so pale?
Will, when looking well can’t move her,
Looking ill prevail?
Prithee why so pale? – Sir John Suckling’s “Song”
- The Grizzly Bear is huge and wild;
He has devoured an infant child.
The infant child is not aware
It has been eaten by the bear. – A. E. Housman’s “Infant Innocence”
- Earth, receive an honoured guest;
William Yeats is laid to rest:
Let this Irish vessel lie
Emptied of its poetry. – W. H. Auden’s “In Memory of W. B. Yeats”
Dactyl meter has the first syllable accented and the second and third unaccented. Here are examples:
- This is the forest pri meval, the murmuring pines and the hemlock – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “Evangeline”
- Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley’d and thunder’d; – Alfred Lord Tennyson’s “The Charge of the Light Brigade”
- We that had Loved him so, Followed him Honoured him, – Robert Browning’s “The Lost Leader”
- Half a league, half a league
Half a league onward, – Alfred Lord Tennyson’s “The Charge of the Light Brigade”
- Just for a handful of silver he left us
Just for a riband to stick in his coat – Robert Browning’s “The Lost Leader”
Anapest meter has the first two syllables unaccented and the third syllable accented. Here are examples:
- And the sound l of a voice l that is still
The Assyrian came down like a wolf on the fold
And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold Lord Byron’s “The Destruction of Sennacherib”
- In the midst of the word he was trying to say,
In the midst of his laughter and glee,
He had softly and suddenly vanished away—
For the Snark was a Boojum, you see. Lewis Carroll, “The Hunting of the Snark”
- Oh, Potter, you rotter, oh, what have you done,
You’re killing off students, you think it’s good fun. – Peeves’s Song from Harry Potter
- His eyes are as green as a fresh pickled toad – Harry’s valentine from Harry Potter
- And the sheen| of their spears | was like stars | on the sea, – Lord Byron’s “The Destruction of Sennacherib”
- From the centre all round to the sea,
I am lord of the fowl and the brute. – Will Cowper’s “Verses Supposed To Be Written By Alexander Selkirk, During His Solitary Abode In The Island Of San Fernandez”
Now you’ve learned a lot about the types of meter in poetry. For more examples check out Examples of Iambic Pentameter.