Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Joy of Prosody: The Anapestic Foot

by Liz Mastin

I have discussed the most commonly used feet in metered poetry; the iambic and trochaic feet, in my past columns and have given examples. Both of these feet have two beats: the iamb sounding like (da DUM’) with the hard stress placed on the second syllable and the trochee, sounding like (DUM’da) with the hard stress landing on the first syllable. But another commonly used foot is the “anapest.”  The anapest is a three syllable foot sounding like this: da da DUM’.

According to Wikipedia “Because of its length and the fact that it ends with a strong syllable and so allows for strong rhythms, the anapest can produce a very rolling, galloping verse, and can allow for long lines with a great deal of internal complexity.” I think the best way to show you how the anapest works is by example.

Examples of anapestic poems:

Edgar Allen Poe’s “Annabellee”

“For the moon/   never beams/   without bring/   ing me dreams/   of the beau/   tiful Annabellee’.”

Lord Bryon’s “The Destruction of Sennacherib

“The Assy/    rian came down/     like a wolf/      on the fold”

Limericks are all anapestic, as well as most of the Dr. Suess’s children’s books.

To determine the footage of poem one looks at the predominant foot. In the poem “Slievenamon” you see other kinds of feet beside the anapestic foot, but they are substitutions in a predominantly anapestic poem

Example from “Slievenamon” by Irish poet Charles J. Kickmam

Alone, all alone,by the wave-washed strand,
And alone in the crowded hall.
The hall is gay, and the waves they are grand,
But my heart is not here at all.

“All alone, by the wave, and alone, in the crowd, and the waves, they are grand, but my heart, is not here: these are all anapestic feet sounding like da da DUM."

The other words in the lines form pure iambs.

Here is “Slievenamon” in its entirety. See if you recognise the anapests as they appear throughout the poem. This poem is an anapestic poem by any standards. You will see the substituted iambs throughout, as well.

By Charles J. Kickmam

Alone, all alone, by the wave-washed strand,
And alone in the crowded hall.
The hall is gay, and the waves they are grand,
But my heart is not here at all!
It flies far away, by night and by day,
To the time and the joys that are gone!
And I never can forget the sweet maiden I met,
In the valley near Slievenamon.

It was not the grace of her queenly air,
Nor her cheek of the rose’s glow,
Nor her soft black eyes, nor her flowing hair,
Nor was it her lily-white brow.
“Twas the soul of truth and of melting truth,
And the smile like a summer dawn,
That stole my heart, one soft summer day,
In the valley near Slievenamon.

In the festive hall, by the star-watched shore,
Ever my restless spirit cries:
“My love, oh, my love, shall I ne’er see you more?
And, my land, will you never uprise?
By night and by day, I ever, ever, pray,
While lonely my life flows on,
To see our flag unrolled, and my love to enfold
In the valley near Slievenamon.

Liz Mastin is a poet who lives in Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho during the summer and Bullhead City, Arizona in winter. She thrives on the study of the great poets, their biographies, the schools of poetry to which they adhered, and the poetic conventions of the times in which they lived.

While she enjoys free verse as well as metrical poetry, her main interest lies in prosody. She notices that most of the enduring poems are those we can remember and recite. Liz enjoys poetry forms such as the sonnet, the sestina, the couplet, blank verse, simple quatrains, etc. and she hopes to see modern poets regain interest in studied metrical poetry.

Liz is currently putting together her first collection of poems which should be completed this winter. The poems are a mixture of metrical and free verse poems.


Kitchen worktops dude said...

Do we have any idea when Liz's collection will be available for purchase, please?

elizabethbrinton said...

I do so appreciate the gift of poetry. It is such a joy to 'happen upon' a poem such as this, and to learn something about the structure at the same time.
Your contributions are greatly appreciated. Thank you so much.

Kathy Cooney Dobbs said...

I enjoy reading poetry , and writing poems. Your posts always shed new light on poets, and style. Thank you

Nancy Owens Barnes said...

Thank you, Liz, for another informative post. I enjoy the depth and detail of your descriptions of the "feet" of poetry.