Metre (poetry) - Feet

In many Western classical poetic traditions, the metre of a verse can be described as a sequence of feet, each foot being a specific sequence of syllable types — such as relatively unstressed/stressed (the norm for English poetry) or long/short (as in most classical Latin and Greek poetry).

Iambic pentameter, a common meter in English poetry, is based on a normative sequence of five iambic feet or iambs, each consisting of a relatively unstressed syllable (here represented with "×" above the syllable) followed by a relatively stressed one (here represented with "/" above the syllable) — "da-DUM" = "× /" :

× / × / × / × / × / So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see, × / × / × / × / × / So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

This approach to analyzing and classifying metres originates from ancient Greek tragedians and poets such as Homer, Pindar, Hesiod, and Sappho.

Note that some metres have an overall rhythmic pattern to the line that cannot easily be described using feet. This occurs in Sanskrit poetry; see Vedic metre and Sanskrit metre). (Although this poetry is in fact specified using feet, each "foot" is more or less equivalent to an entire line.) However, it also occurs in some Western metres, such as the hendecasyllable favoured by Catullus, which can be described as:

x x - u u - u - u - -

(where "-" = long, "u" = short, and "x x" can be realized as "- u" or "- -" or "u -")

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