June 7, 2012 2:36 AM   Subscribe

Calling all poetry nerds: How would you describe the metre of this poem?

No, this is not my homework.
The poem is Dorothea MacKellar's "My Country".

As best as I can work out the rhythm is:
iamb iamb amphibrach (or an iamb with an extra weak stress)
iamb iamb iamb (repeated)

Is this iambic trimeter - with an extra weak stress for every even numbered line?
Or is there another word for this type of metre?
posted by robotot to Writing & Language (4 answers total)
It's a variation of ballad metre, dropping the final stress in the 'a' lines.
posted by Ted Maul at 3:01 AM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ted Maul is right. Granted, you could call it iambic trimeter with an extra weak stress if you like, there really isn't a wrong way to identify it as long as your descriptors are accurate.
posted by Think_Long at 6:10 AM on June 7, 2012

I wouldn't call that a ballad metre. It's a pretty straightforward iambic trimetre with an amphibrach substitution every other line.

There seems to be some confusion over the difference between common and ballad metres - they're two very different beasts with similar appearances:
  • Common metre: accentual-syllabic verse, alternates between iambic tetrametre and iambic trimetre lines.
  • Ballad metre: accentual verse, alternates between 4 stresses and 3 stresses.
There are three unambiguous stresses in each line of the poem - e.g. the LOVE of FIELD and COPpice, of GREEN and SHADed LANES - so it's not a ballad metre by any stretch.

But then why isn't it a common metre with truncated 1st and 3rd lines? Because only unstressed syllables can be truncated. If you look at the common metre, the last syllables of the 1st and 3rd lines are stressed and therefore cannot be removed without changing the metre entirely (dots are unstressed syllables, dashes stressed):
  1. .-.-.-.-
  2. .-.-.-
  3. .-.-.-.-
  4. .-.-.-
I hope that clears things up:)
posted by fix at 9:38 AM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

I vote for 'hymn meter'. An example of a church hymn that uses it:

There’s a Friend for little children
Above the bright blue sky,
A Friend who never changes,
Whose love will never die;
Our earthly friends may fail us,
And change with changing years,
This Friend is always worthy
Of that dear Name He bears.
posted by Paquda at 1:31 PM on June 7, 2012

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