Accentual/syllabic metre

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Re: Accentual/syllabic metre

Post by Peely » Mon Jan 10, 2011 10:05 pm

G'day All

The first three examples of Paterson are consistent when you look at them in terms of the number of stressed syllables.
The line from "The Man from Snowy River" has seven stressed syllables, as does the line that matches it in rhyme.
The one from "Clancy of the Overflow" has eight stressed syllables, the same as the other internally rhymed lines.
All of the lines from "Saltbush Bill" have seven stressed syllables (including the two that I have used in the example)

The same is mostly true in "Lost", most lines have six stressed syllables (there are some with seven, like the one below):
And rode each day to the ranges on a hopeless, weary quest

The example poems mentioned from O'Brien and Dennis also have the same number of stressed syllables in the equivalent lines in each stanza.

The main thing that differs in these examples is the number of unstressed syllables. The variations here give you different combinations of feet that are not necessarily repeated through the whole of the poems. This is why working with syllable count alone can fall down. Both lines below have twelve syllables - one has six stressed, the other four stressed:

I thought I'd like to play a bit of contact sport
but I hadn't decided upon the best sort

If I only kept up the twelve syllable count, I might have lines with four, five or six feet (or possibly more or less if different types of ceasura are employed).

What if I take the above two lines and I match the number of stressed syllables. If I drop the first line back to four stressed syllables:

I thought I'd like to play some sport
but I hadn't decided upon the best sort

Notice the more consistent sound in the above? This is what you are looking to achieve when mixing metres.

Whether or not the exact same pattern of feet has to be maintained is debatable. If one stanza which uses mixed metre is technically correct and a second is also technically correct when viewed alone but not exactly the same as the first stanza (you might have the following in common: rhyme scheme, number of feet per line, number of lines) the only difference being the combination of feet in the lines, then why is the poem technically incorrect? In theory, you could abandon multiple stanzas all together and write the poem as a single stanza and the whole thing should be technically correct then.


John Peel
John Peel - The Man from Gilmore Creek


Re: Accentual/syllabic metre

Post by warooa » Tue Jan 11, 2011 6:05 am

G'day Peely . . . on Clancy of the Overflow, I beg to differ regarding the stresses. I see six stresses per line with each line containing two sets of two unstressed beats - one at the beginning and one in the middle

And an ANSwer CAME diRECTed in a WRITing UNexPECTed

with is followed throughout.

Anyone else?

Cheers, Marty

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Re: Accentual/syllabic metre

Post by Neville Briggs » Tue Jan 11, 2011 8:40 am

Manfred, I'd say that we write for expression. Poetry is a way to express things to connect directly to the " soul " , That's the mysterious power of art.

If anyone thinks I'm a vexatious whinger, please I beg you, don't think that of me. I'll have to make sure that it is not so.

Marty..I think the best way to scan any verse is just say it in ordinary speech patterns.
I suggest that the stress pattern is the organising principle of the line but doesn't require the
poem to be spoken emphatically that way. If you know what I mean.

I think therefore I am

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Re: Accentual/syllabic metre

Post by Neville Briggs » Tue Jan 11, 2011 9:06 am

if Joe Blow can pick up a poem and read it as the writer intended without having to sound forced in the stressing or not of the syllables then it is probably close to the mark with its metre, Marty[/quote]

I reckon you are spot on Marty.

I think therefore I am

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Re: Accentual/syllabic metre

Post by Irene » Tue Jan 11, 2011 11:13 am

Hi Marty
I have to say I agree with John on the streses in Clancy of the Overflow -I wouldn't count that line with only 6 stresses - sorry!!! ;)
But anyway, so long as it is consistent throughout the poem, it doesn't really matter which way you read it. I agree with Neville that the stresses are the organising principle, but that they are not all emphasized when the poem is recited.
What goes around, comes around.


Re: Accentual/syllabic metre

Post by manfredvijars » Tue Jan 11, 2011 2:43 pm

Neville Briggs wrote:If anyone thinks I'm a vexatious whinger, please I beg you, don't think that of me. I'll have to make sure that it is not so.
Been reviewing my posts and it could seem that I'm picking on you Nev ... That's not my intent :shock:
I enjoy banter with you ... REALLY :)

Graham F, when Competitions returned his pieces, would sometimes causticaly comment on some of the notations and 'errors' to his pieces. He would show me the error, discuss and explain it, laugh them off (sometimes abuse the judge) and keep writing. For all the competitions he entered I'm surprised he didn't win much more. But then again, three Bronze Swagmen is no mean feat ...



PS people write for all the aforementioned reasons and more ... :)

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Re: Accentual/syllabic metre

Post by Bellobazza » Tue Jan 11, 2011 2:57 pm

G'day all...
From what I can see here, most of you agree on the basic premise that stresses dictate the metre. What prompted my original comment on the other thread was that the discussion there seemed to indicate a fixation with syllable count in maintaining a consistant, and even correct, metre.

I certainly agree that consistancy in metre, rhyming pattern, stanza length etc. is, in most cases, desirable. That should not prevent us from thinking 'outside the square' when the situation arises.
To insert a twist or surprise in terms of style or form, the use of 'feminine' endings or the 'docking' of a syllable, should always be justified in the context of the poem's content, but not dismissed as a possibility on the basis that it 'upsets' consistancy. "The opening stanza sets the pattern for the rest" is a good guide but does not apply in all cases.

In a recent competition, the judges (happily for me) considered that the differing stanza lengths in my entry did not detract from its worth, giving it a commendation. I hope that is because they recognised the validity of the technique in the context of the story. I will post the poem when results are published, but in the meantime, here is the first stanza of a short piece that breaks the "consistant metre rule", not to mention having a non-standard rhyming pattern...

The Regent Bowerbird
(c) Will Moody 2010

It seems absurd to say a bird
you've seen gives you a thrill,
for after all, they're just a ball
of feathers with a bill.
But when the Regent Bowerbird's observed...
I'm unreserved.


These departures from the norm didn't prevent it gaining a third place nor, I hope, detract from the poem's entertainment value.
The main thought that I wanted to raise is that we can't get hung up on insisting the syllable count is exact in each and every case...there is so much that might be sacrificed for it's sake.

Cheers, Will.
"Each poet that I know (he said)
has something funny in his head..." CJD

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Re: Accentual/syllabic metre

Post by Neville Briggs » Tue Jan 11, 2011 5:25 pm

Thanks Manfred. Better not encourage me too much, I tend to get out of control a bit. :)

I nominate Will Moody to be a competition judge.
What Will says above makes every sort of sense.

Also Will, there's the famous poem by Lord Byron.

The Destruction of Sennacharib.

"The Assyrian came down like a wolf on the fold
and his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold...."

Assyrian seems to be 4 syllables but for Byron , but 1 stress.

A syrr ian not A syrr i an

Before anyone says, Thats not bush poetry. Byron's was written in 1815 and you can be doubly.. triply sure that Lawson and Paterson knew it and modelled their ballads on that type of thing. I think the thing to remember is that in the case of a lot of the bush poets, their work was edited by newspaper editors and we know Henry Lawson for one was not happy about that. So the published bush poetry does not necessarily reflect the exact intentions of the writers, more " cleaned up ' versions from the editorial desk.

I think therefore I am

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Re: Accentual/syllabic metre

Post by Bob Pacey » Tue Jan 11, 2011 6:14 pm

I'm with you Maureen. It's a bit much for us bushies.
The purpose in life is to have fun.
After you grasp that everything else seems insignificant !!!

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Re: Accentual/syllabic metre

Post by Neville Briggs » Wed Jan 12, 2011 6:30 am

It's not hard Bob, It's not about subverting the bush poetry or breaking all the rules.

If we accept that both accentual/syllable and accentual metre can be used then it means that we dont have to get all concerned about minutely analysing syllable counts.
For example :

A. There was a gathering at the family mansion.

If there is an insistence on accentual/syllable metre then we get the rather silly contortion of
words like;
B. There was a gath'ring at the fam'ly mansion.

If accentual metre is accepted as well as accentual/syllable then the line can be written as in A and read as in B.
Can you see that.

It depends on the style of metre. I think that, for example in anapestic metre you could still use family as one stressed and two unstressed

What a wonderful bush is the fam-i-ly tree.

I am convinced that a free combining of accentual / syllable and accentual or stressed metre
would allow our bush poetry writing to flow much better and allow enjoyment of the poetry rather than being worried about awkward unnecessary technical hoops to jump through.
It is still metred and rhymed verse and still works as bush ballads etc. it is not the slippery slope to ( horrror ) free verse or abstract poetry.

I think therefore I am

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