"An Irish Airman Foresees His Death" holds a firm iambic tetrametric rhythm throughout, except for line 8, which includes 9 syllables:

Or leave them happier than before;

How would you scan this line? Would "-pier than" count as an anapaest?

  • The line can easily be read as eight syllables (Ha-pyer). Commented May 9 at 12:25

1 Answer 1


There are two ways to scan the line: either -pier /piər/ is two syllables and -pier than counts as an anapest, or, as @Kate Bunting remarks in a comment, pier /pjər/ is one syllable (that starts with the consonant cluster "py") and -pier than counts as an iamb.

I can't think of any reason to prefer one over the other.

  • For the anapest, it's two short, one long. I don't see how happier can be that. Hap-pi-er is one long, two short. Or three syllables equally stressed. Hap-pi-er.
    – Lambie
    Commented May 9 at 18:14
  • 2
    @Lambie: No, the scansion would be | Or léave | them háp-| pier thán | befóre |, with the whole line being two iambs, an anapest, and a final iamb. In English poetry, feet do not have to respect word boundaries. (And English almost never stresses three-syllable words with equal stresses.)
    – Peter Shor
    Commented May 9 at 18:34
  • I get what you mean now. But I still don't get your feet. |Or leave them|hap-pi-er|than|before. makes it 9 for me, like the OP. Yes, one can do: ha-pyer for 8. When you read "leave them", it's not natural for me to stress leave and put them in the next foot.
    – Lambie
    Commented May 9 at 21:54
  • @Lambie: there are conventions for scanning English poetry that your suggested scansion does not conform with.
    – Peter Shor
    Commented May 9 at 21:58
  • Scansion is not a one-stop shop (only one way to scan a poem), as you yourself have pointed out: english.stackexchange.com/questions/571537/… Kate says it can be ha-pyer for 8, but that is not the only reading. I hope I don't get another mod. letter saying I am arguing. My opinion is in good faith.
    – Lambie
    Commented May 9 at 22:23

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