A long time ago I used to write poetry, and there was one particular stanza that has always stuck with me and seemed inherently rhythmic, but I’m not familiar with the relevant terminology and so I’m not able to articulate what I’m hearing when I recite it. If possible, could someone please break down the meter and timing? A -~\—~/~—/-~ style representation would be helpful where a tilde represents a stressed syllable and a dash represents a short one.

It was quite an absurd occurrence
Which gave rise to reason for
Seven words of swift deterrence
Which I’ll now relate through more

If I had to take a guess

- - ~ / - - ~ / - - -
- - ~ / - ~ / - ~
- - ~ / - ~ / - - -
- - ~ / - ~ / - ~

Or to write it with stress in caps:

it was QUITE / an abSURD / occurrence
which gave RISE / to REA- / -son FOR
seven WORDS / of SWIFT / deterrence
which I’ll NOW / reLATE / through MORE

Apologies, my question is a tad broad, but I’d just like to hear any information and analysis that you can provide of this stanza, particularly the timing/meter. It would also be good if you could provide brief definitions of any technical terminology you employ.

Finally, apologies if this is the wrong site. If that is the case, please recommend somewhere else that I can ask!

  • 1
    Sounds more like trochaic tetrameter (as in Hiawatha) to me: SEVen / WORDS of / SWIFT de- / -TERrence. – user14111 Aug 8 '18 at 9:30

I'm not an expert on scansion, but here's how I would read your stanza. Bold denotes a clear stress, and italics a secondary stress, on a particular syllable.

It was quite an absurd occurrence
Which gave rise to reason for
Seven words of swift deterrence
Which I’ll now relate through more

~ - / ~ - / - ~ - / ~ -
~ - / ~ - / ~ - / ~
~ - / ~ - / ~ - / ~ -
~ - / ~ / - ~ / - ~

Your reading sounds odd to me, because I think there should be more stressed syllables than that. It's not reasonable to include long words like "occurrence" and "deterrence" and not stress any of the syllables in them. Again I'm not an expert, but here are some thoughts to justify my reading

  • Whenever there's an 'interesting' word - something that adds colour to the poem, not just a pronoun or other common word - it should have at least one stressed syllable. Hence stressing SEVen and ocCURrence etc.
  • Words like "it" and "which" may or may not be stressed depending on context, but I'd normally stress "which" at the start of a sentence.

The stresses I've proposed also make for a nice rhythmic reading, with (almost) every second syllable stressed. It's something close to trochaic tetrameter, as user14111 mentioned in a comment.

(By the way, nice poem!)

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