Basic English Prosody (Poetry)


Lines are made up of one or more feet, as follows:

    • monometer: one foot
    • dimeter: two feet
    • trimeter: three feet
    • tetrameter: four feet
    • pentameter: five feet
    • hexameter: six feet
    • septameter: seven feet

So "iambic pentameter" means a line consisting of five iambic feet and "trochaic trimeter" means a line consisting of three trochees.

A Mnemonic

Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote a little poem as an aid to remembering the feet:

Trochee trips from long to short,

From long to short in solemn sort.

Slow spondee stalks; strong foot yet ill able

Ever to come up with Dactyl tri-syllable.

Iambics march from short to long--

With a leap and a bound the swift Anapests throng.

Poetic Forms

    • Lyric: Short poem expressing personal emotion
    • Epic: Long narrative poem involving mythology
    • Ballad: Short poem about a legend or historic event
    • Ode: Meditative poem of middle length, often about a public event or issue
    • Satire: According to Samuel Johnson, "a poem in which wickedness or folly is censured"


    • Italian (Petrarchan, Miltonic) Sonnet: lyric of 14 lines of iambic pentameter divided into an octet (rhymed abbaabba) and a sestet (rhymed cdecde or cdcdcd)
    • Spenserian Sonnet: rhymed abab bcbc cdcd ee
    • English (Elizabethan, Shakesperean) Sonnet: rhymed abab cdcd efef gg


5 anapest lines with this scheme:

    • Lines 1,2,5: [˘] ˘ ¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ [˘] [˘]
    • Lines 3,4: [˘] ˘ ¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ [˘] [˘]

There was a young lady of Niger.

Who smiled as she rode on a tiger.

They returned from the ride

With the lady inside,

And the smile on the face of the tiger.