D is for Dactyl



“A metrical foot consisting of an accented syllable followed by two unaccented syllables; the words ‘poetry’ and ‘basketball’ are both dactylic.”

Source: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/learning/glossary-terms

For a famous (and stunning) example of a dactylic poem, read Alfred Lord Tennyson’s The Charge of the Light Brigade.

“Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.”

Can you hear the stressed, unstressed, unstressed, stressed, unstressed, unstressed rhythm of each line?

And for those who like their meter extra challenging, try a double dactyl on for size!

Double Dactyl

“The double dactyl consists of two quatrains, each with three double-dactyl lines followed by a shorter dactyl-spondee pair. The two spondees rhyme. Additionally, the first line must be a nonsense phrase, the second line a proper place or name, and one other line, usually the sixth, a single double-dactylic word that has never been used before in any other double dactyl.”

Source: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/learning/glossary-terms

A quatrain is a four-line rhyming stanza (ex: ABCB). A spondee is a metrical foot consisting of two accented syllables.

Here’s an example of a double dactyl (which is typically humorous) by John Hollander.

“Higgledy piggledy,
Benjamin Harrison,
Twenty-third president
Was, and, as such,

Served between Clevelands and
Save for this trivial
Didn’t do much.”

I challenge you to try writing your own. 🙂



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