Rhythm in Poetry

Stress
An emphasis, or accent, placed on a syllable in speech. The unstressed syllable in a line of verse is called the slack syllable.

Rhythm
The recurring pattern of stresses and pauses in a poem. A fixed rhythm in a poem is called meter.

Prosody
The study of metrical structures in poetry.

Scansion
A practice used to describe rhythmic patterns in a poem by separating the metrical feet, counting syllables, marking the accents, and indicating cesuras

Cesura or caesura
A light but definite pause within a line of verse. Cesuras often appear near the middle of a line, but their placement may be varied for rhythmic effect.

Run-on line
A line of verse that does not end in punctuation, but carries on grammatically to the next line. The use of run-on lines is called enjambment.

End-stopped line
A line of verse that ends in a full pause, often indicated by a mark of punctuation.

Foot
The basic unit of measurement in metrical poetry. Each separate meter is identified by the pattern and order of stressed and unstressed syllables in its foot.

Iamb
A metrical foot in a verse in which an unaccented syllable is followed by an accented one ( ? ? ). The iambic measure is the most common meter used in English poetry.

Iambic Pentameter
The most common meter in English verse, five iambic feet per line. Many fixed forms, such as the sonnet and heroic couplets, employ iambic pentameter.

Anapest
A metrical foot in which a stressed syllable is followed by an unstressed one ( ? ? ?).

Accentual meter
Verse meter based on the number of stresses per line, not the number of syllables.

Trochee
A metrical foot in which a stressed syllable is followed by an unstressed one ( ? ? ).

Dactyl
A metrical foot in which one stressed syllable is followed by two unstressed ones ( ? ?? ? ). Dactylic meter is less common in English than in classical Greek and Latin.

Spondee
A metrical foot of verse consisting of two stressed syllables ( ? ? ).