A trochee is a metrical unit. It consists of one stressed or accented syllable and one unstressed or unaccented syllable. They are the exact opposite of iambs.
In Memory of W.B. Yeats by W.H. Auden
Auden dedicated this three-part poem that uses trochees to William Butler Yeats. It is elegiac in nature, making good use of the mournful sound of trochees. Here are a few lines:
In the deserts of the heart
Let the healing fountain start,
In the prison of his days
Teach the free man how to praise.
When bolded, the stresses look like:
Earth, receive an honoured guest;
William Yeats is laid to rest:
Let this Irish vessel lie
Emptied of its poetry.
Each of these lines uses trochees, but they also end with an extra stressed syllable. This is a technique known as catalexis. This is a common feature in this style of verse.
The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe
‘The Raven’ is a famous example of a poem that uses trochees. It, like ‘In Memory of W.B. Yeats,’ is not completely uniform, though. There are numerous occasions where trochees are discarded, and Poe uses iambs or another metrical foot instead. Here are some of the most famous lines. The bold syllables are stressed.
And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted—nevermore!
Each line starts with unstressed beats and lines, two, four, five, and six ends with stressed syllables. These catalectic lines prove that despite breaks in the pattern, using trochaic meter is quite effective.