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Fourteener

A fourteener is a line of poetry that contains fourteen syllables. They are usually composed of seven iambs. 

This style of meter is sometimes referred to as iambic heptameter and is most common in poetry from the 16th and 17th centuries. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t interesting examples of modern verse

Iambic heptameter, or the version of a fourteener that’s composed of iambs, contains a total of fourteen syllables divided into seven groups of two. Within these groups of two, known as metrical feet, there is one unstressed and one stressed syllable. 

Fourteener (Poetry) Definition and Example


Fourteener in Poetry Definition 

A fourteener is a line that contains fourteen syllables. While they do not necessarily have to use iambs, fourteeners that use iambic feet are the most common. 

Poets can use fourteeners throughout an entire poem, but they are far more common as stand-alone couplets. Often, these are used to conclude poems or divide a longer poem into sections. 

The word “fourteener” is also sometimes used to describe a fourteen-line poem (also known as a quatorzain or sonnet). 

The fourteener was popularized after George Chapman used it in his translation of Homer’s Iliad. When speaking about the form in Lives of English Poets, Samuel Johnson wrote: 

as these lines had their caesura always at the eighth syllable, it was thought in time commodious to divide them; and quatrains of lines alternately consisting of eight and six syllables make the most soft and pleasing of our lyric measures.


Examples of Fourteeners in Poetry 

Casey at the Bat by Ernest Thayer

Casey at the Bat’ is a well-loved baseball poem published in 1888. The poem is also known for its full title: ‘Casey at the Bat: A Ballad of the Republic Sung in the Year 1888.’ Within this poem, Thayer uses fourteeners in his description of the Mudville Team and one player, Casey. Here is the first stanza

The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville nine that day:

The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play,

And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same,

A pall-like silence fell upon the patrons of the game.

The first line is a great example. While the poem does not use iambs consistently, it does use fourteen syllables throughout. There is a good example of a classic fourteener, with a caesura in the middle of the line, in stanza four. The third line reads: 

And when the dust had lifted, and men saw what had occurred,

Read more Ernest Thayer poems

The Burning Babe by Robert Southwell 

‘The Burning Babe’ is a well-known example of a poem that uses rhyming fourteeners. Here are a few of the best lines: 

As I in hoary winter’s night stood shivering in the snow,

Surpris’d I was with sudden heat which made my heart to glow;

And lifting up a fearful eye to view what fire was near,

A pretty Babe all burning bright did in the air appear;

The last two lines of this excerpt are a great example of rhyming fourteeners. Both contain fourteen syllables and end with the same end sounds (“near’ and “appear.” Another great example is found at the end of the poem with the lines: 

With this he vanish’d out of sight and swiftly shrunk away,

And straight I called unto mind that it was Christmas day.

These lines follow the same form as the previous example, with the rhyming end sounds “away” and “day.” While the lines are fairly long, the natural pause after the seventh syllable and the poet’s clever use of language make them enjoyable.

FAQs 

How many syllables does a fourteener have?

A fourteener contains fourteen syllables per line. While some poems use fourteeners throughout, others only use a few lines that conform to this form. 

What meter has fourteen syllables? 

A line of poetry that uses fourteen syllables is most often going to be written in iambic heptameter. This means that the fourteen syllables can be divided into seven sets of two. The first beat in each pairing is unstressed, and the second is stressed. 

What is a poem with eight syllables per line called?

A poem with eight syllables per line is known as a Spanish quintain or quintilla. These lines, if composed of iambs, are described as iambic tetrameter. Readers can find sets of unstressed and stressed syllables within this pattern.

How many syllables are in iambic hexameter?

An iambic hexameter line contains twelve syllables. Sometimes, there are examples of this form of poetry that stretch to thirteen syllables depending on the poet’s use of unstressed and stressed syllables. 

What is a twenty-two-line poem called?

There are a few variations of poems written with twenty-two lines. One is known as the “Laurenelle.” It is a poem that contains twenty-two lines and is considered a variation of both a villanelle and a terzanelle. 


Related Literary Terms 

  • Burns Stanza:  named for Scottish poet Robert Burns who popularized its use. It is a six-line stanza form that uses a rhyme scheme of AAABAB, and lines of tetrameter and dimeter.
  • Cadence: the natural rhythm of a piece of text, created through a writer’s selective arrangement of words, rhymes, and the creation of meter.
  • Feminine Rhyme: a type of rhyme that’s made up of two unstressed two-syllable rhymes, one following the other.
  • Monorhyme:  refers to the use of the same end sound within multiple lines of a poem. Usually, the term describes poems that only use one end sound. 
  • Pararhyme: a type of half-rhyme that occurs when the same pattern of consonants is used by the vowel changes.


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