Glossary Home Poetic Meters


Anapestic Meter depends on three-syllable sections of verse, or words. An anapest is two unstressed syllables followed by one stressed.

It is often thought of like a reversed dactyl. The meter looks like this when the scansion is written out:

Anapest: U U /

Here is an example of an anapestic meter, specifically anapestic tetrameter, from Clement Clarke Moore’s ’Twas the Night Before Christmas’:

 U    U    /       U   U    /       U       U     /    U           U      /

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house

  U   U  /     U    U   /   U     U   / U U    /

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;

Why use an Anapestic Meter?

Poets make use of this style of meter for a number of reasons. Some utilize it in order to express long lines more fluidly or breezily. The patterning allows the words to flow easily into one another, as can be detected in ”Twas the Night Before Christmas’. Despite the effects that can be achieved with this metrical style, poets usually use anapestic meter within iambic. This means that usually, the majority of lines are in traditional iambic pentameter with selective moments in which the even “unstressed stressed” beats become “unstressed unstressed stressed”.

The anapestic meter appears most frequently in comedic verse. For instance, in Dr. Suess’s stories, and in Lewis Carrol’s poems. It is also the foot of the limerick.

Other examples of anapestic meter can be found in Lord Byron‘s ‘Don Juan’ and Edgar Allan Poe‘s ‘Annabel Lee‘. 

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