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Heptameter

Heptameter is a type of meter in which each line in a poem uses seven metrical feet for a total of fourteen syllables.

The pattern is unusual in English verse today and was far more popular in classical poetic writing. Scholars believe the first iteration of a line of hectometer appeared in ‘Poema Morale,’ a Middle English moral poem that describes how one should live a Christian life. A variety of versions of this poem exist, including one that contains 200 rhymed couplets. The poem utilizes seven-foot lines that contain trochees

Heptameter Poetic Definition and Examples


Heptameter Poetry Definition

A line of heptameter contains a total of fourteen syllables. Commonly, these are separated into sets of two, creating seven metrical feet. These feet usually either conform to the pattern of iambs or trochees. This refers to where the stress or accent falls in each pairing.

For example, if within the two syllables the first is more important or accented, and the second is unstressed, then it is a trochee. If this pattern is reserved, then readers have an example of the far more popular iamb. Below, readers can explore a few examples of poems that utilize heptameter. 

Examples of Heptameter in Poetry 

A Friend’s Greeting by Edgar Albert Guest 

This well-known Guest poem is composed of sixteen lines, divided into four quatrains or stanzas of four lines each. Throughout this poem, the poet uses a rhyme scheme of AABB (or rhyming couplets). The lines are written in iambic heptameter. This means that each line contains fourteen syllables. These fourteen syllables are grouped into sets of two. Within these groupings, the first syllable is unstressed, or an accented, and the second syllable is stressed or accented. Here is the first stanza: 

I’d like to be the sort of friend that you have been to me;

I’d like to be the help that you’ve been always glad to be;

I’d like to mean as much to you each minute of the day

As you have meant, old friend of mine, to me along the way.

Read more Edgar Albert Guest poems

Fuzzy-Wuzzy by Rudyard Kipling

Kipling’s ‘Fuzzy-Wuzzy’ is a somewhat controversial poem that speaks on the gallantry of Hadendoa warriors who are referred to by the derogatory term “Fuzzy-Wuzzy.” It was first published on March 15th, 1890 in W.E. Heaney’s weekly Scots Observer

Throughout this poem, Kipling uses long, twelve-line stanzas. Within these stanzas, the first eight lines were written in iambic pentameter. This means that each line contains five sets of two beats. The first of these is unstressed, and the second of stress. The same arrangement of stress continues into the final four lines of each stanza. But, these are written using heptameter. This means that they are far longer than the preceding lines. Here are the final four lines from the first stanza: 

So ‘ere’s to you, Fuzzy-Wuzzy, at your ‘ome in the Soudan;

   You’re a pore benighted ‘eathen but a first-class fightin’ man;

   We gives you your certificate, an’ if you want it signed

   We’ll come an’ ‘ave a romp with you whenever you’re inclined.

Read more Rudyard Kipling poems

A Butterfly Talks by Annette Wynne

‘A Butterfly Talks’ is a children’s poem written utilizing heptameter. It describes how puzzled a butterfly becomes as it sees incredible things in the natural world. It stops to drink nectar from flowers and enjoys the sun. The poem is only six lines long. The first four lines are shorter, written in iambic trimeter, by the final two lines are written in iambic heptameter. The last two lines read: 

For there are many things he sees that puzzle him, indeed,

And I believe he thinks as well as some who write and read.

Read more Annette Wynne poems

The Autumn day its course has run by Charlotte Brontë

The Autumn day its course has run’ is another short poem that utilizes heptameter. Like the other examples, it is written in iambic heptameter. The poet also uses other important literary devices like repetition and alliteration to create rhythm within the poem. This piece describes the procession of darkness through a speaker’s home and begins with the lines: 

The Autumn day its course has run–the Autumn evening falls

Already risen the Autumn moon gleams quiet on these walls

And Twilight to my lonely house a silent guest is come

Read more Charlotte Brontë poems

FAQs

What is an example of heptameter?

An example of heptameter is this first line from Edgar Albert Guest’s ‘A Friend’s Greeting:’ “I’d like to be the sort of friend that you have been to me.” The line contains a total of fourteen syllables. As does this line from ‘The Autumn day its course has run’ by Charlotte Brontë: “The Autumn day its course has run–the Autumn evening falls.” 

What is a poem with eight syllables per line called?

A poem that contains eight syllables per line is written in tetrameter. These eight syllables are usually divided into sets of two, using trochees or iambs. 

What is a heptameter in poetry?

A heptameter is a line of poetry that contains seven metrical feet, usually a total of fourteen syllables. These lines are not incredibly popular in English poetry but there are several good examples of poets utilizing them. 

What’s a five-line poem called?

A poem that contains five lines is known as a quintain. Additionally, a poem that uses three lines is a tercet and one with four lines is a quatrain.

What are fourteen lined poems?

A poem that contains fourteen lines is usually known as a sonnet. Sonnets can utilize a variety of metrical patterns and rhyme schemes. But, the two most popular forms are the Shakespearean sonnet and Petrarchan sonnet.


Related Literary Terms 

  • Alexandrine: a type of metrical line. It is most commonly refers to a line composed of twelve iambs.
  • Heroic Couplet: a form of poetry commonly used in epics and narrative poems. It is composed of a pair of rhyming lines that are written in iambic pentameter
  • Iambic Dimeter: a type of meter used in poetry. It occurs when the writer uses two iambs per line of verse.
  • Monometer: a type of meter that uses single units of meter per line of verse. It could use a single iamb, trochee, etc.
  • Pentameter: refers to a line that contains a total of ten syllables. Commonly, these are divided into iambs or trochees.

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