Trochaic Trimeter

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Trochaic Trimeter is a poetic meter used in many different forms of writing. It consists of three syllables per line, with the first syllable being stressed and the second one being unstressed. 

E.g. This line in 'To a Skylarkby Percy Bysshe Shelley is written in trochaic trimeter: "Hail to thee, blithe Spirit!"

This form of this poetic meter has been used for centuries to create rhythm and musicality in poetry, but it can also be used to give prose writing a more lyrical quality. Although it’s not nearly as popular as other metrical patterns, like iambic pentameter or trochaic tetrameter, it’s still seen throughout the history of poetry. 

Trochaic Trimeter Definition and Examples


What is Trochaic Trimeter? 

Trochaic trimeter is a type of poetic meter used in poetry and literature. It consists of three trochee feet, which are two syllables each, with the first syllable being stressed and the second unstressed. 

Trochaic trimeter follows a specific pattern of alternating stressed and unstressed syllables. This meter creates a rhythmic, almost musical effect when read aloud.

Trochaic trimeter is often used in dramatic verse, ballads, and lyrical poetry as it gives a sense of immediacy and urgency to the writing. It is also commonly used for comedic purposes in theater due to its strong emphasis on rhythm.

Importance of Trochaic Trimeter

This poetic meter dates back to ancient Greece, where it was widely used in epics such as Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. It has since been used in many other works of literature and continues to be popular today.

Trochaic trimeter is an important tool for writers to master as it can add structure and rhythm to their work. It is a great way to create emphasis on certain words or phrases while also adding a sense of musicality to the text.

Overall, trochaic trimeter is a powerful poetic device that can be used to enhance any piece of writing. When properly used, it can create a unique rhythm that readers usually find engaging. 

Examples of Trochaic Trimeter

There are only a few well-known examples of poems that consistently use trochaic trimeter. Most often, poets choose to use it sparingly, in only a few important lines of their text. The following example is one of the only well-known poems that utilize this form. 

To a Skylark by Percy Bysshe Shelley 

This famous Shelley poem provides a few examples of perfect trochaic trimeter. Take a look at the first stanza

Hail to thee, blithe Spirit!

Bird thou never wert,

That from Heaven, or near it,

Pourest thy full heart

In profuse strains of unpremeditated art.

The first line, “Hail to thee, blithe Spirit!” is an example of perfect trochaic trimeter. The line is divided into three sets of two beats, the first syllable in each pairing is stressed, and the second is unstressed. 

There is another example in the second stanza with the first line, “Higher still and higher.” Here, Shelley uses the following emphasis (noted in bold): “High-er still and high-er.”

Discover more Percy Bysshe Shelley poems

Why Do Poets Use Trochaic Trimeter?

There are a variety of reasons that a poet might use trochaic trimeter. It can be seen as both a simple and versatile form of meter that can create an array of different effects.

One reason why poets use trochaic trimeter is that it provides a natural rhythm and cadence to their work. When writing in this meter, poets can create rhythmical structures that mirror the sounds of everyday life and provide a foundation for their work. 

In addition, the nature of the trochaic trimeter lends itself to strong and regular patterns, allowing for a great deal of variety within each line. This allows poets to build off their lines, creating an overall sense of unity and cohesion throughout the poem.

Another reason why poets use trochaic trimeter is that it can lend itself to both lyrical and narrative poems. By using trochaic trimeter, poets can create poetic lines that draw attention to certain words or lines that are vital to their story, thus allowing them to convey a more detailed story. 

Furthermore, the use of a trochaic trimeter can also give poems a musical quality and emphasize the importance of rhythm and meter in writing. But, it also has its downsides, primarily being the fact that lines in trimeter are quite short and usually hard to maintain throughout an entire poem. 

FAQs

How many syllables are in trochaic trimeter?

There are a total of six syllables in a perfect line of trochaic trimeter. These syllables are divided into sets of two. In each set or foot, there is one stressed beat that is followed by one unstressed beat. 

What is an example of a trochaic?

There are innumerable words that follow the pattern of a trochee. For example, “garden” and “highway,” each of which starts with a stressed syllable. 

What is an example of a trimeter?

Lines of trimeter are fairly common throughout poetic verse. But, they are usually used with another poetic line, usually tetrameter. For example, the lines of ‘Tell all the truth but tell it slantby Emily Dickinson.


Related Literary Terms 

  • Accent: refers to the stressed syllable in a word. Metered lines of verse are made up of different groups of syllables.
  • Cretic: an extremely rare metrical foot that’s composed of one stressed syllable followed by an unstressed syllable and concluded with one final stressed syllable. 
  • Dimeter: refers to a specific arrangement of syllables in poetry. If a poem is written in dimeter, that means that the lines contain four syllables each.
  • Iamb: a metrical unit. It occurs when two syllables are placed next to one another and the first is unstressed, or short, and the second is stressed, or long.
  • Meter: the pattern of beats in a line of poetry. It is a combination of the number of beats and the arrangement of stresses.


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