Tetrasyllable feet—always divisible into two dissyllabic members—are sixteen in number—
|Proceleusmaticus||‿ ‿ ‿ ‿|
|Dispondæus||– – – –|
|Diiambus||‿ – ‿ –|
|Ditrochæus||– ‿ – ‿|
|Choriambus||– ‿ ‿ –|
|Antispastus||‿ – – ‿|
|Ionicus a majore||– – ‿ ‿|
|Ionicus a minore||‿ ‿ – –|
|Pæon primus||– ‿ ‿ ‿|
|Pæon secundus||‿ – ‿ ‿|
|Pæon tertius||‿ ‿ – ‿|
|Pæon quartus||‿ ‿ ‿ –|
|Epitritus primus||‿ – – –|
|Epitritus secundus||– ‿ – –|
|Epitritus tertius||– – ‿ –|
|Epitritus quartus||– – – ‿|
Two feet usually constitute a Metre (or Dipodia). But, in Dactylic Verse, each foot is regarded as a complete Metre in itself, even when the characteristic Dactyl is intermixed with feet of some other kind. Each tetrasyllable foot is also treated, by reason of its composite character, as an entire Metre.
Verses are classed according to the number of Metres they contain: thus, the Monometer, Dimeter, Trimeter, Tetrameter, Pentameter, and Hexameter, contain one, two, three, four, five, and six Metres, respectively.
When all the Metres are perfect, the Verse is called Acatalectic. When the last syllable of the last foot is wanting, it is Catalectic. When two syllables are wanting, or an entire foot, it is Brachycatalectic. When a superfluous long syllable is added on, at the end of the Verse, it is called Hypercatalectic.
Most Verses are marked, in or near the middle, by a slight pause, called a Cæsura, which must necessarily fall, either on a monosyllable, or on the last syllable of a word; as in the well-known Alexandrine—
and a similar peculiarity is observable in innumerable well-constructed Melodies; as in the Giga of Corelli's Sonata in A—
The five species of Verse most frequently used are, the Iambic, the Trochaic, the Spondaic, the Anapaestic, and the Dactylic, each of which may be used in the form of a Dimeter, Trimeter, or Tetrameter, either Catalectic, or Acatalectic. But no kind of Verse is strictly limited to feet of one particular order. We constantly find an Iambus substituted for a Trochee; or, a Trochee for a Spondee. In Dactylic Verse, especially, the Spondee is of very frequent occurrence, and the Trochee by no means uncommon. In like manner, the phrasing of a Melody may, at any moment, be relieved by the introduction of a subordinate figure, though, if the Melody be good, the new feature will be no less reducible to rule than the original one.
The variety of Metre permissible in modern Poetry is unlimited; and as an equal amount of freedom is claimed in the rhythm of modern Music, it would manifestly be impossible to enumerate even a tenth part of the different forms now in common use. Nevertheless, as all are constructed upon the same general principle, the Student will find no difficulty in making an analysis of any that may fall under his notice. This analysis cannot be too carefully conducted. Its importance is obvious enough, where words have to be set to music: but, as we have already intimated, it is equally important in other cases; for, without a sound practical acquaintance with the laws of Poetical Metre, it is not easy to invest even the subject of a Fugue with the freshness and individuality which so plainly distinguish the works of the Great Masters from writings of inferior merit. An instrumental Theme, devoid of marked rhythmic character, is never really effective. Great Composers seem to have felt this, as if by instinct; hence, their Subjects are always reducible to metrical feet. All the Metres most common in Poetry, and innumerable others, have been used by them, over and over again: sometimes, in their strictest form; but, generally, with greater variety of treatment than that allowable in Verse, and with a more frequent employment of the various tetrasyllable feet, every one of which falls into its proper place in the economy of Instrumental Music. We do not, indeed, always find the foot and the bar beginning together. This can only be the case when the foot begins with a long syllable, and the musical phrase with a strong accent. But, in all cases, the correspondence between the two modes of measurement is uniform, and exact; and to its all-powerful influence many a famous melody owes half its charm. We cannot carefully examine any really fine composition, without convincing ourselves of the truth of this great law, which we will endeavour to illustrate by the aid of a few examples, selected from works of universally acknowledged merit.
The theme of the Scherzo in Beethoven's Sonata quasi una Fantasia in C♯ minor (op. 27) is in Iambic Dimeter Acatalectic—the 'Long Metre' of English Hymnologists:—
The Rondo of Mendelssohn's Pianoforte Concerto in G minor (op. 25) also begins in Iambic Dimeter; with the peculiarly happy use of a Pæon quartus, in the fourth, and several subsequent places—
Mozart's Sonata for Pianoforte and Violin, in B♭, starts in Trochaic Dimeter Catalectic—
The well-known Subject of the Slow Movement
- Throughout this article, the word Verse, is used in its strict sense as indicating a single line of Poetry. In common parlance, the word is frequently treated as the synonym of Stanza: but a Stanza is really a combination of several Verses.