For Better for Verse: An interactive learning tool that can help you understand what makes metered poetry in English tick.

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Chorus (from Henry the Fifth III.i.1-17)(1599)

William Shakespeare

Thus with imagined wing our swift scene flies,
MeterThus with imagined wing our swift scene flies,
In motion of no less celerity
MeterIn motion of no less celerity
Than that of thought. Suppose that you have seen
MeterThan that of thought. Suppose that you have seen
The well-appointed king at Hampton pier
MeterThe well-appointed king at Hampton pier
Embark his royalty; and his brave fleet
MeterEmbark his royalty; and his brave fleet
With silken streamers the young Phoebus fanning.
MeterWith silken streamers the young Phoebus fanning.
Play with your fancies, and in them behold
MeterPlay with your fancies, and in them behold
Upon the hempen tackle shipboys climbing:
MeterUpon the hempen tackle shipboys climbing:
Hear the shrill whistle which doth order give
MeterHear the shrill whistle which doth order give

Note on line 9: A finicky note, or a bosun’s. It would be thriftier to scan the third foot pyrrhic after that nice assonant spondee in foot 2. But then the assonance is so strongly onomatopoeic of the shipboard whistle that an actor should probably let it persist, by means of a vocal stress, into the alliterating “which” as well.

To sounds confused; behold the threaden sails,
MeterTo sounds confused; behold the threaden sails,
Borne with the invisible and creeping wind,
MeterBorne with the invisible and creeping wind,

Note on line 11: In the second foot, enforcing a systemic preference for explicitness, 4B4V would rather spell out the trisyllabic anapest than elide it into regularity as the iambic “th’inVIS.” Still, here and again in line 15 below, you may find elision more expressive of the analog motion of wind and tide; that option, unfortunately, is one our digital system can’t technically accommodate.

Draw the huge bottoms through the furrowed sea,
MeterDraw the huge bottoms through the furrowed sea,
Breasting the lofty surge. O, do but think
MeterBreasting the lofty surge. O, do but think
You stand upon the rivage and behold
MeterYou stand upon the rivage and behold
A city on the inconstant billows dancing;
MeterA city on the inconstant billows dancing;
For so appears this fleet majestical,
MeterFor so appears this fleet majestical,
Holding due course to Harfleur. Follow, follow!
MeterHolding due course to Harfleur. Follow, follow!

Show Stress    Foot division    Caesura    Syncopation