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Sabrina Fair (from Comus)(1634)

John Milton

Sabrina fair,
MeterSabrina fair,
Listen where thou art sitting
MeterListen where thou art sitting
Under the glassie, cool, translucent wave,
MeterUnder the glassie, cool, translucent wave,
In twisted braids of Lillies knitting
MeterIn twisted braids of Lillies knitting
The loose train of thy amber-dropping hair,
MeterThe loose train of thy amber-dropping hair,
Listen for dear honour’s sake,
MeterListen for dear honour’s sake,
Goddess of the silver lake,
MeterGoddess of the silver lake,
Listen and save.
MeterListen and save.

By the rushy-fringèd bank,
MeterBy the rushy-fringèd bank,
Where grows the Willow and the Osier dank,
MeterWhere grows the Willow and the Osier dank,
My sliding Chariot stayes,
MeterMy sliding Chariot stayes,
Thick set with Agat, and the azure sheen
MeterThick set with Agat, and the azure sheen
Of Turkis blew, and Emrauld green,
MeterOf Turkis blew, and Emrauld green,
That in the channell strayes;
MeterThat in the channell strayes;
Whilst from off the waters fleet
MeterWhilst from off the waters fleet
Thus I set my printless feet
MeterThus I set my printless feet
O’er the Cowslip’s Velvet head,
MeterO’er the Cowslip’s Velvet head,
That bends not as I tread,
MeterThat bends not as I tread,
Gentle swain at thy request
MeterGentle swain at thy request

Note on line 19: Sabrina treads very daintily. In a wonderful effect set up by three consecutive lines of unvarying catalectic tetrameter (classically the meter of incantation in English), this line’s medial trochee gets us to imagine the bending that the sense of the words denies. Milton wrote these two call-and-response speeches for oral delivery in a courtly masque, so Sabrina’s measured feet were indeed technically “printless” guides to recitation in performance. But then he printed them anyhow: too good to lose.

I am here.
MeterI am here.

Rhyme
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