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

Link to U.Va. English Department

Elegy(1970?)

W. S. Merwin

Who would I show it to
MeterWho would I show it to

Note on line 1: Can a one-line poem like this be said to have any meter at all? Doesn’t a line need companions if it is to stand as more than an isolated if inwardly patterned string of syllables? 4B4V offers Merwin’s miniature for the sake of such questions, and on the supposition that its mere title suffices to enlist as ghostly companions many another line from many another elegy. If you’re willing to play along and deem Merwin’s one-liner scannable, you can can go on to ponder the gamut of elegiac tones rung by the possibilities of the first foot. Read as a trochee, it performs the despair of a man bereaved. Read as an iamb, it conveys something harder to locate. An artist’s exasperated self-mockery? Flattery of the reader, treated to an exclusive private showing?


Show Stress    Foot division    Syncopation