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Roses Are Red(1784?)


Roses are red,
MeterRoses are red,
Violets are blue,
MeterViolets are blue,
Sugar is sweet,
MeterSugar is sweet,
And so are you.
MeterAnd so are you.

Note on line 4:This simply famous lyric has only one trick up its prosodic sleeve, but that’s all it needs. Each of the first 3 lines, identical in syntax, scans in palindromic symmetry – one trochee, one iamb – with the latter exerting its customary authority to normalize a rising meter: iambic dimeter. Then line 4, the valentine punchline, changes this pattern up. The grammatical person switches from 3rd to 2nd, the syntax reverses, flipping the subject “you” over the verb to claim last-word prestige, which is further cinched by the quatrain’s one end rhyme. And the rhythm falls, for once and for all, into synch with the meter, affirming that all’s well when love makes the world go round.

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