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

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The Brain Is Wider than the Sky(1862)

Emily Dickinson

The Brain–is wider than the Sky
MeterThe Brain–is wider than the Sky
For– put them side by side–
MeterFor– put them side by side–
The one the other will contain
MeterThe one the other will contain
With ease– and You–beside–
MeterWith ease– and You–beside–

The Brain is deeper than the sea–
MeterThe Brain is deeper than the sea–
For– hold them– Blue to Blue–
MeterFor– hold them– Blue to Blue–
The one the other will absorb–
MeterThe one the other will absorb–
As sponges– buckets– do–
MeterAs sponges– buckets– do–

The Brain is just the weight of God–
MeterThe Brain is just the weight of God–
For– Heft them– Pound for Pound–
MeterFor– Heft them– Pound for Pound–
And they will differ– if they do–
MeterAnd they will differ– if they do–
As Syllable from Sound–
MeterAs Syllable from Sound–

Note on line 12: Dickinson’s poem exemplifies that rarity, a sophisticated lyric whose rhythm is identical, line for line and foot for foot, with its meter. The complexity of thinking here belies any impression of simple-mindedness; at the same time, the exact convergence of rhythm with meter does impart a persuasive simplicity to Dickinson’s often arresting assertions. At the end, as you ponder just what it is that distinguishes “syllable” from “sound,” don’t fail to notice how the established trimeter entailed by the poet’s hymn-based measure makes sure that the last syllable of “syllable” is not swallowed up but gets its full due.


Rhyme
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