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

The Span of Life(1937)

Robert Frost

The old dog barks backwards without getting up.
MeterThe old dog barks backwards without getting up.
I can remember when he was a pup.
MeterI can remember when he was a pup.

Note on line 2: A tough nugget of metrical mimesis. The contrast between the arthritic train wreck of line 1 and the limber iambic trot into which line 2 settles corresponds to that between puppyhood and old age, comprising the span of a dog’s life. What connects the two points is the witness of memory, which as the dog barks back harks back, and makes rhythmically pungent the parallel between canine and human prospects. You can also hear this couplet, by the way, in anapestic tetrameter, though it takes trickier footwork: an iamb plus an amphimacer (stress-slack-stress) for the first half of line 1, a catalectic (slack-less) first foot in line 2, with “when” taken in anapestic stride further along. 4B4V coding won’t accommodate both scansions, but you can easily work them out on paper.


Rhyme
Show Stress    Foot division    Syncopation