Wednesday, 3 June 2015

HIAWATHA - TROCHAIC TETRAMETER

I love this meter - trochaic tetrameter - which Longfellow found in the Finnish epic poem, the Kalevala, and used for 'The Song of Hiawatha'.  It comes as naturally in Finnish as the iambic pentameter does in English (apparently). Trochaic (DUM de) tetrameter (x4) goes like this: DUM de DUM de DUM de DUM de.  It runs like a train, and it is hard to get off, especially if read aloud.  One of its odd qualities is the illusion it fosters of rhyme.

Here's a passage from the Introduction to 'Hiawatha':

  Ye, who sometimes, in your rambles
Through the green lanes of the country,
Where the tangled barberry-bushes
Hang their tufts of crimson berries
Over stone walls gray with mosses,
Pause by some neglected graveyard,
For a while to muse, and ponder
On a half-effaced inscription,
Written with little skill of song-craft,
Homely phrases, but each letter
Full of hope and yet of heart-break,
Full of all the tender pathos
Of the Here and the Hereafter;--
Stay and read this rude inscription,
Read this Song of Hiawatha! 


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