In metrics, the study of poetic meter, certain patterns of long and short, or stressed and unstressed, syllables are identified as the fundamental units of a poetic line. These units are called metrical feet, and some examples are the anapest, dactyl, iamb, trochee, and spondee. Dividing a poetic line into metrical feet is called scansion.

Pyrrhic or Pyrrhichius:     short short
Iamb or Iambus:             short long
Trochee or Trochaeus:       long short
Spondee or Spondeus:        long long
Tribrach or Trybrachys:     short short short
Anapest or Anapaestus:      short short long
Amphibrach or Amphibrachys: short long short
Bacchius:                   short long long
Dactyl or Dactylus:         long short short
Amphimacer or Amphimacrus:  long short long
Antibacchius:               long long short
Mollosus:                   long long long
1st Epitrite or Epitritos:  short long long long
2nd Epitrite:               long short long long
3rd Epitrite:               long long short long
4th Epitrite:               long long long short
1st Paeon:                  long short short short
2nd Paeon:                  short long short short
3rd Paeon:                  short short long short
4th Paeon:                  short short short long
Choriamb or Choriambus:     long short short long
Ditrochee or Ditrochaeus:   long short long short

Nota bene: There is a major difference between prosody in English or most other modern languages and prosody in an ancient language such as Latin or Classical Sanskrit. In English all the syllables are basically the same length but stressed syllables are given a higher pitch or louder volume to accent them. In Latin all the syllables are the same volume but long syllables are held about twice as long as short ones. All the above sesquipedalianisms still apply to a English or any other stressed language, however: just replace "long" with "stressed" and "short" with "unstressed".

This is all of Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem, Metrical Feet: A Lesson For A Boy.

Trochee trips from long to short;
From long to long in solemn sort
Slow Spondee stalks, strong foot!, yet ill able
Ever to come* up with Dactyl's trisyllable.
Iambics march from short to long.
With a leap and a bound the swift Anapests throng.
One syllable long, with one short at each side,
Amphibrachys hastes with a stately stride.
First and last being long, middle short, Amphimacer
Strikes his thundering hoofs like a proud high-bred Racer.

If Derwent be innocent, steady, and wise,
And delight in the things of earth, water, and skies;
Tender warmth at his heart, with these meters to show it,
With sound sense in his brains, may make Derwent a poet
May crown him with fame, and must win him the love

Of his father on earth and his father above.
My dear, dear child!

Could you stand upon Skiddaw, you would not from its whole ridge
See a man who so loves you as your fond S.T. Colerige.

The first stanza is amazing. Coleridge puns upon the literary term 'metrical feet' to describe the major rhythms of poetry as footsteps. Each sentence (not line) describes the metre it is in. If you read it out loud a few times, bearing in mind the steps the poem describes, the rhythms become clear.

Coleridge was a master of meter and he studied his art form carefully, apparently he would write the 'same' poem many times and test the implications of each rhythm against his relative’s reactions. This stanza shows his skill off to the fullest. He has taken a dry and relatively complicated subject and has turned it into a joy.

By including the second stanza, the poem now has a context. S.T. Coleridge wasn't just showing off his incredible ability to wield meter and rhythm but he was also instructing his son on how to write.

However I can understand why some people leave it out, it is not Coleridge at his best. The ending is wrought with unintentional irony as it simply doesn't scan well at all. The word 'from' and the initials 'S.T.' break the line up terribly. The rhyming of 'ridge' with 'Colerige'(sic) is horrendous. The poem was a private indulgence and was not intended for publication, which explains the discrepancies in quality between the stanzas.

The poem was written some time between 1808 and 1810 (when his first son, Harley, would have been 10 to 12 years old). It was published after his death by his family who made a living, in part, from S.T. Coleridge's unpublished letters and poems.

Derwent was the third son of S.T.Coleridge, in the first draft it was Harley who was implored to take up poetry. Presumably if his second son, Berkley, had survived infancy he too would have received a version of the poem. This makes you wonder if S.T. Coleridge chose his sons names to have a soft-hard metre so that he could write better poetry about them!

Today it seems unkind to impress upon a child the ambitions of the parent, the line '...must win him the love -- of his father...' implies that Colerige will only love his sons if they become poets! The stanza's tone however is of a doting father, it is very sentimental.

For all S.T. Coleridge's efforts Harley Coleridge produced only one volume of poetry in the year before his death. Derwent went on to become a teacher. However Sara Coleridge, who (as implied by the title of the poem) had no such parental pressure, went on to copy her fathers methods of instruction and published Pretty Lessons in Verse for Good Children; with some Lessons in Latin in Easy Rhyme to widespread approval. They also seemed to work. Her son, Herbert Coleridge, graduated with a double first in classics and mathematics from Oxford University and later helped produce The New English Dictionary.

My first English teacher used to teach the first stanza to us by rote. I was ten and so the meaning went over my head, but some lines have haunted me, particularly the line 'Trochee trips from long to short; From long to long in solemn sort' comes to mind whenever I attend a funeral.

* I learnt this as 'catch up with...'; it seems to make more sense that way.

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