Rail yard background, from the Library of Congress

Connections

A Hypertext Resource for Literature

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Three-Syllable Feet
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  • A dactyl has one stressed syllable followed by two unstressed ones. "Magical" is a dactyl. The adjective form is dactylic.

  • An anapest has two unstressed syllables followed by a stressed one. (As you may have noted, "anapest" is a dactyl. Oh, well.) "But I must!" is an anapest. The adjective form is anapestic.

Dactyls and anapests are the most common three-syllable feet and the ones that work best as the basis of poetry in English. Having more unstressed syllables gives anapestic or dactylic verse the sense of a faster pace than poetry made of two-syllable feet. To see how different feet work in poetic lines and to learn the more obscure three-syllable feet, see the Coleridge poem on the next page.

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