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Polysyllable


badger11
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badger11

When scanning a line I shuffle the monosyllabic stresses for metre, but polysyllables I've always believed they keep their stress pattern. Am I wrong?

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tonyv

Polysyllables are always properly stressed per dictionary. For example, “insurance” is properly stressed on the second syllable, yet in the Midwest portion of the United States the first syllable is often stressed. Still, in my opinion, one doesn’t properly scan a poem in accordance with someone’s accent. A professional should use the proper tool: the dictionary.

Some polysyllabic words have a primary stress on one syllable and, sometimes, a secondary stress on another syllable (per dictionary). “Anticipate” is one of those words for which the dictionary shows a primary stress on the second syllable and a secondary stress on the fourth: an TI ci PATE.  

Monosyllabic words as well as normally unstressed syllables of polysyllabic words are often “promoted” (lightly stressed) during scansion. For example, “villages” only has one stress (on the first syllable). L14 of Larkin’s sonnet “Friday Night in the Royal Station Hotel” ends with “villages.” This works because when an iambic pentameter ends with a pyrrhic (a two-unstressed syllable foot), the poet may choose to count or not count the foot (as an iamb) to suit his meter:

Night comes on. Waves fold behind villages.

/ NIGHT comes / on WAVES / fold be / HIND VIL / la ges /

/ trochee / iamb / {pyrrhic/spondee} = double iamb / pyrrhic /

The line scans as a line that contains four iambs: F2, the pyrrhic followed by the spondee (F3 & F4) which always counts as two iambs, and the pyrrhic (at the end of the line - F5) which is optionally counted as an iamb. (If the rest of the poem were composed in tetrameter, F5 would be optionally not counted, but in this case the rest of the poem is in pentameter, so it is optionally counted to suit the meter.) 

Now, if we compose an iambic pentameter like this one:

When villages appear in the cold distance 

the third syllable of “villages” is “promoted” (or lightly stressed) in the scansion because no iambic pentameter can have three unstressed syllables in a row:

/ when VIL / aGES / apPEAR / in the/ COLD DIS / tance 

/ iamb / iamb / iamb / {pyrrhic/spondee = double iamb} / ^ (feminine ending)

However, if we compose the line differently:

As villages line up in the cold distance

while it is entirely possible to promote the third syllable of “villages” and scan the line as such:

/ as VIL / aGES / line UP / in the / COLD DIS / tance

it is not necessary to do so because it also works like this:

/ as VIL / a ges/ LINE UP / in the / COLD DIS / tance 

/ iamb / {pyrrhic/spondee = double iamb} / {pyrrhic/spondee = double iamb} / ^ feminine ending

I’m not sure if I answered your question. 😂

Here is a link to an index of my works on this site: tonyv's Member Archive topic

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tonyv

I made minor edits in one of the paragraphs for clarity: 

The line scans as a line that contains four iambs: F2, the pyrrhic followed by the spondee (F3 & F4) which always counts as two iambs, and the pyrrhic (at the end of the line - F5) which is optionally counted as an iamb. (If the rest of the poem were composed in tetrameter, F5 would be optionally not counted, but in this case the rest of the poem is in pentameter, so it is optionally counted to suit the meter.)

Here is a link to an index of my works on this site: tonyv's Member Archive topic

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