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Trochee

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Metrical feet
Disyllables
˘ ˘ pyrrhus, dibrach
˘ ¯ iamb
¯ ˘ trochee, choree
¯ ¯ spondee
Trisyllables
˘ ˘ ˘ tribrach
¯ ˘ ˘ dactyl
˘ ¯ ˘ amphibrach
˘ ˘ ¯ anapest, antidactylus
˘ ¯ ¯ bacchius
¯ ¯ ˘ antibacchius
¯ ˘ ¯ cretic, amphimacer
¯ ¯ ¯ molossus
Number of feet per line
one Monometer
two Dimeter
three Trimeter
four Tetrameter
five Pentameter
six Hexameter
seven Heptameter
eight Octameter
See main article for tetrasyllables.
v · d · e

A trochee (/ˈtroʊkiː/) (also called a choree or choreus) is a metrical foot used in English verse consisting of a stressed syllable syllable followed by an unstressed one.

DefinitionEdit

  • Trochaic (trochaic) n. Tro*cha"ic (Pros.)
  1. A trochaic verse or measure . Dryden.
  • Trochaic (trochaic) a. Tro*cha"ic [L. trochaïcus, Gr. (?) or (?). See Trochee.]
  1. (Pros.) Of or pertaining to trochees; consisting of trochees; as, trochaic measure or verse.[1]
  • Trochee (trochee) n. Tro"chee [L. trochaeus]
  1. A foot of two syllables, the first long and the second short, as in the Latin word ante, or the first accented and the second unaccented, as in the English word motion; a choreus.[2]

EtymologyEdit

Trochee comes from the Greek τροχός, trokhós, wheel, and choree from χορός, khorós, dance; both convey the "rolling" rhythm of this metrical foot.

ExamplesEdit

"Hiawatha"Edit

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's Song of Hiawatha is written almost entirely in trochees, barring the occasional substitution.

Should you ask me, whence these stories?
Whence these legends and traditions,
With the odours of the forest,
With the dew and damp of meadows,

In the second line, "and tra-" substitutes a is a Pyrrhic substitution (substituting foot of two unsressed syllables, as is "of the" in the third. Even so, the dominant foot throughout the poem is the trochee. Apart from Song of Hiawatha, this metre is rarely found in perfect examples, at least in English. This is from Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven":

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December;
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.

Trochaic meter is also seen among the works of William Shakespeare:

Double, double, toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.[3]

Children's verseEdit

Perhaps owing to its simplicity, though, trochaic meter is fairly common in children's rhymes:

Peter, Peter pumpkin-eater
Had a wife and couldn't keep her.


Trochaic meter in iambic verseEdit

Often a few trochees will be interspersed among iambs in the same lines to develop a more complex or syncopated rhythm. Compare (William Blake):

Tyger, Tyger, burning bright
In the forests of the night

These lines are primarily trochaic, with the last syllable dropped Catalectic trochaic tetrameter) so that the line ends with a stressed syllable to give a strong rhyme or masculine rhyme. By contrast, the intuitive way that the mind groups the syllables in later lines in the same poem makes them feel more like iambic lines with the first syllable dropped (headless iambic tetrameter):

Did he smile his work to see?

In fact the surrounding lines by this point have become entirely iambic:

When the stars threw down their spears
And watered Heaven with their tears
. . .
Did he who made the lamb make thee?

In fact, because iambic and trochaic rhythms both follow the same pattern of alternating stressed and unstressed syllales (but differ only in which syllable follows the other in a foot), the catalectic iambic meter and headless trochic meter scan exactly the same. Take, for instance W.H. Auden's "Lullaby":

Lay your sleeping head, my love,
Human on my faithless arm;
Time and fevers burn away
Individual beauty from
Thoughtful children, and the grave
Proves the child ephemeral:
[...]

It's only the presence of a few regularly iambic lines


But in my arms till break of day
And fashionable madmen raise
The hermit's carnal ecstacy

that allow one to identify the verse as iambic, not trochaic.

Other languagesEdit

Trochaic verse is also well-known in Latin poetry, especially of the medieval period. Since the stress never falls on the final syllable in Medieval Latin, the language is ideal for trochaic verse. The dies irae of the Requiem mass is a perfect example:

Dies irae, dies illa
Solvet saeclum in favilla
Teste David cum Sybilla.

The Finnish national epic Kalevala, like much old Finnish poetry, is written in a variation of trochaic tetrameter.

See alsoEdit

References Edit

  1. "Trochaic," Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, 1913. 1913.MShaffer.com, Web, July 9, 2011.
  2. "Trochee," Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, 1913. 1913.MShaffer.com, Web, July 9, 2011.
  3. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. London: Abbey Library/Cresta House, 1977.
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