Can you help me analyze the rhythm of "Gathering Leaves" by Robert Frost?

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thanatassa's profile pic

thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Robert Frost's poem, "Gathering Leaves", is somewhat of a metrical experiment. The first step in scanning it is trying to understand the metrical system in which it is written. Rather than being written in the regular accentual syllabic meters of most of Frost's verse, it is written in a purely accentual meter with two beats per line. That means that although each line will have two main stressed syllables, the unstressed syllables will vary in number. Thus one should only mark the main stresses in the lines, e.g.:

Spades take up leaves: (Spades ; leaves)
No better than spoons, (bett-;  spoons,
And bags full of leaves (bags ; leaves)
Are light as balloons. (light ; balloons)

As well as a regular ABAB rhyme scheme, the poem also uses alliterative patterns typical of strong stress Anglo-Saxon verse such as Beowulf.

litgeek2015's profile pic

litgeek2015 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

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As noted in the previous answer, the rhyme scheme follows the ABAB pattern. 

What is interesting, too, about the rhythm of this poem is that it adds to the meaning. Because the task that Frost is writing about is rhythmic, in a sense, and monotonous, the ABAB rhythm complements the actions in the poem. Where the poem is about the monotony of life, but the humor we might find in it, the poem, too, has a monotonous rhythm where we find the stresses (high points, if you will).

The poem is about picking up fall leaves, endlessly, and anyone who has raked leaves knows that you get into a rhythm as you do it. Especially the more leaves you have to rake. As I read this poem, I think of it as a narration in ABAB pattern.



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