Please scan the last stanza of "Frost at Midnight" (detect the feet and the stress patterns within those feet).  See below:Here is the stanza: Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,Whether...

Please scan the last stanza of "Frost at Midnight" (detect the feet and the stress patterns within those feet).  See below:

Here is the stanza:

Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,

Whether the summer clothe the general earth

With greenness, or the redbreast sit and sing

Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch

Of mossy apple-tree, while the nigh thatch

Smokes in the sun-thaw ; whether the eave-drops fall

Heard only in the trances of the blast,

Or if the secret ministry of frost

Shall hang them up in silent icicles,

Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.

Asked on by mercure

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

I have scanned the paragraph as you have asked.

I am mostly familiar with iambic pentameter, which is when a poem has ten syllables per line, with the stress on every other syllable.

Sonnets (fourteen-line poems) by Shakespeare, Petrarch, Spenser, etc., were written in iambic pentameter.

In your poem, if I have counted correctly, it appears to me that all the lines expect one have ten syllables per line, with a stress on the second of the two syllables.

For instance, refer to the first line of the paragraph:

Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee

The stress lies on: -fore, sea-, shall, sweet, thee.  The stress does not follow words, but syllables. There are times (as with the first two listed above) that the first syllable is paired with part of the following word, or part of a word is joined with the word following it.

So "Therefore" has two syllables, and "-fore" is stressed. The next foot is "all sea-" and "sea-" is stressed. The second half of "season" (-son) is the first syllable of the next foot: "-sons shall."

There -fore / all sea- / -sons shall / be sweet / to thee

This continues up until the line below.

Smokes in the sun-thaw ; whether the eave-drops fall

This sentence does not follow the pattern. Now, this is written some time between the end of the 18th Century into the middle of the 19th Century. Coleridge was one of the two poets who are considered the forerunners of the Romantic literary movement in England.

I mention this only because poets (Shakespeare is a perfect example—and Coleridge as an English writer would have been influenced to some extent) would sometimes write in iambic pentameter, but some lines would have ten syllables, some would have eleven, and others might only have nine. The "irregular" numbered "feet" did not dominate the poem, but they were there.

For instance, in Sonnet 29, Shakespeare's third line is not written in iambic pentameter:

And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,

It is possible to surmise that the line shown above (from "Frost at Midnight") simply does not fit the pattern because Coleridge wanted to say something specifically that would not fit with the prescribed number of syllables.

Sometimes poets (and song writers—who write poetry to music) will add a word and rush two syllables together to "fit." Consider the word "o'er." This is pronounced "or" (a one-syllable word), but actually means "over," a two-syllable word. So perhaps Coleridge intended that when the poem was read, one of the two-syllable words would be "rushed" or "pushed" together.

Considering the possibility that Coleridge purposely chose a different number of syllables, I am unable to chart the line which has eleven syllables. To make it fit into the ten syllable pattern (with a stress on the second syllable), "whether" would need be said quickly—seeming the only place where such a "rush" can be used and the line not only still make sense, but be able to hold onto the rhythm presented in the other lines as well.

Smokes in the sun-thaw ; whether the eave-drops fall

spoken "Smokes in / the sun / -thaw whether / the eave- / drops fall"

The only other possibility I can perceive might be that the foot "-thaw whether" might be an "anapest" (three syllables, with stress on the last), considered a "trisyllable" (whereas iambs are "disyllables").

I hope this is of some help.

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