Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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How would you best describe the meter of the poem "A Psalm of Life" by Henry Longfellow?

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In "A Psalm of Life," Longfellow employs trochaic tetrameter, in which each line consists of four "feet" comprised of a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed one. However, the final foot of the second and fourth line of each stanza consists of only one syllable:

Life is real! Life is earnest!

And the grave is not its goal;

Dust thou art, to dust returnest,

Was not spoken of the soul.

Observe also that the final trochee of the first and third lines creates a multi-syllabic, or "feminine," rhyme.

Trochaic meter is less often used in English than iambic meter, in which each foot consists of an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed one. The reason for this is that the rhythm of our language most frequently, or naturally, falls into the iambic pattern.

Another poem in which Longfellow uses trochaic tetrameter is The Song of Hiawatha, with its famous opening lines:

On the shores of Gitche Gumee

Of the shining Big Sea-Water,

Stood Nokomis, the old woman,

Pointing with her finger westward.

This...

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