What is the meter of Thomas Grey's "Ode on the Death of a Favorite Cat"?

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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The meter of Thomas Grey's "Ode on the Death of a Favorite Cat" is based on a Provencal verse form known as rime couée. The verse form is organized into six-line stanzas, or sestets, each of which follows the identical pattern of meter and rhyme. The rhyme scheme is aabccb. For example, the rhyme words of Stanza III are as follows:

  1. ... tide [a]
  2. ... glide, [a]
  3. ... stream; [b]
  4. ... hue, [c]
  5. ... view, [c]
  6. ... gleam. [b]

The original French meter is syllabic rather than accentual, with Lines 1, 2, 4, and 5 of each stanza consisting of 8 syllables and lines 3 and 6 (the ones with the "b" rhymes) consisting of six syllables. English, however, is a strongly stressed language, and Gray normally follows an iambic pattern, albeit with occasional variations. Thus most stanzas fall into the following rhythmical pattern:

  1. iambic tetrameter
  2. iambic tetrameter
  3. iambic trimeter
  4. iambic tetrameter
  5. iambic tetrameter
  6. iambic trimeter
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