illustrated portrait of English poet WIlliam Wordsworth

William Wordsworth

Start Free Trial

What is the meter used in Wordsworth's "Lucy Gray"?

Iambic tetrameter and iambic trimeter are two different types of meter found in "Lucy Gray."

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

William Wordsworth's "Lucy Gray" contains the following meter: alternating lines of iambic tetrameter and iambic trimeter. 

An iamb (or iambic when placed with the number of feet) is a singular metric foot containing an unstressed syllable and then a stressed syllable. Tetrameter refers to the existence of four poetic feet (iambs), and trimeter refers to three poetic feet (also iambs). 

A tetrameter "looks" like this (u=unstressed and /= stressed): u/ u/ u/ u/

A trimeter "looks" like this: u/ u/ u/

Here are the first two lines of the poem marked for stress.

Oft I had heard of Lucy Gray,

u   /   u      /     u   / u     /


And when I cross'd the Wild,

  u      /   u     /       u     / 

Here it is again with non-bolded letters signalling the unstressed words and bolded letters signalling the stressed syllables:

Oft I had heard of Lucy Gray,
And when I cross'd the Wild,

One can see how four pairs of feet exist in the first line:  "Oft I," "had heard," "of Lu," cy Gray."

Three exist within the second: "and when," "I cross'd," "the wild." 

This alternation of iambic tetrameter and iambic trimeter extends throughout the poem. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team