What is the meter and stanzaic structure of the poem "Ring Out Your Bells" by Sir Philip Sidney?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In this poem it is important to be aware of the way in which Sidney experiments with different meters in order to enact the human emotion he is trying to convey through his words. The poem is written in regular ten line stanzas that have a different amount of syllables in each line (10, 4, 7, 6, 7, 6, 7, 7, 6, 6).

We can see the way that the normal iambic rhythm is played with in the final stanza to highlight the changed perspective of the speaker. Note the following lines:

Alas, I lie, rage hath this error bred;
Love is not dead;
The normal iamb in "Alas, I lie" is followed by a trochee which places stress on the word "rage," which is then followed by a trochee in the next line, placing emphasis on the word "Love" to stress the way in which it has not died. Metric innovations in this way show Sidney's effort to make the meter of the poem become just as important as the words that he uses. The way we hear the poem, the way that the words are pronounced and its rhythm enact the meaning that he is trying to convey.
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