What is the meter used in "Over the Fence" by Emily Dickinson?

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jmj616 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

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As in many of her poems, Emily Dickinson uses an irregular meter in "Over the Fence."

The first three lines are very similar in meter.  Each line contains 4 syllables, the first one strongly stressed:

Over the fence --
Strawberries -- grow --
Over the fence --

The only variation is in the second line, where the series of dashes, after the word "strawberries," interrupts the meter.

Line 4, though, is completely different.  It contains a total of 9 syllables, broken up into three distinct subgroups.  The first two subgroups are "I could climb" and "if I tried"; they contain 3 syllables, with the stress on the last syllable.  The last subgroup is "I know," which has two syllables, the second one stressed.

In Line 5, Dickinson returns to the pattern established in lines 1-3: 4 syllables, the first one strongly stressed.

In the second stanza, Dickinson shifts to longer lines, between 5 and 9 syllables.  In each line, there is a strong emphasis on the first syllable.  This is reinforced by punctuation: in lines 5 and 8, the first word is emphasized by a dash following it, and in line 7, by a comma following it. 

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