What sort of meter did the American poet Robert Frost employ in his poetry?

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thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Robert Frost (1874 – 1963) was an American poet who wrote hundreds of individual poems using a wide variety of meters. Unlike several of his modernist contemporaries, he eschewed free verse, which he famously compared to playing tennis without a net. 

In his own writings, he talks about the "sound of sense," or the rhythm one would hear when someone is speaking in the next room and one cannot make out individual words but only the rhythms of speech. He thinks those rhythms are not random, and that sentences that make sense have a natural rhythmic quality, which in English is normally iambic. 

Unlike many Victorians, for whom poetry aspired to the condition of music, Frost aimed to make his meters both regular and conversational. This means that even when he uses a regular iambic pentameter or tetrameter line with a regular rhyme scheme, he will use metrical variations and enjambment to give the poem a tone of natural speech rather than something obviously artificial. 

Although Frost experimented widely with meter, he most commonly favored lines consisting of three, four, or five iambic feet. 

mstultz72 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Frost is known as a metricist.  Frost said, "I would sooner write free verse as play tennis with the net down."

He also said, "There are only two meters: strict and loose iambic."

The following chart shows the types of iambic meter her wrote:

  • Dimeter: "Dust of Snow," "The Rose Family," "The Rabbit Hunter," "I Will Sing You One-O," "Gathering Leaves"
  • Trimeter: "Reluctance," "Flower Gathering," "Nothing Gold Can Stay," "Neither Out Far Nor In Deep," "Departmental"
  • Tetrameter:  "Stopping by Woods," "My November Guest," "The Road Not Taken," "Going for Water," "Devotion"
  • Pentameter: "Acquainted with the Night," "The Runaway," "The Silken Tent," "Mending Wall," "Birches,"
  • Hendeca-syllabics: "For Once Then," "Something"