Quantitative Quintain

April 19, 2014 by KWills

The letter QQuantitative meter is not really suited to English poetry, since it depends on the length of the vowel sounds, and that is not something that English pays much attention to. With the exception of “shin/sheen”, “pit/peat”, and similar, most of the time vowel length is a matter of personal choice.

A useful definition from this site:

“The dominant metrical system in Classical Greek and Italian poetry, in which the rhythm depends not on the number of stresses, but on the length of time it takes to utter a line. That duration depends on whether a syllable is long or short—a distinction that is harder to hear in English pronunciation.”

See also: here and here.

But if there’s one thing English does well, it’s adopt and adapt. Many of the templates for stress-timed meter were taken from Ancient Greek forms, and the syllabic-base of French and Japanese poetry has translated well into English, even with the additional restrictions imposed by stress. So it should be no surprise to learn that English poets in the past have attempted to write in quantitative meter, and there’s no reason not to try it for myself.

“/” = long vowels, dipthongs, and vowels followed by a double-consonant “pause”. (e.g. a’pple, hea’ddress, cu’p-cake)

“u” = short vowels (everything else – including vowels followed by double consonants that DON’T cause pauses, such as “lost” or “hiss”.)


Dance

Slow, slow, quick quick, slow
Smart dance, foxtrot pace,
Arms loose, heads up, show
How we have such grace:
One, two, turn!

Floor’s ours, make it count
All eyes on us now
True, by this account
We are best, and how!
One, two, turn!

(Four lines of / / u u /, followed by one line / / /.)

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