Sound Devices

Posted: September 8, 2013 in Notes and Literary Terms

The sound device Power Point from class can be found here: sound devices

Or a text version for those who don’t have Power Point or want an easily printable version: sound devices text

Or if you can view it in a super big phone and tablet compatible version by clicking below


Sound Devices


ž  poetry’s rhythm, or its pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables. 

ž  Meter is measured in units of feet ; the five basic kinds of metric feet are indicated below. 

ž  Accent marks indicate stressed ( / ) or unstressed ( u ) syllables.


Type of Metric Feet               


ž  Iambic                ba-loon              ˘      ˉ

ž  Trochaic             so-da                   ˉ      ˘

ž  Anapestic          con-tra-dict       ˘       ˘      ˉ

ž  Dactyllic             ma-ni-ac            ˉ       ˘       ˘

ž  Spondaic           man-made        ˉ       ˉ


Metrical units are the building blocks of lines of verse:  lines are named according to the number of feet they contain:


Number of Metric Feet           Type of Line

ž  one foot                                 monometer

ž  two feet                                 dimeter

ž  three feet                              trimeter

ž  four feet                                 tetrameter

ž  five feet                                 pentameter

ž  six feet                                    hexameter

ž  seven feet                          heptameter

ž  eight feet                 octometer


ž  is the analysis of these mechanical elements within a poem to determine meter.  Feet are marked off with slashes

   ( / ) and accented appropriately

        ( ˉ -stressed, ˘   -unstressed). 




ž  a foot with unstressed, stressed, unstressed syllables


      u    /    u  

›     Chicago

›     arrangement




ž  A metrical foot consisting of three syllables, the first and last accented, the second unaccented

          /     u     /  

›     attitude

›     nevermore


ž  an extra unaccented syllable at the beginning of a line before the regular meter begins. Musically, a  pickup note.


        What thou art we know not;

        What is most like thee?

        From rainbow clouds there flow not

        Drops so bright to see . . .


                                      Percy Bysshe Shelley


ž  Incompleteness of the last foot of a line; truncation by omission of one or two final syllables

ž  (opposite of anacrusis)


        One more unfortunate

        Weary of breath ___ ___

        Rashly importunate

        Gone to her death ___ ___


                              Thomas Hood


Feminine ending

ž  Believe it or not, not every line of iambic pentameter contains ten syllables.  Sometimes even Shakespeare himself will go to eleven or twelve.  This is most commonly achieved by using an amphribrach for the last foot.  Ending with an extra unstressed syllable like this is known as a feminine ending.

  u     /           u    /          u    /          u       /         u          /      u 

To be | or not | to be| that is | the question



Triple ending

ž  Then to really throw you off when you’re trying to scan and figure out meter, sometimes authors like Shakespeare will throw in a double feminine ending as in

         u          /   u   u     u     /         u     /     u       /   u   u   

What’s Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba


Emily Dickinson’s “Because I Could Not Stop For Death”

Because / I could / not stop / for Death

He kind- / ly stopped / for me

The car- / riage held / but just / our-selves

And Im- / mor-tal- / ity.

The feet in these lines are iambic.  The first and third lines have four feet and can be identified as iambic tetrameter.  The second and fourth lines, with three feet each, are iambic trimeter.  Therefore, the basic meter is iambic tetrameter.


What’s The Point? 

ž  Poets often manipulate meter to speed or slow the rate at which a reader reads the line.

›     Stressed syllables serve to slow the pace

›     Unstressed syllables do the opposite

Similar Devices

ž  Poets also manipulate vowels, consonants, and consonant blends to achieve a similar purpose

›     Vowels are open and can be spoken rapidly

›     Consonants (and particularly consonant blends) are more difficult to form, hence they slow the pace of the line



ž  :a pause in the meter or rhythm of a line.


    Flood-tide below me!  ||  I see you face to face!

      Walt Whitman:  “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry”



ž  a run-on line, one continuing into the text without a grammatical break. The opposite is referred to as an end-stopped line.


Green rustlings, more-than-regal charities

Drift coolly from that tower of whispered light.

                                     Hart Crane:  “Royal Palm”



ž  repetition of two or more vowel sounds within a line.



        Burnt the fire of thine eyes

                           (William Blake, “The Tiger”)



ž  The relation between words in which the final consonant sounds in the stressed syllables agree but the vowel sounds that precede them differ.


        Whose woods these are I think I know


        Robert Frost      

        Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening


ž  repetition of two or more initial sounds in words within a line.


Bright black-eyed creature, brushed with brown.

                                     Robert Frost

                                     To a Moth Seen in Winter




ž  the technique of using a word whose sound suggests its meaning.


        The buzz saw snarled and rattled in the yard

                                     Robert Frost

                                     Out, Out




ž  the use of compatible, harmonious sounds to produce pleasing, melodious effect.


I knew a woman, lovely in her bones,

When small birds sighed, she would sigh back at them.

                                     Theodore Roethke

                                     I Knew a Woman



ž  the use of inharmonious sounds in close conjunction for effect;  opposite of euphony.


                  Or, my scrofulous French novel

                  On grey paper with blunt type!

                  Simply glance at it, you grovel

                  Hand and foot in Belial’s gripe:

                           Robert Browning

                           Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister





End Rhyme:   

ž  rhyme occurring at end of verse line;  most common rhyme form.


        I was angry with my friend,

        I told my wrath, my wrath did end.

                  (William Blake, “A Poison Tree”)


Internal Rhyme:

ž  rhyme contained within a line of verse.


        The splendor falls  on castle walls

        And snowy summits old in story:

        The long light shakes across the lakes

        And the wild cataract leaps in glory.

                           Alfred, Lord Tennyson,

                           Blow, Bugle, Blow


Rhyme Scheme

ž  pattern of rhymes within a unit of verse; in analysis, each end rhyme-sound is represented by a letter.


        Take, O take those lips away,                                 a

        That so sweetly were forsworn;                           b

        And those eyes, the break of day,                         a

        Lights that do mislead the morn:                           b

        But my kisses bring again, bring again;                c

        Seals of love, but seal’d in vain, seal’d in vain.    c


                           William Shakespeare 

                           Take, O Take Those Lips Away


Masculine Rhyme:

ž  rhyme in which only the last, accented syllable of the rhyming words correspond exactly in sound;  most common kind of end rhyme.

                      She walks in beauty like the night

                      Of cloudless climes and starry skies;

                      And all that’s best of dark and bright

                      Meet in her aspect and her eyes:

                      Thus mellowed to that tender light

                      Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

                                                          Lord Byron

                                           “She Walks in Beauty”


Feminine Rhyme

ž  rhyme in which two consecutive syllables of the rhyme-words correspond, the first syllable carrying the accent;  double rhyme.


Trembling, hoping, lingering, flying,

O the pain, the bliss of dying!

                                     Alexander Pope

                                     Vital Spark of Heavenly Flame


Half Rhyme (Slant Rhyme):

ž  imperfect, approximate rhyme.


In the mustardseed sun.

By full tilt river and switchback sea

Where the cormorants scud,

In his house on stilts high among beaks

                           Dylan Thomas

                           Poem on His Birthday

  1. […] devices and figurative language notes can be found way back here and here and […]

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