Rhythm, when being applied in literary pieces, implies a certain pattern of words and their arrangements. It signifies the position of accentuated and unstressed words and their parts, which create a certain tone of the text. It is especially prevalent in poetry, as it allows poetical works to have a specific sounding. Still, authors pay attention to the rhythm in prose works and drama pieces as well.
The term originates from the word “rhythmos” (Greek), which translates as “flow”, “movement”, or “arrangement”. It was borrowed into the English language around 1550-1560.
In poetry, rhythm is always associated with another related term - meter. Meter implies the units and groups of unstressed and accentuated syllables, which allow the poets to create a certain rhythm. Metrical structures are inseparable from rhythm and play a crucial role in its formation.
Because meter is an essential part of any poetical piece and, thus, the literary tool of rhythm, it is useful to distinguish different meter types from one another. They are:
●Iamb, the most prevalent and perhaps the easiest meter kind to work with. It implies a certain rhythmic construction: an unstressed syllable accompanied by the accentuated one. When this pattern repeats throughout the poetical work, the rhythm appears and makes the poem easy to read and sounding pleasant. Shakespeare implemented iamb quite often in his works, which only proves how effective this meter type can be. Iambic meter can involve such words and syllabic structures as be-long, be-gin, a-live, a-way, and so on.
●Trochee appears as the opposite to iamb and implies using the structure when the first syllable is accentuated and the next one is unstressed. For example, ne-ver, sha-dow, al-tar, etc.
●Spondee is a kind of meter that involves using accentuated syllables following each other. For instance, the words sun-shine, door-way, rain-storm, hand-shake, come back, stop now, and so on.
●Dactyl, which is a bit more complex type of meter, requires the author to use one accentuated syllable accompanied by two unstressed ones. The majority of poems written with this meter kind sound very melodious. They can contain the words a-nimal, di-fferent, end-lessly, etc.
●Anapest, which plays the role opposite to the dactyl’s. Anapest implies making two unstressed syllables followed by an accentuated one. For example, over-come, souve-nir, under-foot, and so on.
●Amphibrach, the meter type that implies putting an accentuated syllable between two unstressed ones. For instance, for-get-ful, re-gard-less, re-sent-ful, etc.
Of course, meters don’t strictly imply being used with only one pattern within the words’ syllables. Separate words can also play a role in the construction of meters. A whole word can be read like a separate syllable with its own stress, while other words can be unstressed, creating a certain meter and a general rhythm of the text.
Obviously, rhythm is significant in poetry, but prose writers oftentimes pay attention to it as well. Proper rhythm allows the author to create a literary piece that is easy to read and comprehend. When the author takes rhythm into consideration, he makes sure that the sentences and the patterns within the sentences are arranged in a proper way.
There are numerous factors, which influence the rhythm in poetry (and sometimes in prose as well). These factors include line length, repetition, and deliberate pauses. All of these components help the author create a certain meter and rhythm.
R. Frost implemented specific rhythm in his “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” in a rather unusual and artistic manner. He used the iambic meter and arranged it according to the following structure: every line consists of 4 iambs. This way, he didn’t only create an easy-to-read poem. With this specific rhythm, Frost managed to equate the sound of the poem to the rhythm of the horse walking through the woods and the man riding it.
M. Arnolds in his “Dover Beach” plays with the line length and uses it to enhance the mood of the poem and the feeling of sadness it implies. He combines the smooth flow of standard short line lengths with longer sentences, which break the poem into segments but don’t ruin its rhythm. On the contrary, this technique of varying line lengths helps the author point at some important parts and make the text rhythmically pleasing.
W. Whitman masterfully used repetition in one of his works to establish the rhythm of the text. Even in the name of this literary piece, “O Captain! My Captain!”, the technique of repetition creates a rhythmic pronunciation. Another example from this work is “Beat! Beat! Drums!”, which sets the tone and helps the author stick to the certain rhythm.
In literary works, rhythm signifies a certain pattern and arrangement of words and sentences. It involves arranging accentuated and unstressed syllables and separate words, which makes the text easy to comprehend and gives it a certain sounding.
The term derives from the word “rhythmos”, which can be translated as “movement” or “flow”. While rhythm involves many techniques by itself, it is inseparable from meter, a special arrangement of syllables.
Authors can use various tools to create a certain rhythm in the text. For instance, combining different line lengths, making unexpected but well-thought-out pauses, and using repetitions can help the author stick to the certain rhythm and emphasize some parts of the text.