Asked • 04/08/19

Confused about the meter and rhythm of Ulysses by Tennyson?

Ulysses is written in iambic pentameter. There are a few spondees and trochees thrown in for good measure, but I'm confused in some places, like here: > I cannot rest from travel: I will drink > Life to the lees: All times I have enjoy'd > Greatly, have suffer'd greatly, both with those > That loved me, and alone, on shore, and when > Thro' scudding drifts the rainy Hyades > Vext the dim sea: I am become a name In the second line, there's a trochee (`Life to`), but then it continues on normally. Ok. Fine. The line after that does the exact same thing (`Greatly`). What goes on in the fourth and sixth (last) lines, though? > That loved me, and alone, on shore, and when The first pair (`that loved`) is an iambic foot, the second (`me, and`) is what? A trochee? The third (`alone`) is, finally, an iamb. The rest are iambs. What goes on in Tennyson's head when he creates such a weird structure? How does he decide to break the rules, and where? Also, is it correct to think in pairs when breaking down a poem like this? Similarly, the last line is also funky: > Vext the dim sea: I am become a name `Vext the`: trochee. `Dim sea`: spondee? There's also a line at the end of the poem that has 11 syllables, but I guess he just thought "shit, this sounds so good I just *have* to leave it in" because it's the best line in the entire thing. But I'm guessing that's not the usual thought process going on?

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