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Look closely at the following line:
You are a | writer, and | Í am a fighter, but | here is a fellow...
A foot is a portion of a line of poetry, consisting of two or three syllables combined according to accent.
Hexameter. A line containing six feet is called hexameter. The Courtship is written in hexameter.
Dactyl. When a foot consists of one accented syllable and two unaccented, it is called a dactyl (—~~). In modern dactylic hexameter the fifth foot is regularly a dactyl. Trochee. A foot containing one accented and one unaccented syllable is a trochee (~~). The last foot in each line of The Courtship is a trochee.
Casura. Toward the middle of nearly every line of poetry there is a pause, which is called a cæsura. Varying the location of the cæsura in succeeding lines, makes the rhythm more agreeable.
Scansion. Dividing a line into feet and indicating the kind and the number of feet, is scanning the line, or giving the scansion. Lengthy lessons in scansion are apt to induce a sing-song method of reading poetry.
Scan the following lines:
1. Suddenly breaking the silence, the diligent scribe interrupting,
2. That is because I have done it myself, and not left it to others.
3. Winding through forest and swamp, and along the trend of the seashore,
4. Is it to shoot red squirrels you have your howitzer planted . .
5. Let them come, if they like, and the sooner they try it the better,
THE COURTSHIP OF MILES STANDISH
IN the Old Colony days, in Plymouth1 the land of the Pilgrims,
To and fro in a room of his simple and primitive dwelling,2 Clad in doublet and hose,3 and boots of Cordovan leather,4 Strode, with a martial air, Miles Standish the Puritan
Buried in thought he seemed, with his hands behind him, and pausing
Ever and anon to behold his glittering weapons of warfare, Hanging in shining array along the walls of the chamber, Cutlass and corselet of steel, and his trusty sword of Damascus,6
Curved at the point and inscribed with its mystical Arabic sentence,7
1 Plymouth, or the Old Colony, was the first settlement of English colonists on the coast of Massachusetts.
2 Roughly-built log house.
The doublet was a short, tight-fitting coat. Hose are stockings reaching to the knees; they were worn by the men in those days. 4 The goatskin which the Spanish of Cordova tanned by a special process received the name of Cordovan leather.
5 A cutlass is a short, curved sword. A corselet was a piece of steel armor worn to protect the chest and back.
• Damascus is an ancient city of Syria, which was famous for its finely tempered sword blades.
7 A sentence that long baffled interpretation. It was taken from the Koran (the Mohammedan Bible).
While underneath, in a corner, were fowling-piece, musket, and matchlock.1
Short of stature he was, but strongly built and athletic, Broad in the shoulders, deep-chested, with muscles and sinews of iron;
Brown as a nut was his face, but his russet beard was
Flaked with patches of snow, as hedges sometimes in November.
Near him was seated John Alden, his friend and household
Writing with diligent speed at a table of pine by the window;
Fair-haired, azure-eyed, with delicate Saxon complexion, Having the dew of his youth, and the beauty thereof, as the
Whom Saint Gregory saw, and exclaimed, "Not Angles but Angels." 2
Youngest of all was he of the men who came in the Mayflower.
Suddenly breaking the silence, the diligent scribe inter
Spake, in the pride of his heart, Miles Standish the Captain of Plymouth.
"Look at these arms," he said, "the warlike weapons that hang here
Burnished and bright and clean, as if for parade or inspection!
1 A form of musket, now out of date. The gunlock contained a piece of cord that served as a match to fire the priming.
2 The Angles were early inhabitants of Britain (England). It was unusual at that time to see fair-haired, blue-eyed captives in the Roman slave markets.