Passion For Poetry

Alexandrine Meter

I actually tagged this poetry form while I was researching a different form. At the height of the Alexandrine's popularity in France, this other form (which I can't remember the name of) was created as an alternative.

The name is thought to come from the fact that many poems in the 12th and 13th centuries written about Alexander the Great were written in this meter. At one time it was the most popular measure in French literature. It was used in the heroic French verse, epic narrative, in tragedy and in the higher comedy.

Basically, the Alexandrine is a line of 12 syllables which is divided into two equal parts by a caesura between the sixth and seventh syllables.

There are two rules when it comes to the caesura. First, each line should be divided into two equal parts with the sixth syllable always being a single word. In the early use of this meter it often happened that the sixth and seventh syllables belonged to the same word, but this is now unacceptable. The second rule is that enjambment, the overlapping of the sense from one line onto the next, should be avoided whenever possible.

Your Alexandrine may be a single line, or many verses. Internal rhymes make a single Alexandrine sound more arresting, but it's not required and in fact, is seldom used. What makes the single Alexandrine beautiful is its wording, its rhythm and its poetical meaning.

Single Alexandrines are like Haiku in that they should contain a beautiful, poetic image. They should be pleasant to the ear and easy to pronounce. A single Alexandrine alone can be a large poem.

If your Alexandrine rhymes there are several choices:

a a b b for a heroic Alexandrine
a b a b for an elegiac Alexandrine
or an internal rhyme with the rhyme coming on the sixth and twelfth syllables

Unfortunately my example was a little rushed. I really liked the rhythm of this form thought and I'll be trying it again when I have more time to spend on it.

Dark Night

The dark night of the soul, resides within my mind
It holds my psyche fast, and turns my insight blind.
A prison made of steel, my thoughts they hold me fast;
A lifetime full of walls, an overwhelming mass.
The days they pass like years, a shadow life I lead.
I dance the spiral dance, of time and space and need,
No music to this tune, no words to mar the song
The story is all done, the dark night is still strong.
It matters not to me, the who or why or how
I got to where I am, it doesn't matter now.
Eternity awaits, at least that's how it feels.
I go to meet my fate, the black dog at my heels.


Dolly Garland said...

I love love love this poem! I don't pretend to understand all the poetic "formulas" of various kinds, because I have never tried to learn them. But with poems, I just read it out loud, and if it resonates, I love it :-)

C R Ward said...

Thank you so much Dolly!