accentual verse

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Verse in which the metre is based on counting only the number of stressed syllables in a line, and in which the number of unstressed syllables in the line may therefore vary. Most verse in Germanic languages (including Old English) is accentual, and much English poetry of later periods has been written in accentual verse, especially in the popular tradition of songs, ballads, nursery rhymes, and hymns. The predominant English metrical system in the ‘high’ literary tradition since Chaucer, however, has been that of accentual‐syllabic verse, in which both stressed and unstressed syllables are counted: thus an iambic pentameter should normally have five stresses distributed among its ten syllables (or, with a feminine ending, eleven syllables). See also alliterative metre.

Subjects: Literature.

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