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scansion


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The analysis of poetic metre in verse lines, by displaying stresses, pauses, and rhyme patterns with conventional visual symbols. The simplest system, known as graphic scansion, marks stressed syllables (′ or - or •), unstressed syllables (× or ‿ or ○), divisions between metrical units or ‘feet’ (see foot) (∣), and major pauses or caesuras (∥) in a verse line, determining whether its metre is, for example, iambic or dactylic, and how many feet make up the line. In Greek and Latin quantitative verse, the symbols - and ‿ indicate long and short syllables respectively. Scansion also analyses the rhyme scheme in a poem or stanza, giving alphabetical symbols to the rhymes: abcb or abab in most quatrains, aabba in limericks, for instance. The verb scan is applied not only to the activity of analysing metre, but also to the lines analysed: of a line with an irregular or inconsistent metrical pattern it is said that it does not scan. See also diacritic, prosody.

Subjects: Literature.


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