Does it Matter?
by Siegfried Sassoon
Analysis: Form and Meter
Anapestic Trimeter with Iambs Here and There
When you read this poem aloud, you'd be forgiven for not even noticing it's a poem. Frankly, it sounds an awful lot like some dude talking. But there are metrical feet afoot, if you're willing to go looking for them. Check out the first line:
Does it matter?—losing your legs?...
That's three stresses in one line, which tells us this is probably some form of trimeter. But what kind? Well, to suss that out, you'll have to read it aloud. Hear that dadaDUM dadaDUM dadaDUM rhythm? That, dear Shmoopers, is a series of three anapests, which means that this first line is anapestic trimeter.
But check out line 2:
For people will always be kind
Same thing, right? Three stresses, and some dadaDUMs. But what's up with that first foot? It's just a plain old daDUM—an iamb.
And in line 4, something even weirder happens:
When the others come in after hunting
That's three anapests, so we're doing just fine, and then—boom!—a weird extra unstressed syllable at the end. That, budding Shmoopoets, is called a feminine ending. And it means that when it comes to scansion, you can pretty much ignore it. That extra syllable doesn't change the fact that this is still a line of anapestic trimeter.
In fact, you'll see this extra ending syllable in the fourth line of each stanza. And you'll see those strange iambs peppered throughout the lines. This is a poem that's by no means written in perfect, polished, goody-two-shoes meter.
Why'd Sassoon shake things up so much? Well we think it all goes back to what we were saying at the beginning of this section—it sounds an awful lot like some dude talking. This poem wears no fancy pants. It doesn't have a high-falutin' point to make, and it's not going to use a ten dollar word when a two bit word will do. It wants to tell it like it is, and it's not going to let perfect meter get in the way with that. So if this speaker wants to toss in an iamb at his convenience, he's going to do just that, thank you very much.