The Passing of the Year
Rhymed Iambic Tetrameter
Sometimes poets like to mess around with the rhyme or the rhythm of their poems. We here at Shmoop thinks that's cool, but sometimes you can really wear yourself out trying to figure it out. Not here. This poem is a textbook example of regular, clean, even rhyme and meter. No head scratching needed. We'll break it down for you. Let's start with the rhyme.
This poem rhymes on alternating lines. That means that, in every eight-line stanza, there are four rhyming pairs. We'll show you how that works in the first stanza. We put rhyming words in bold, and lines that rhyme with each other are marked with the same letter at the end:
My glass is filled, my pipe is lit, (A)
My den is all a cosy glow; (B)
And snug before the fire I sit, (A)
And wait to feel the old year go. (B)
I dedicate to solemn thought (C)
Amid my too-unthinking days, (D)
This sober moment, sadly fraught (C)
With much of blame, with little praise. (D)
See how that works? The pairs are separated by one line, but they're all there (lit/sit, glow/go). It's pretty direct, and it helps to give the poem its particularly smooth, even feel.
Same goes for the rhythm of the poem (also called the meter) – it's consistent throughout the poem. Now, in this case, we're focusing on the syllables in each line and trying to figure out which ones are emphasized (or "stressed" as English teachers put it). Let's look at the first four lines again to see how it works in this case. We'll put the stressed syllables in bold – try reading it aloud, and you should hear how we picked them out:
My glass | is filled, | my pipe | is lit,
My den | is all | a co|sy glow;
And snug | before | the fire | I sit,
And wait | to feel | the old | year go.
Can you hear the pattern? Unstressed-stressed, unstressed-stressed, da DUM, da DUM, da DUM. We call that kind of meter iambic.
See how we divided the syllables into pairs with slashes up there? Those unstressed-stressed pairs are called "feet." (Don't ask us why…) There are four feet in each line, so this is called iambic tetrameter. ("Tetra" meaning "four.") Simple as that. You can hear and feel how this even, regular rhythm helps to give the poem its calm, kind of soothing tone.