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by Dorothy Parker

Analysis: Form and Meter

Quatrains in Dimeter

Starting with a one-word title, this poem keeps it simple (at least in terms of form, not subject matter). After the title, we jump into a couple of regular quatrains (a neat ABAB rhyme scheme) and an almost-perfect dimeter.

We know, we know, we're throwing some fancy poetry terms around here. Let's break it down, and then you can use words like "quatrain" to impress your friends (or, more importantly, your teachers).

Quatrains are sets of four lines that have an alternating rhyme scheme (so every other line rhymes). Since this poem has eight lines, it's got two quatrains. Let's take a look at the first quatrain:

Razors pain you; (A)
Rivers are damp; (B)
Acids stain you; (A)
And drugs cause cramp; (B)

The poem also has a pretty regular metrical pattern: each line (except for line 6) has four beats. That's called dimeter, because there are two "feet," or pairs of beats, in each line. It's a pretty simplistic metrical pattern – one that's commonly found in fifth-grade masterpieces and poems like "Roses are red/ violets are blue…" In other words, crafting a poem in dimeter makes the poem itself seem almost childlike.

We're guessing that Parker is deliberately simplistic with her meter. By writing in dimeter, she robs her subject matter of at least some of the seriousness that usually attends discussions of death and self-destruction. Suicide becomes a little more like a walk in the park.

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