Metrical Feet

by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

“Trochee trips from long to short;

From long to long in solemn sort

Slow Spondee stalks, strong foot!, yet ill able

Ever to come up with Dactyl`s trisyllable.

Lambics march from short to long.

With a leap and a bound the swift Anapests throng.

One syllable long, with one short at each side,

Amphibrachys hastes with a stately stride–

First and last being long, middle short, Amphimacer

Strikes his thundering hoofs like a proud high-bred racer.

       If Derwent be innocent, steady, and wise,

       And delight in the things of earth, water, and skies;

       Tender warmth at his heart, with these meters to show it,

       With sound sense in his brains, may make Derwent a poet–

       May crown him with fame, and must win him the love

       O his father on earth and his father above.

       My dear, dear child!

       Could you stand upon Skiddaw, you would not from it`s whole ridge

       See a man who so loves you as your fond S.T. Coleridge.”


This curious little poem may not be Coleridge`s finest hour, but it`s not designed to be; written for his beloved young son, Derwent, to learn about scansion in classical literature, it`s pure homework for the lad from his doting father. How could a child receive a finer education than from one of English literature`s greatest poets? Home education was the usual among his circle of acquaintances and friends for their precious children; all the parents would have had a classical education, making them perfect products of the freedom of literary, scientific and intellectual thought which the age of Enlightenment would have gifted them. To pass this wealth of knowledge down to their children would have been the greatest and most valuable gift they could have bestowed upon them. I sometimes feel that modern children are missing out on a great deal because of the rigid curriculum they receive in most state run schools: so much is either given a cursory nod of acknowledgement, or missed out altogether through lack of space or time: not so the children of Coleridge; a personal education from a literary genius is as good a starter in life as you could wish for your children.
Katelyn Lucas at the Lit Slam

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