Anybody who is trying to sound intelligent about formal poetry will probably drop the words “iambic pentameter.” And that truly is a fine meter (and, along with iambic tetrameter, one of the two meters that describe the vast majority of English formal poetry); but I personally have a preference for iambic heptameter myself. Having 7 beats in a line instead of 5 places the major rhymes a little farther apart, and provides space for internal rhymes as well. Furthermore bulkier words and phrases can be written in a heptameter line, which might not fit comfortably in a shorter line. Meanwhile the longer line seems to have no adverse effect on pacing–but listen to an example yourself, and see if you agree. This is The Glove and the Lions:
If you like heptameter poetry you can also check out some of my own work, such as the poems Rebekah or Complementary Beauties. Better yet, help support a new poet by purchasing Visions on your Kindle for only 99 cents!
by Percy Bysshe Shelley
Hail to thee, blithe Spirit!
Bird thou never wert,
That from Heaven, or near it,
Pourest thy full heart
In profuse strains of unpremeditated art.
Higher still and higher
From the earth thou springest
Like a cloud of fire;
The blue deep thou wingest,
And singing still dost soar, and soaring ever singest.
In the golden lightning
Of the sunken sun
O’er which clouds are bright’ning,
Thou dost float and run,
Like an unbodied joy whose race is just begun.
The pale purple even
Melts around thy flight;
Like a star of Heaven
In the broad daylight
Thou art unseen, but yet I hear thy shrill delight:
Keen as are the arrows
Of that silver sphere,
Whose intense lamp narrows
In the white dawn clear
Until we hardly see–we feel that it is there.
All the earth and air
With thy voice is loud.
As, when night is bare,
From one lonely cloud
The moon rains out her beams, and heaven is overflowed.
What thou art we know not;
What is most like thee?
From rainbow clouds there flow not
Drops so bright to see
As from thy presence showers a rain of melody.
Like a poet hidden
In the light of thought,
Singing hymns unbidden,
Till the world is wrought
To sympathy with hopes and fears it heeded not:
Like a high-born maiden
In a palace tower,
Soothing her love-laden
Soul in secret hour
With music sweet as love, which overflows her bower:
Like a glow-worm golden
In a dell of dew,
Its aerial hue
Among the flowers and grass, which screen it from the view:
Like a rose embowered
In its own green leaves,
By warm winds deflowered,
Till the scent it gives
Makes faint with too much sweet these heavy-winged thieves.
Sound of vernal showers
On the twinkling grass,
All that ever was
Joyous, and clear, and fresh, thy music doth surpass.
Teach us, sprite or bird,
What sweet thoughts are thine:
I have never heard
Praise of love or wine
That panted forth a flood of rapture so divine.
Or triumphal chaunt
Matched with thine, would be all
But an empty vaunt–
A thing wherein we feel there is some hidden want.
What objects are the fountains
Of thy happy strain?
What fields, or waves, or mountains?
What shapes of sky or plain?
What love of thine own kind? what ignorance of pain?
With thy clear keen joyance
Languor cannot be:
Shadow of annoyance
Never came near thee:
Thou lovest, but ne’er knew love’s sad satiety.
Waking or asleep,
Thou of death must deem
Things more true and deep
Than we mortals dream,
Or how could thy notes flow in such a crystal stream?
We look before and after,
And pine for what is not:
Our sincerest laughter
With some pain is fraught;
Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.
Yet if we could scorn
Hate, and pride, and fear;
If we were things born
Not to shed a tear,
I know not how thy joy we ever should come near.
Better than all measures
Of delightful sound,
Better than all treasures
That in books are found,
Thy skill to poet were, thou scorner of the ground!
Teach me half the gladness
That thy brain must know,
Such harmonious madness
From my lips would flow
The world should listen then, as I am listening now!
King Francis was a hearty king, and loved a royal sport,
And one day, as his lions fought, sat looking at the court.
The nobles filled the benches, and the ladies in their pride,
And ‘mongst them sat the Count de Lorge, with one for whom he sighed:
And truly ‘twas a gallant thing to see that crowning show,
Valor and love, and a king above, and the royal beasts below.
Ramped and roared the lions, with horrid laughing jaws;
They bit, they glared, gave blows like beams, a wind went through their paws;
With wallowing might and stifled roar they rolled on one another,
Till all the pit with sand and mane was in a thunderous smother.
The bloody foam above the bars came whisking through the air;
Said Francis then, “Faith, gentlemen, we’re better here than there.”
De Lorge’s love o’erheard the king, a beauteous lively dame,
With smiling lips and sharp bright eyes, which always seemed the same;
She thought, “The Count, my lover, is brave as brave can be;
He surely would do wondrous things to show his love of me;
King, ladies, lovers, all look on; the occasion is divine;
I’ll drop my glove, to prove his love; great glory will be mine.”
She dropped her glove, to prove his love, then looked at him and smiled;
He bowed, and in a moment leaped among the lions wild;
The leap was quick, return was quick, he has regained his place,
Then threw the glove, but not with love, right in the lady’s face.
“By heaven,” said Francis, “rightly done!” and he rose from where he sat;
“Not love,” quoth he, “but vanity, sets love a task like that.”
Jenny kissed me when we met,
Jumping from the chair she sat in;
Time, you thief, who love to get
Sweets into your list, put that in:
Say I’m weary, say I’m sad,
Say that health and wealth have missed me,
Say I’m growing old, but add,
Jenny kissed me.
I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert… Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
We pledged our hearts, my love and I,
I in my arms the maiden clasping;
I could not tell the reason why,
But, O, I trembled like an aspen!
Her father’s love she bade me gain;
I went, and shook like any reed!
I strove to act the man—in vain!
We had exchanged our hearts indeed.