Tennis and double anapests

A fortuitous coincidence: the U.S. Open tennis tournament, which I’ve seen bits of on television (amazing to see Novak Djokovich in action; he’s a lean tennis machine), and the appearance of Flanders and Swann’s “Tried by the Centre Court” (a song about a tennis umpire: “The umpire, on whom the sun never sets”) on my random iTunes play.

Earlier postings have looked at double dactyls and double trochees. The F&S song goes in double anapests, notably in the line:

Thĕy ăre báshĭng ă báll wĭth thĕ gút ŏf ă cát

Two half-lines, each a double anapest, WWS WWS. (There’s some nice consonantal stuff going on in each half-line as well.)

Double iambs are all over the place, notably in Common Meter hymns, like “Amazing Grace”:

Ămázĭng gráce, hŏw swéet thě sóund


Then there are more complex doubles, as in the “Kalevala meter” (a.k.a. the “Hiawatha meter”), which is usually treated just as trochaic tetrameter, but is in fact more complex than that. Here’s a line from the Hepburn-Tracy vehicle, the wonderful Desk Set, in which fielding a question about Hiawatha causes reference librarian Hepburn to lapse into the Kalevala meter:

You can keep it, if you need it,
I will gladly wait till payday.

This can be read as


but in fact in each half-line, the first S is very much subordinated to the second, so that the passage scans as


WWSW is a metrical foot known as the third paeon (a paeon has three Ws and one S; it’s an nth paeon if the nth syllable is the S). That is, double third paeons.

Double, double, toil and trouble — but that’s just ordinary double trochees.


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