sprung rhythm

a poetic rhythm characterized by the use of strongly accented syllables, often in juxtaposition, accompanied by an indefinite number of unaccented syllables in each foot, of which the accented syllable is the essential component.
[term introduced by Gerard Manley Hopkins (1877)]

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Poetic rhythm designed to approximate the natural rhythm of speech.

It is characterized by the frequent juxtaposition of single accented syllables and by the occurrence of feet with varying numbers of syllables whose sequence is interrupted by unstressed syllables that are not counted in the scansion. Because stressed syllables often occur sequentially, the rhythm is said to be "sprung." This system of prosody was developed by Gerard Manley Hopkins, who saw it as the basis of such early English poems as William Langland's Piers Plowman.

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      an irregular system of prosody developed by the 19th-century English poet Gerard Manley Hopkins (Hopkins, Gerard Manley). It is based on the number of stressed syllables in a line and permits an indeterminate number of unstressed syllables. In sprung rhythm, a foot may be composed of from one to four syllables. (In regular English metres, a foot consists of two or three syllables.) Because stressed syllables often occur sequentially in this patterning rather than in alternation with unstressed syllables, the rhythm is said to be “sprung.” Hopkins claimed to be only the theoretician, not the inventor, of sprung rhythm. He saw it as the rhythm of common English speech and the basis of such early English poems as Langland's Piers Plowman and nursery rhymes such as

      Sprung rhythm is a bridge between regular metre and free verse. An example of Hopkins' use of it is:

      “Spring and fall to a

      Young Child”

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Universalium. 2010.