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Oliver Wendell Holmes Writing Styles in Old Ironsides

Oliver Wendell Holmes
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"Old Ironsides" is written in three, eight-line stanzas, but each stanza really consists of two quatrains (four-line units of verse) consisting of alternating tetrameter and trimeter lines. This means that each first and third line has four stressed syllables, or beats, while each second and fourth line has three stressed syllables. Quatrains written in this manner are called ballad stanzas. Since ballads often address heroic and romantic themes, Holmes may have chosen this form to capture the reader's emotions.

The dominant meter of the poem is iambic, which means the poem's lines are constructed in two-syllable segments, called iambs, in which the first syllable is unstressed and the second is stressed. If we divide the iambs from one another and mark the unstressed and stressed syllables in line 6, for example, it appears like this:

Andburst / thecan / non'sroar;—

The reader will notice the emphasis on the stressed syllables. This pattern...

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This section contains 193 words
(approx. 1 page at 400 words per page)
Buy the Old Ironsides Study Guide
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Poetry for Students
Old Ironsides from Poetry for Students. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.