All terms

What is a Spondee?

Two stressed syllables in a row.

The Spondee: Two Beats for the Price of One

In creative writing, the spondee is a two-syllable beat with equal stress on both syllables, which makes it a powerful tool for emphasizing important ideas and creating a strong rhythm or meter in poetry or prose.

The word spondee itself is derived from the ancient Greek word 'spondeios', which means 'libationary' or 'solemn'. This reflects the use of the spondee in Greek poetry, such as the epic poems of Homer, where it was often used to convey the weight and solemnity of heroic deeds.

In English, the spondee can be found in a variety of contexts, from individual words like 'blue moon' or 'heartbreak', to phrases like 'all or nothing' or 'live free'. It can also occur within larger units of verse, such as a metrical foot, where two spondees in a row create a powerful sense of momentum and drive.

Spondee: Two Examples in Literature That Hit the Mark

The spondee is an effective tool for emphasizing important ideas and creating a strong rhythm in poetry and prose.

“Break, break, break” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

In this elegiac poem by Tennyson, the spondee is used to great effect in the final stanza, when the speaker addresses the ocean as 'cold gray stones' and 'lonely sea'.

But O for the touch of a vanish'd hand, / And the sound of a voice that is still!

Break, break,

At the foot of thy crags, O sea!

“Annabel Lee” by Edgar Allan Poe

In this haunting poem by Poe, each stanza ends with the spondee 'Annabel Lee', which reinforces the speaker's obsession with his lost love and intensifies the sense of mournful longing.

For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee—

And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling — my darling — my life and my bride,
In the sepulchre there by the sea,
In her tomb by the sounding sea.