In poetry, scansion is the analysis of a poem’s meter, which involves identifying and marking the stressed and unstressed syllables in each line. While the concept of “accent” is more commonly associated with spoken language, in the context of scansion, the terms “accent” and “stress” are often used interchangeably.
In scansion, the basic unit is the metrical foot, which is a combination of stressed (accented) and unstressed (unaccented) syllables. The most common metrical foot in English poetry is the iambic foot, consisting of one unstressed syllable followed by one stressed syllable.
For example, consider the line:
“The sun sets in the west.”
In this line, each foot is an iambic foot, and you can mark the accents or stresses as follows:
“The SUN | sets IN | the WEST.”
Here, the capitalized syllables represent the stressed or accented syllables, while the lowercase syllables represent the unstressed or unaccented syllables.
It’s important to note that the term “accent” in scansion doesn’t refer to a specific pronunciation or regional accent; instead, it denotes the emphasis placed on a syllable within the poetic context. The pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables contributes to the overall meter of the poem, creating a rhythmic structure that enhances the auditory and aesthetic qualities of the verse.