Hymn Measures

These are the traditional English hymn measures, which are sometimes also used for secular poetry. All of them use iambic metre.  

Religious Note

All the examples on this page are verses from hymns of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. I apologise to any genuine Christians of good will who may be offended by them; that is not my intention. Despite its silly name, the Church of FSM is a serious organisation whose aims I support. Pastafarians and other like-minded folk will also be interested in the theory of Intelligent Falling. People have varying degrees of interest in the creationist propaganda film Expelled.

Common Measure

CM stanzas have syllable counts 8686 (in terms of iambic feet, that's 4343), and only lines 2 and 4 rhyme. Here's one that raises the roof with FSM congregations everywhere:

Our Monster flew in fancy ways
When making everything.
With noodly skill He looped the loop,
So let's have a good sing.

Last Tuesday night at ten past two
The monstrous bolognese
Descended to create the world,
A feat we all must praise.

Of course you can also rhyme lines 1 and 3, as in this perennial Pastafarian favourite:

O Pasta that sustained us once,
Come nourish us again,
And everyone that's not a dunce
Will have to praise Thee then.

This seems to be regarded as just a variant form of CM, though logically it ought to be called Common Hymnal Measure (see Long Hymnal Measure and Short Hymnal Measure below).

If the stanzas are twice as long (e.g. if we joined together the first 2 stanzas above), we have Double Common Measure (DCM), and can use a different set of tunes.

Long Measure

LM stanzas have syllable counts 8888 (in terms of iambic feet, that's 4444), with only lines 2 and 4 rhyming. This fits that rousing tune the Old Hundredth:

All people that Italian eat
Are guaranteed a tasty sauce
And on the top some parmesan,
Thanks to our Maker's monstrous force.

If the stanzas are twice as long, we have Double Long Measure (DLM).

Long Hymnal Measure

If lines 1 and 3 also rhyme, we have Long Hymnal Measure:

And did those strands in ancient time
Fly over England's mountains green?
And did Thy flavour all sublime
Pervade the western world's cuisine?

Short Measure

SM stanzas are nothing to alarm the trading standards officials; they have syllable counts 6686 (that's 3343 in iambs), with only lines 2 and 4 rhyming:

Our Monster made us all -
Let's turn a somersault!
There's war and crime and pestilence,
But none of that's His fault.

If the stanzas are twice as long, we have Double Short Measure (DSM).

Short Hymnal Measure

If lines 1 and 3 also rhyme, we have Short Hymnal Measure:

Teach me, linguine Lord,
To serve thee with my tongue,
And everywhere that pasta's stored
Thy praises shall be sung.

Poulter's Measure

Poulter's Measure has stanzas of only two lines. The first is an iambic hexameter or alexandrine with a caesura in the middle, and the second a "fourteener" with a break after the eighth syllable. Put that way it sounds quite fearsome, but in fact it's just Short Measure laid out differently:

Our Monster made us all - let's turn a somersault!
There's war and crime and pestilence, but none of that's His fault.

"Poulter" here is not a surname, but an occupation - a person who looks after poultry. The name arises because the stanza has 13 feet, and poulters used to deliberately give 13 eggs to a dozen, to minimise the risk of ever being prosecuted for giving short measure. Whether it was poulters or bakers who got the idea first does not seem to be known. (I found somewhere on the web the delightful alternative theory that the rhythm of the verse sounds like the clucking of hens. Believe that if you prefer.)

Short Particular Measure

All the authorities seem to agree that this has 6-line stanzas rhyming aabaab, with syllable counts of 668668 (that's 334334 in feet). Mysteriously, all the authorities then go on to give examples with syllable counts of 448448! On the assumption that what they say is more reliable than what they do, I offer this as an example of SPM:

He made the sheep and hogs;
He made the mice and frogs,
Our great Creator sempitern -
And us, and cats, and dogs.
So say our theologues:
One day to pasta we'll return.

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Bob Newman 2005. All rights reserved.

This page last updated 12/04/2006