Listening to the sounds his feet are making ("Crush, crack, crick, crick"), the poet in Stephen recalls a familiar fragment of verse and thinks, "Rhythm begins, you see. I hear. A catalectic tetrameter of iambs marching." Tetrameter is a metrical verse line containing four feet such as iambs (dee DUM), and catalectic, from a Greek word meaning "incomplete" or "left off," refers to the omission of a syllable from the final foot. But in the tetrameter line that Stephen recites (the second one is trimeter), either the opening syllable is missing or the meter is trochaic (DUM dee). Additional confusion is introduced in the Gabler edition by changing "A catalectic" to "Acatalectic," meaning "without incompletion"––i.e., complete.

John Hunt 2023

Scanning of the lines with "/" for stressed syllables and "x" for unstressed, and two added syllables that could make the first line either catalectic iambic tetrameter or catalectic trochaic tetrameter. Source: John Hunt.

Timothy Steele's scansion of a poem by John Keats, using the same marks for stressed and unstressed syllables and carets for syllables omitted in catalectic lines. Source: