Common meter (common measure)

The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms - Ross Murfin 2018

Common meter (common measure)

Common meter (common measure): A four-line stanza with an abab or abcb rhyme scheme in which the first and third lines are written in iambic tetrameter and the second and fourth in iambic trimeter. Common meter, often abbreviated “C.M.,” is akin to the ballad stanza, or ballad meter indeed, the terms are sometimes used synonymously — but common meter tends to be associated with hymns and most often rhymes abab, whereas the ballad stanza is associated with the traditional ballad and is usually characterized by an abcb rhyme scheme.

EXAMPLE: The hymn “Amazing Grace” (1779), written by John Newton, the first stanza of which follows:

Ămáz│in̆g gráce!│(hŏw swéet│thĕ sóund)

Thăt sáv’d│ă wrétch│lı̇̆ke mé!

I once was lost, but now am found,

Was blind, but now I see.