The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms - Ross Murfin 2018
Pyrrhic (dibrach): A metrical foot in poetry that consists of two unstressed syllables (˘˘). Some critics do not consider the pyrrhic to be a true foot, which they maintain requires at least one stressed syllable. Others object on opposite grounds, arguing that the prevailing meter of a poem invariably renders one of the two syllables stronger than the other, thereby making that syllable stressed and the foot either trochaic or iambic. The pyrrhic is virtually nonexistent as the base, or predominant, foot of a poem, occurring instead as an occasional foot.
EXAMPLE: The thirty-eighth sonnet from Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnets from the Portuguese (1850) begins with a pyrrhic foot:
Ĭ hăve│bĕen próud│an̆d sáid,│’My̆ lóve,│my̆ oẃn.’