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Encyclopedia > Iambic pentameter

Insert non-formatted text hereIambic pentameter is a meter in poetry. It refers to a line consisting of five iambic feet. The word "pentameter" simply means that there are five feet in the line; iambic pentameter is a line comprising five iambs. Meter (British English spelling: metre) describes the linguistic sound patterns of a verse. ... This article is about the art form. ... An iamb or iambus is a metrical foot used in various types of poetry. ... In verse, a foot is the basic unit of meter used to describe rhythm. ... In poetry, a pentameter is a line of verse consisting of five metrical feet: Be what you can if thus your heart so deem, For more the man will less the foible seem. ... An iamb or iambus is a metrical foot used in various types of poetry. ...


These terms originally applied to the quantitative meter of Classical Greek poetry, in which an iamb consisted of a short syllable followed by a long syllable. A scale for measuring mass A quantitative property is one that exists in a range of magnitudes, and can therefore be measured. ... A syllable (Ancient Greek: ) is a unit of organization for a sequence of speech sounds. ...


The term was adopted to describe the equivalent meter in English accentual-syllabic verse, where an iamb refers to an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable. Iambic rhythms come relatively naturally in English. Iambic pentameter is among the most common metrical forms in English poetry: it is used in many of the major English poetic forms, including blank verse, the heroic couplet, and some of the traditional rhymed stanza forms. Accentual-Syllabic Verse is an extension of Accentual verse which fixes both the number of stresses and syllables within a line or stanza. ... The English language is a West Germanic language that originates in England. ... Poetry (ancient Greek: poieo = create) is an art form in which human language is used for its aesthetic qualities in addition to, or instead of, its notional and semantic content. ... Blank verse is a type of poetry, distinguished by having a regular meter, but no rhyme. ... A heroic couplet is a traditional form for English poetry, particularly for epic and narrative poetry. ...

Contents

Simple example

An iambic foot is an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable. We could write the rhythm like this:

da DUM

A line of iambic pentameter is five iambic feet in a row:

da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM

We can notate this with a 'x' mark representing an unstressed syllable and a '/' mark representing a stressed syllable[1]. In this notation a line of iambic pentameter would look like this:

x / x / x / x / x /

The following line from John Keats' ode To Autumn is a straightforward example:[2] Keats grave in Rome (left). ... To Autumn is a poem written by English Romantic poet John Keats in 1819 (published 1820). ...

To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells

We can notate the scansion of this as follows: In literature, meter or metre (sometimes known as prosody) is a term used in the scansion (analysis into metrical patterns) of poetry, usually indicated by the kind of feet and the number of them. ...

x
/
x
/
x
/
x
/
x
/
To swell the gourd, and plump the ha- zel shells

We can mark the divisions between feet with a |, and the caesura (a pause) with a double vertical bar ||. A caesura, in poetry, is an audible pause that breaks up a line of verse. ...

x
/
x
/
x
/
x
/
x
/
To swell | the gourd, || and plump | the ha- | zel shells

Rhythmic variation

Although strictly speaking, iambic pentameter refers to five iambs in a row (as above), in practice, poets vary their iambic pentameter a great deal, while maintaining the iamb as the most common foot. There are some conventions to these variations, however. Iambic pentameter must always contain only five feet, and the second foot is almost always an iamb. The first foot, on the other hand, is the most likely to change by the use of inversion, which reverses the order of unstress and stress in the foot. For example the first line of Richard III begins with an inversion: In prosody the Inversion of a foot is the reversal of the order of its elements. ... Frontispage of the First Quarto Richard The Third. ...

/
x
x
/
x
x
/
/
x
/
Now is | the win- | ter of | our dis- | con- tent

Another common departure from standard iambic pentameter is the addition of a final unstressed syllable, which creates a weak or feminine ending. One of Shakespeare's most famous lines of iambic pentameter has a weak ending:[3] The term feminine ending has several meanings, depending on context. ...

x
/
x
/
x
/
x
x
/
x
To be | or not | to be, || that is | the ques- tion

The symbol here has been used to indicate a secondary or subordinate stress.


Note that this line also has an inversion of the fourth foot, following the caesura. In general a caesura acts in many ways like a line-end: inversions are common after it, and the extra unstressed syllable of the feminine ending may appear before it. Shakespeare and John Milton (in his work before Paradise Lost) at times employed feminine endings before a caesura[4] For other persons named John Milton, see John Milton (disambiguation). ... Title page of the first edition (1667) Paradise Lost is an epic poem in blank verse by the 17th-century English poet John Milton. ...


Here is the first quatrain of a sonnet by John Donne, which demonstrates how he uses a number of metrical variations strategically: Francesco Petrarca, or Petrarch, one of the best-known early Italian sonnet writers. ... For the Welsh courtier and diplomat, see Sir John Donne. ...

/
x
x
/
x
/
x
/
x
/
Bat- ter | my heart | three- per- | soned God, | for you |
x
/
x
/
/
/
x
/
x
/
as yet | but knock, | breathe, shine | and seek | to mend. |
x
/
x
/
x
/
/
/
x
x
/
That I | may rise | and stand | o'er throw | me and bend |
x
/
x
/
/
/
x
/
x
/
Your force | to break, | blow, burn | and make | me new. |

Donne uses an inversion (DUM da instead of da DUM) in the first foot of the first line to stress the key verb, "batter", and then sets up a clear iambic pattern with the rest of the line (da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM). In lines 2 and 4 he uses spondees in the third foot to slow down the rhythm as he lists monosyllabic verbs. The parallel rhythm and grammar of these lines highlights the comparison Donne sets up between what God does to him "as yet" (knock, breathe, shine and seek to mend"), and what he asks God to do ("break, blow, burn and make me new"). Donne also uses enjambment between lines 3 and 4 to speed up the flow as he builds to his desire to be made new. To further the quickening effect of the enjambment, Donne puts an extra syllable in the final foot of the line (this can be read as an anapest (dada DUM) or as an elision). Look up Spondee in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... Enjambement is the breaking of a linguistic unit (phrase, clause or sentence) by the end of a line or between two verses. ... An anapaest is a metrical foot used in formal poetry. ... In music, see elision (music). ...


As the examples show, iambic pentameter need not consist entirely of iambs, nor need it have ten syllables. Most poets who have a great facility for iambic pentameter frequently vary the rhythm of their poetry as Donne and Shakespeare do in the examples, both to create a more interesting overall rhythm and to highlight important thematic elements. In fact, the skillful variation of iambic pentameter, rather than the consistent use of it, may well be what distinguishes the rhythmic artistry of poets like Donne, Shakespeare, Milton, and the 20th century sonneteer Edna St. Vincent Millay. For the Welsh courtier and diplomat, see Sir John Donne. ... Wikipedia does not yet have an article with this exact name. ... For other persons named John Milton, see John Milton (disambiguation). ... Francesco Petrarca, or Petrarch, one of the best-known early Italian sonnet writers. ... Edna St. ...


Linguists Morris Halle and Samuel Jay Keyser discovered a set of rules (English Stress: Its Forms, Its Growth, and Its Role in Verse, Harper and Row, 1971) which correspond with what variations are permissible in English iambic pentameter. Essentially, the Halle-Keyser rules state that only "stress maximum" syllables are important in determining the meter. A stress maximum syllable is a stressed syllable surrounded on both sides by weak syllables in the same syntactic phrase and in the same verse line. In order to be a permissible line of iambic pentameter, no stress maxima can fall on a syllable that is designated as a weak syllable in the standard, unvaried iambic pentameter pattern. Rewriting the Donne quatrain showing the stress maxima (denoted with an 'M') results in the following: Morris Halle, né Pinkowitz, is an American linguist. ...

/
x
x
M
x
M
x
/
x
/
Bat- ter | my heart | three- per- | soned God, | for you |
x
M
x
/
/
/
x
M
x
/
as yet | but knock, | breathe, shine | and seek | to mend. |
x
x
x
M
x
/
/
/
x
x
/
That I | may rise | and stand | o'er throw | me and bend |
x
M
x
/
/
/
x
M
x
/
Your force | to break, | blow, burn | and make | me new. |

History in English

William Shakespeare, like many of his contemporaries, wrote poetry and drama in iambic pentameter. Here is an example from his Sonnet XVIII: Wikipedia does not yet have an article with this exact name. ... This does not cite any references or sources. ...

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May.
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:

There is some debate over whether works such as Shakespeare's were originally performed with the rhythm prominent, or whether it was embedded in the patterns of normal speech as is common today. In either case, when read aloud, such verse naturally follows a beat.


John Clare is another example of a writer who uses the iambic pentameter; his poem "Badger" is consistent with it throughout: John Clare (13 July 1793 – 20 May 1864) was an English poet, in his time commonly known as the Northamptonshire Peasant Poet, the son of a farm labourer, born at Helpston near Peterborough. ...

The badger grunting on his woodland track
With shaggy hide and sharp nose scrowed with black

Criticism

Some scholars deny that this verse, at least in its most common and literal definition, applies to Elizabethan poets; these include, in addition to Robert Bridges (mentioned above), Leonardo Malcovati and Bryan Beard.


See also

A trochee or choree, choreus, is a metrical foot used in formal poetry. ... An anapaest or anapest, also called antidactylus, is a metrical foot used in formal poetry. ... Dactyl may mean: A dactyl, a creature in Greek mythology. ... There are almost as many systems of marking the scansion of a poem as there are books on the topic. ...

Notes

  1. ^ for a more detailed discussion see the article on systems of scansion
  2. ^ This line (line 7 of 'To Autumn') is used by Timothy Steele as an example of an unvaried line of iambic pentameter, see page 5 of All the fun's in how you say a thing, Ohio University Press, 1999. ISBN 0-8214-1260-4.
  3. ^ This line is used as an example by Majorie Boulton in The Anatomy of Poetry (revised edition), Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1953, revised 1982. ISBN 0-7100-9087-0, page 28, although she marks the third foot as carrying no stress.
  4. ^ see Robert Bridges, Milton's Prosody.

There are almost as many systems of marking the scansion of a poem as there are books on the topic. ... Timothy Steele (born 1948) is a United States poet. ... Bridges on the cover of Time in 1929 Robert Seymour Bridges, OM, (October 23, 1844 – April 21, 1930) was an English poet, holder of the honour of poet laureate from 1913. ... Miltons Prosody, or in full, Miltons Prosody, with a chapter on Accentual Verse and Notes is a book by Robert Bridges. ...

References


  Results from FactBites:
 
Iambic Pentameter (121 words)
Iambic Pentameter -- This is a pattern of alternating unstressed and stressed syllables (iambs) five times for each line (pentameter), for a total of about 10 syllables per line.
Iambic pentameter is one of the most common metrical forms in English poetry and is used in many of the major English poetic forms, including blank verse, couplet poetry, and many of the traditional rhymed stanza forms.
Note: Similarly, iambic tetrameter has four iambs per line and iambic trimeter has three iambs per line.
pentameter. The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001-05 (283 words)
Chaucer first used it in what was later called rhyme royal, seven iambic pentameters rhyming ababbcc; as Chaucer pronounced a final short e, his pentameters often end in an 11th, unstressed syllable.
The pentameter couplet was used also by his imitators in Scotland, with the important difference that when the final e disappeared from speech the couplet became one of strict pentameters.
The sonnet is one of the most familiar and successful uses of iambic pentameter in English poetry.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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