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Help with Iambic Pentameter? 
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Post Help with Iambic Pentameter?
Hello, I am new to the forums and I am currently stuck on Iambic Pentameter

The stressed and unstressed syllables thing confuses me.

Could anyone help me with understanding on this?

Thanks again :lol:



Wed Nov 28, 2012 3:24 am
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Post Re: Help with Iambic Pentameter?
The woods decay, the woods decay and fall. (Tennyson)

Try reading this aloud. You can't help but place the emphasis on the even-numbered syllables (2,4,6,8,10).

The WOODS deCAY, the WOODS deCAY and FALL.

So in this line there are a total of 10 syllables and each pair of syllables is called a metrical foot. The "iamb" in "iambic" is a metrical foot consisting of one short (or unstressed) syllable followed by one long (or stressed) syllable.

So "The WOODS" is one iamb.

"DeCAY" is one iamb. And so on.

In poetry there are other kinds of stressed syllables. For example, a trochee, just the opposite of an iamb, features one long (or stressed) syllable followed by one short (or unstressed) syllable.

Pentameter simply means there are five metrical feet in this thing (penta = five). In this case, since we're talking about iambic pentameter, it means we're talking about five iambs in a row.

The woods decay, the woods decay and fall.

Hope that helps! I borrowed heavily from James Fenton's AN INTRODUCTION TO ENGLISH POETRY.


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Wed Nov 28, 2012 8:35 am
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Post Re: Help with Iambic Pentameter?
An iamb goes ti-TUM.
A trochee goes TUM-ti.
A spondee goes TUM TUM!


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Wed Nov 28, 2012 8:37 am
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Post Re: Help with Iambic Pentameter?
geo wrote:
The woods decay, the woods decay and fall. (Tennyson)

Try reading this aloud. You can't help but place the emphasis on the even-numbered syllables (2,4,6,8,10).

The WOODS deCAY, the WOODS deCAY and FALL.

So in this line there are a total of 10 syllables and each pair of syllables is called a metrical foot. The "iamb" in "iambic" is a metrical foot consisting of one short (or unstressed) syllable followed by one long (or stressed) syllable.

So "The WOODS" is one iamb.

"DeCAY" is one iamb. And so on.

In poetry there are other kinds of stressed syllables. For example, a trochee, just the opposite of an iamb, features one long (or stressed) syllable followed by one short (or unstressed) syllable.

Pentameter simply means there are five metrical feet in this thing (penta = five). In this case, since we're talking about iambic pentameter, it means we're talking about five iambs in a row.

The woods decay, the woods decay and fall.

Hope that helps! I borrowed heavily from James Fenton's AN INTRODUCTION TO ENGLISH POETRY.



Hello, thank you so much for your help.

I must admit though that the unstressed and stressed part is killer on me.

Could words ever change from stressed to unstressed and vice versa?

Like depending on the context?



Wed Nov 28, 2012 12:53 pm
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Post Re: Help with Iambic Pentameter?
It's not always obvious is it? I'm new at this stuff myself so don't put too much stock in my speculations here. There are folks here on BT who know a lot more about poetry than I do. Hopefully some of them will chime in. But this is an interesting topic. I'm glad you started it.

The thing to remember is that there's a lot of variation, even with poems that you know are iambic pentameter.

For example, Shakespeare wrote most of his verse in iambic pentameter, but take look at this famous line from Hamlet.

To be / or not / to be: / that is / the ques- / -tion

For one, there's an extra syllable in there. It's actually 11 syllables. And the other is that the accent is not always on the second syllable.

Read that line out loud and see if you can figure out where the stresses go. You can sort of guess based on the context. Take "To be." Which word is more important do you think. Is it "to" or "be?" I would say it's "be." That makes sense. And in the second to last foot, the two syllables are: "the" and "ques-" Which of those two syllables seems more important? I'd say it's "ques."

So the stresses are as follows:

To BE, / or NOT / to BE: / THAT is / the QUES- / -tion

Some of those stresses are subtle. It probably gets easier with practice.

Take Frost's famous poem Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. Where do you think the stresses go? I haven't looked up the answer yet, but I think I can tell just by reading it aloud. It seems rather straightforward to me. How many syllables do you count in each line? That's the meter. And where are the stresses?

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.


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Wed Nov 28, 2012 5:31 pm
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Post Re: Help with Iambic Pentameter?
Looks like a pretty good web site:

http://www2.cnr.edu/home/bmcmanus/meter.html


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Wed Nov 28, 2012 5:36 pm
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Post Re: Help with Iambic Pentameter?
geo wrote:
An iamb goes ti-TUM.
A trochee goes TUM-ti.
A spondee goes TUM TUM!


What goes ti-ti-TUM? :mrgreen:


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Mon Dec 03, 2012 9:10 pm
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Post Re: Help with Iambic Pentameter?
tbarron wrote:
geo wrote:
An iamb goes ti-TUM.
A trochee goes TUM-ti.
A spondee goes TUM TUM!


What goes ti-ti-TUM? :mrgreen:



An anapest



Mon Dec 03, 2012 10:33 pm
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Post Re: Help with Iambic Pentameter?
geo wrote:
Looks like a pretty good web site:

http://www2.cnr.edu/home/bmcmanus/meter.html



Thank you so much for your help!



Mon Dec 03, 2012 10:34 pm
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