iamb

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Related to Iambic Verse: Iambic pentameter

iamb

, iambus Prosody
1. a metrical foot consisting of two syllables, a short one followed by a long one (⌣ –)
2. a line of verse of such feet

Iamb

 

(1) In quantitative versification, a foot equal to three moras (the smallest unit of measure in quantitative verse), usually consisting of a short and a long syllable, although other patterns occur.

(2) In syllabotonic versification, a foot consisting of two syllables, with the strong position occupied by the second syllable.

In Russian iambs, the weak positions are occupied by compulsorily unstressed syllables (∪), the strong positions by syllables that may or may not be stressed (×), and the final strong position by a compulsorily stressed syllable (—). The metrical scheme is ∪ × ∪ × . . . ∪ — (∪). Weak positions with hypermetrical stress may be occupied only by monosyllabic words, as in the following example from Pushkin: Shvéd, rússkii kólet, rúbit, rézhet (A Swede, then a Russian, stabs, slashes, cuts [Poltava]).

The most widely used iambic meters in Russian poetry are the trimeter, tetrameter, pentameter, and hexameter. There are also various irregular metrical patterns used in free verse. Examples from Pushkin of the principal types of iambic meter follow.

Iambic trimeter is found in Anacreontic verse of the 18th century, songs, and light and satirical verse: Podrúga dúmy prázdnoi (Friend of idle thought [“To My Inkwell”]). Iambic tetrameter is characteristic of odes and lyric verse of the 18th century, narrative poems, and lyric verse of the 19th and 20th centuries: Moi di-ádia sámykh chéstnykh právil (My uncle of the most honest principles [Eugene Onegin]). Iambic pentameter has been used in serious lyric poems, dramatic verse, and strophic verse. From the early 1800’s to the 1830’s, it was characteristically written with a caesura after the fourth syllable: Eshché odnó, ǀǀ poslédnee skazán’e (One more, the last record [Boris Godunov]); since the 1830’s, it has been written without a caesura.

In iambic hexameter, a caesura occurs after the sixth syllable: Ia pámiatnik sebé ǀǀ vozdvíg nerukotvórnyi (I have erected a monument to myself not made by human hand). Iambic hexameter is found in 18th-century narrative poems, tragedies, satires, and epistles and in 19th-century elegies, art songs, and anthology verses on classical themes. Free iambic verse is distinguished by an irregular alternation of lines with varying numbers of feet. It has been used in fables, in 18th-century Pindaric lyrics, and in elegies, epistles, and dramatic verse written during the first third of the 19th century.

REFERENCES

Taranovskii, K. “O ritmicheskoi strukture russkikh dvuslozhnykh razmerov.” In the collection Poetika i stilistika russkoi literatury. Leningrad, 1971.
Gasparov, M. L. Sovremnnyi russkii stikh. Moscow, 1974.

M. L. GASPAROV

References in periodicals archive ?
61) The employment of obscene language is a feature of iambic verse.
For the essential features of iambic verse, see in particular Schmid & Stahlin 1959:386-403; Gerhard 1965:653-54; Gentili 1988:10714, 179-96; West 1974:22-39; Lloyd-Jones 1975:42-44; Nagy 1976; 1981:221-52; Rosen 1988; Brown 1997:15-16, 36-42.
For someone like me whose views on iambic verse have changed over the years, from the tolerant to the orthodox, it is hard to speak with much authority in these matters.
Most likely, at the initial stage of developing iambic verse in German and Russian poetry, the process of versification was intense: poets had to use whatever means possible to perform a metrical task: to generate the iamb according to a ready, borrowed scheme.
This probably reflects the fact that English poets did not seek to generate a distinctly iambic verse, the iamb developed seemingly by chance on the basis of French octosyllabic verse.
This instance matches not the soft (free), but the rigid model, where the choice of words is not random, and is delimited by the meter--probably because Flemish, and especially Dutch poets were oriented toward generating a purely iambic verse.
It should be pointed out that what is discussed here is only the early phases of creating and developing iambic verse in one or another literature.
The more "correct" iambic verse that developed through the seventeenth century and remained dominant through much of the eighteenth was seen by its practitioners and their critics as a needed corrective to the licenses practiced by their older and wilder precursors - in effect, as a means of saving iambic verse and its permissible range of variations in the alternating decasyllabic pattern from tendencies that would undermine its structure and, by implication, the culture's inherent commitment to order.
Despite the apparent generosity of their principle of optionality, Attridge and O'Donnell never concede that it is acceptable in a reading of iambic verse to give to a very minor word in stressed position enough weight to allow it to retain our sense that it occupies a metrical beat when it is competing with a word that belongs to a more privileged grammatical category.