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Blank verse, a succession of unrhymed iambic pentameters, is primarily an English form and has been used in the loftiest epic and dramatic verse from Shakespeare and Milton to the present.True wit is Nature to advantage dress'd,
What oft was thought, but ne'er so well express'd.Pope, “Essay on Criticism”
The sonnet is one of the most familiar and successful uses of iambic pentameter in English poetry.And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.Shakespeare, The Tempest, iv:1
(literally from the French vers blanc, which can be traced back to the English “blank verse”), unrhymed verse in syllabic and tonic syllabic versification.
Blank verse should not be confused with ancient metrical or Russian bylina (epic folk song) verse, for which rhyme was not at all characteristic. The similarity or alternation of fixed “closures” (the endings of the verse lines) plays the structural role of rhymes in blank verse. Because it lacks a rhyme system, blank verse is characterized by a lack of stanzas or weak stanzas and a great deal of freedom and verbal flexibility.
In Russia, blank verse was first used in syllabic versification by A. D. Kantemir and in tonic syllabic versification by M. V. Lomonosov. Blank verse was used by A. N. Radishchev (Bova and Ancient and Historical Songs; on blank verse, see his Journey . . . , the chapter “Tver’ ”) and V. A. Zhukovskii.
Blank verse (usually iambic pentameter) is associated primarily with dramatic genres (for example, Shakespeare’s plays; in Russian literature, A. S. Pushkin’s Boris Godunov and “Little Tragedies” and A. K. Tolstoy’s dramatic trilogy). Examples of blank verse in Russian poetry include Pushkin’s poem “I Visited Anew,” M. Iu. Lermontov’s “If That’s Your Voice I Hear,” and V. A. Lugovskii’s narrative poems “The Middle of the Century.”