iamb(redirected from iambus)
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iamb, iambus Prosody
(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.
REFERENCESTaranovskii, 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