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(pĕntăm`ətər) [Gr.,=measure of five], in prosody, a line to be scanned in five feet (see versificationversification,
principles of metrical practice in poetry. In different literatures poetic form is achieved in various ways; usually, however, a definite and predictable pattern is evident in the language.
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). The third line of Thomas Nashe's "Spring" is in pentameter: "Cold doth / not sting, / the pret / ty birds / do sing." Iambic pentameter, in which each foot contains an unaccented syllable and an accented syllable, is the most common English meter. 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. In his Canterbury Tales the pentameters are disposed in rhyming pairs. 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. This, known as the heroic couplet, became important in the 17th and 18th cent., notably in the hands of Dryden and Pope.
True wit is Nature to advantage dress'd,
What oft was thought, but ne'er so well express'd.
Pope, "Essay on Criticism"
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.
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
The sonnetsonnet,
poem of 14 lines, usually in iambic pentameter, restricted to a definite rhyme scheme. There are two prominent types: the Italian, or Petrarchan, sonnet, composed of an octave and a sestet (rhyming abbaabba cdecde
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 is one of the most familiar and successful uses of iambic pentameter in English poetry.



in ancient prosody, a dactylic line formed by doubling the first hemistich of a hexameter; each of the two hemistichs consists of two and a half dactylic feet. The hemi-stichs are divided by a caesura, and the dactyls may be replaced by spondees only in the first hemistich. The metric scheme is Pentameter.

The pentameter was used only in alternation with the hexameter, to form the elegaic couplet; in this form it was the basic meter of ancient elegies and epigrams. An example of a tonic rendition of an elegaic couplet whose second line is a pentameter follows (from a poem by A. S. Pushkin):

Slýshu umólknuvshii zvúk bozhéstvennoi éllinskoi réchi,

Stártsa velíkogo tén’ chúiu smushchë́nnoi dushói.


1. a verse line consisting of five metrical feet
2. (in classical prosody) a verse line consisting of two dactyls, one stressed syllable, two dactyls, and a final stressed syllable
3. designating a verse line consisting of five metrical feet
References in periodicals archive ?
The second of the two lines is a normative iambic pentameter line, with five iambic feet.
In the iambic pentameter line under discussion here the syllable sequence is analyzed into pairs (binary feet) by the Iterative Footing rule written out in full in (7) which inserts right parentheses among the asterisks of gridline 0.
In Rossetti's iambic pentameter line under discussion the head of the grid-line 0 foot is its right-most unit (asterisk) and, as shown in (9) it is this unit that is projected onto gridline 1.
The Christian hymnal pentameters give way to a different syncopated drumbeat, that is also the echoed blues and jazz rhythms of the old trains, "sulphur and fare into a sibilant & quiet acceptance of her trans-formation like Aretha coming home in Pullin*" (196-97).
The earliest uses the iambic pentameter that had become a norm in English poetry from roughly the seventeenth century.
The marching, endlessly expansive pentameter, then, contains a very particular history and cultural experience.
Both poets sought a pentameter that would sound more natural, less orotund and Tennysonian, and in doing so they reintroduced into the line (deliberately or otherwise) a feature that had hitherto (as the following table shows) characterized only the specifically oral medium of Shakespeare's dramatic verse: catalexis, or the omission of nonbeatbearing syllables in the line:
Before the twentieth century, catalexis was avoided in the literary or "for-print" tradition as a solecism, even by Shakespeare: after all, the one thing every schoolboy knows about iambic pentameter is that it has at least ten syllables, two per foot, and even theoreticians of meter only came to recognize the possibility of the so-called "monosyllabic foot" in the second half of the nineteenth century (see, for example, Abbott 372-85).
HAPPY Christmas at Pentameters runs until December 18.
Stephen Crane's free verse was so uncategorizable in the 1890s that even he hesitated to call his own works poems, and he uses full pentameters even mor sparingly than Dickinson does.
Finch's key insight is that iambic pentameter, which carries such a heavy baggage of patriarchal institutions in education and the high tradition of English poetic diction, can best be studied at the moment of early free verse i English, when the grip of pentameter on verse was becoming unclenched.
SQUALOR, at the Pentameters Theatre, London, August 10 to September 4.