Iambic tetrameter

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Iambic tetrameter is a meter in poetry. It refers to a line consisting of four iambic feet. The word "tetrameter" simply means that there are four feet in the line; iambic tetrameter is a line comprising four iambs.

Some poetic forms rely upon iambic tetrameter: triolet, Onegin stanza, Memoriam stanza, long measure (or long meter) ballad stanza.

Quantitative verse[edit]

The term originally applied to the quantitative meter of Classical Greek poetry, in which an iamb consisted of a short syllable followed by a long syllable. See syllable weight.

Accentual-syllabic verse[edit]

The term was adopted to describe the equivalent meter in accentual-syllabic verse, as composed in English, German, Russian, and other languages. Here, iamb refers to an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable. A line of iambic tetrameter consists of four such feet in a row:

da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM

See the article on iambic pentameter for a more detailed presentation of the basic rhythm of iambic lines.

Examples[edit]

English[edit]

 ×    /    ×    / ×    /  ×  /
Come live with me and be my love

(Christopher Marlowe, "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love")

German[edit]

 ×    /   ×  /    × /  ×       /
Dies Bildnis ist bezaubernd schön[1]

(Emanuel Schikaneder, libretto to The Magic Flute)

Hebrew[edit]

× /  × /  ×  /   × /
Adon Olam Asher Malach[2]

(the opening line of Adon Olam, a traditional hymn of anonymous authorship from the Jewish liturgy.)

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "This image is enchantingly lovely". See Dies Bildnis ist bezaubernd schön.
  2. ^ "Master of the world who reigns". See Adon Olam.