Talk:Iambic pentameter

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Classical usage?[edit]

can say the classical use is peripheral, after all some people may be only interested in the classical context. I now think that the best way might be to have two separate articles, one called 'Iambic pentameter' and the other called 'Iambic pentameter (classical prosody)' and to have mutual links at the top of each article ... that way the classicists can have whatever they need in their own article, and the English (and other modern European languages) verse article can jut make a brief historical mention in the body of the article. Stumps 04:34, 10 September 2007 (UTC)

That's a possibility. Does the metre exist only in Latin or is it in Greek as well? The reason I ask is that the title classical prosody might be a bit confusing, in the sense that 'classical' is often used to refer to Shakespeare and his contemporaries. It's not a 'correct' use, I know. But I was thinking along the lines of an Iambic pentameter (English) and Iambic pentameter (Latin) as an alternative possibility. That might also forestall criticism of a non-global perspective in the article. DionysosProteus 11:47, 10 September 2007 (UTC)
Stumps, yes, you've picked out a concern I had while re-writing the intro, that a foot isn't always a pair of syllables; I used it because in the case of iambic pentameter (this rhytm), it is. But it's good not to mislead by giving the impression that a pair is the general form of a foot. I used trapeze because it was on a web site of people's favourite words; surprising how few of those were iambic--most favourites appeared to be trochaic. A couple more examples of iambic two-syllable english words might not go amiss. If you think of any juicy ones, please add them. DionysosProteus 15:07, 18 October 2007 (UTC)
Wow, total rewrite! I must say that this definitely brings it down to my level. Renduy 05:11, 22 October 2007 (UTC)

Do you people not have children, as they naturally speak in rhymne? 'Mary had a little lamb', is a classic example of iambic pentameter, not some play, written by Will the Quill. As a child, we abused it, endlessly.

Mary had a little lamb, She also had a bear. Often seen her little lamb, but never seen her bare.

Mary had a little pig, couldn't stop it gruntin'. She took it down the garden path, and kicked it's little (expletive) in!

When I went to school, a long time ago, pent meant 5, has it changed, since then? Woolywords (talk) 18:58, 14 August 2010 (UTC)

I am confused by your rant. Penta does indeed mean "five." Where are you seeing some failure to count to five here? What does this have to do with rhyming? How are the strongly trochaic tetrameter lines of "Mary had a little lamb" relevant here? Nightspore (talk) 01:03, 15 August 2010 (UTC)

Notation for scansion[edit]

Isn't there a way to get proper scansion marks to indicate stress in crazy males? Otherwise we'll never have good examples for prosody and versification. --Dmerrill

Maybe something of this sort:

 v   -    v    -    v     -      v   -  v     - 
Was this the face that launch'd  a thousand ships

That's quite close to the "normal" way of marking it. It also leaves places for all sorts of dashes. --Uriyan

I like it. Indeed, it's the way I do it for class handouts! --MichaelTinkler
I get it know,but still confused what iambic pentameter mean give me more specific example--unknown
How about ...
Shǎll Í cǒmpáre thěe tó ǎ súmměr's dáy?
or
Shǎll Ī cǒmpāre thěe tō a sūmměr's dāy?
Unfortunately, not ideal in this font. — Stumps 15:34, 6 December 2005 (UTC)
It seems the only other way to ensure alignment of stress marks with syllables is to use tables ... something like this:
x
/
x
/
x
/
x
/
x
/
To swell the gourd, and plump the ha- zel shells
I've started introducing this to the article. We can see how it looks when there are a few examples. — Stumps 20:16, 27 December 2005 (UTC)
I like the table look, but I have two reservations: 1. I've never seen "x"'s used for unstressed syllables before, and it strikes me as a potentially confusing mark because I think of X as in "X" marks the spot as meaning, hit here, when of course it means just the opposite.
I have started an article — Systems of Scansion — where we can explain the notations. I had thought / and x was fairly common. I like it because it leaves the classical notation still free for marking quantity, so you can actually use both simultaneously without confusion. I will try to extend the survey in Systems of Scansion so that we can get a good overview of what really is commonly used, and also gives us the opportunity to examine the merits of the various documented schemes. — Stumps 04:51, 7 January 2006 (UTC)
2. If we have to add the <center>x</center> around each mark, it will get tedious indeed -- I'd recommend we do the following instead:
x / x / x /
An eas ier sort of code

.

I would propose we might just use "DA|DUM" instead of attempting marks, as they're instantly understood and easy to type (the marks that I learned to use for scansion are not easy to type (a u-like thing and a macron, more or less).
I prefer marks because they are easy to read simultaneously with the text of an example. DA|DUM requires two passes over the text I think. The difficulty of typing the various symbols can be overcome by copying and pasting, but it seems there are also probalems DISPLAYING some of the symbols ... for example, some of these pages look ok when I use Firefox, but have blanked out special characters on the same computer when I use Internet Explorer. — Stumps 04:51, 7 January 2006 (UTC)

I just converted the Donne example to the table style. In doing so, I realized the key problem with the table notation we have here is that feet don't line up. I might prefer using monospaced fonts a la the following:

|  /   x   |  x   /   |   x    /   |   x    /    |  x    /   |
| Batter   | my heart | three per- | soned God   | for  you  |
|  x   /   |  x     / |   /     /  |  x    /     |  x     /  |
| as  yet  | but knock|breath shine| and seek    | to    mend|
|   x  /   |   x   /  |  x    /    |  x     /    | x  x   /  |
| That I   | may rise | and stand  | o'erthrow   |me and bend|
|  x    /  |  x   /   |  /     /   |  x   /      |  x  /     |
|Your force| to break | blow burn  | and make    | me new    |

That allows editing to happen more easily and allow us to line up feet in a row -- in the above, for example, it's easier to see the rhythmic parallel between lines 2 and 4 than it is in the version currently in the article. Tom

Wow! A great job. I've made a few adjustments to the 'tabulation' of the Donne example in the article ... it now looks like this:

/
x
x
/
x
/
x
/
x
/
Bat- ter | my heart | three- per- | soned God, | for you |
x
/
x
/
/
/
x
/
x
/
as yet | but knock, | breathe, shine | and seek | to mend. |
x
/
x
/
x
/
/
/
x
x
/
That I | may rise | and stand | o'er throw | me and bend |
x
/
x
/
/
/
x
/
x
/
Your force | to break, | blow, burn | and make | me new. |

The changes being simply:

  • making each line its own table
  • allowing a 'cell' for the | mark

At this stage I haven't attempted to put the feet in columns ... getting things to line up vertically, as this is - I think - not the usual approach in texts on the subject. It gets tricky when poets start adding extra syllables or dropping them out. Also, of course, in the one column you could have a syllable that is spelled short and in another row one splled long ... in this example there is an 'I' and a 'force' in the second column ... and this can make the alignment look a bit strange. Here is one attempt at trying to get it into columns. I think I prefer the above version where each line has its own length.

/
x
x
/
x
/
x
/
x
/
Bat- ter | my heart | three- per- | soned God, | for you |
x
/
x
/
/
/
x
/
x
/
as yet | but knock, | breathe, shine | and seek | to mend. |
x
/
x
/
x
/
/
/
x       x
/
That I | may rise | and stand | o'er throw | me and bend |
x
/
x
/
/
/
x
/
x
/
Your force | to break, | blow, burn | and make | me new. |

all for now ... Stumps 21:02, 3 May 2006 (UTC)


"Many feel the success of iambic pentameters is related to its sounding like a human heartbeat at rest."

This strikes me as rather absurd. I'd like to delete it unless someone feels strongly that this is true and can point me to some of the "many" who say so. Tom 18:27, 12 Jun 2004 (UTC)
I went ahead and deleted it. Tom
Personally I feel that the success of iambic pentameter is do to the fact that it sounds very much like natural speaking in many ways.AbsintheMinded

I have a question: How on earth do you tell if single syllable words "I, He, She, Cat, Be...." Are stressed/Unstressed? The only thing I know for fact is stressed is "A"; and writing multiple syllable lines is driving me nuts!

Two ways: 1. you read them aloud and see what they sound like. 2. You look at the underlying rhythm of the line. If you're in the midst of iambic pentameter, then you're likely to feel a word as unstressed or stressed based on the iambic pattern that's been established. One syllable words have some flexibility, in other words, whereas words like "present", which change meaning based on the stress, obviously can only be read in one way (depending on the meaning you want of course).

It would seem to me that the stress on single syllable words depends on the other words they are used in conjunction with, but I'm just a science teacher! Also, the success of iambic pentameter is paralleled in the success of musical rhythms like the shuffle. Clearly this is a pleasing rhythm for humans since it shows up so often. As to why we like it so much, who knows? (it could be our heartbeats!) The ultimate aspect of any spoken form is how easily it flows from the mouth and I would agree that IP does feel quite natural.

While I appreciate that a considerable amount of work has gone into evolving the notation of scanning in this article, I do feel it's important to say that I think the choice arrived at in the article at the moment is the worst of what we might call the two-symbol systems. The Systems of scansion does a good job of outlining the different options, and I've added an example of the four main versions today there. Even the most cursory glance at those four reveals the fundamental problems with the x system. The x-marks-the-spot association has already been mentioned, but even more immediately than that, as a visual mark it draws the eye far more swiftly and noticeably than the /. I'd be willing to bet that if we were to take a line of scansion marks from this system to joe bloggs on the street and asked them to tap out that rhythm, they'd tap hard on the 'x's. None of the many practical theatre books I have on this subject use that notation, and with good reason--I fear it's a literary system only. Rhythm is something felt with the body first, and any system that requires a counter-intuitive mental adjustment interrupts that process. There are three other options, each of which has advantages and disadvantages; might we discuss them? The ability to measure length, for instance, is not immediately relevant in this context, at least in the article as it stands, so the classical is a possibility. I like the Bridges, but adapted to a ⋀ and ⌣ pairing (that's more or less what all my formal education used). The Ictus and breve system has the advantage of not requiring adaptation of any kind and of providing a significant visual differentiation that draws the eye in the appropriate syncopation. That's how it looks to me, anyhow. DionysosProteus 03:50, 8 September 2007 (UTC)
Great to see someone giving this some more thought! I agree the x / notation has problems (perhaps there's a better unicode symbol for the x which would make it less prominent??) ... my first thought it that we should use something that is fairly 'standard' ... my guess is that the ictus and breve notation is the most widespread. I am not sure how important the 'clash' with quantitative marking is ... I agree that in the context of this article there is not a problem, although of course it would be desirable to use a consistent notation for quantities and accents throughout all of the articles. My guess is that it is not a big issue, and that we can just choose the 'best' notation for accents without worrying about a clash. Stumps 04:24, 10 September 2007 (UTC)

removed example[edit]

DUM-da da-DUM da-DUM da-DUM da-DUM
(STRONG weak / weak STRONG / weak STRONG / weak STRONG / weak STRONG)
Shall I com - PARE thee TO a SUM mer's DAY

Which is an alternate reading of the first line. Whereas, the iambic pentameter of the third line is more stict:

(weak STRONG / weak STRONG / weak STRONG / weak STRONG / weak STRONG)
Rough winds do shake the darl -ing buds of May

I removed the above from the article for the following reasons.

  1. It interrupted the flow of the body -- there was already an example of trochaic inversion coming up in the next sentence (the Donne example).
  2. This is a poor example of trochaic inversion, since the line is almost always read as an iamb. Furthermore, if we're going to allow for variants of the line, there's a third possible variant -- a spondee. On the other hand, the example already in the text was unambiguous: if you read "Batter my heart three personed God", there's no question that "Batter" is a troche.
  3. "Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May" is not a good example of strict iambic pentameter, since the reader is likely to ask why "Rough" couldn't be stressed (for this reason, two syllable words make better examples). If I were putting this back I would pick the 4th line -- "And summer's lease hath all too short a date" as a good example of "strict" pentameter, since all the unstressed one-syllable words are clearly unstressed ("And","hath","too","a").

Tom

What to call an inversion[edit]

I see that a while back the article used the phrase 'iambic inversion' and this was changed to 'trochaic inversion'. I think both terms are potentially confusing. If we are talking about iambic pentameter, then I think it is perfectly clear what the simple term inversion refers to. It is also simpler to say 'the inversion of the second foot is relatively rare' rather than 'the trochaic inversion of the second foot ...'. I recommend changing the text of the article to simply talk of 'inversions' (we can of course leave the useful references to trochees). Any passionate objections to this? — Stumps 10:55, 14 December 2005 (UTC)

I used trochaic inversion (and renamed it trochaic inversion) because it's the term I heard in school. I then confirmed my hunch by doing a search for the term on google (as well as for the "iambic inversion" variant), whose results seemed to confirm that "trochaic inversion" was a common thing to call it. Tom

dum da dum da dum[edit]

is dum the proper term? it gets the point across but it just seems as if there should be some indication of the notation, as dum sounds kinda dumb. User:Kaldosh 05:56, 1 May 2006

the da DUM da DUM stuff has been in the article for a long time ... it may have first got there because we hadn't settled on a good way to mark scansion ... anyhow, as you say, it gets the point across, and I think this is important ... judging from some of the intermittent vadalism the page seems to be visited by school-kids fairly often so it is probably important to have some fairly clear and straightforward explanation at the outset, and move gently into more technical territory. Having said that, I do think that the page could do with some tidying up, and we could possibly do without the big block of da DUM da DUMs explaining the rhythms of the lines from Donne's sonnet. I just haven't got around to reworking that bit yet. — Stumps 10:31, 2 May 2006 (UTC)

THAT is the QUEStion?[edit]

I'd say the example from Hamlet given in the article has doubtful scansion. It's a fine example of a weak ending, but I think many actors would be just as likely to retain the stress on "is" and not on "that" in "that is the question".

Also, the deleted note about the human heartbeat is perhaps not the most sensical when looking at the text from a literary point of view, but many acting and voice instructors use this analogy (Kristin Linklater, to name one). It has relevance in the theatrical side of iambic pentameter; perhaps just having it as a stand-alone statement doesn't fit so well.

I think in general there should be more attention given to the interpretation of iambic pentameter in dramatic text, because the stress is often not just a matter of where we would naturally put the stress when speaking (and that's in our present-day voices), but can take into account the content of the rest of the speech. I'm not suggesting that actors get to mix and match however they like, but most of Shakespeare's speeches contain syllables that demand an artistic choice one way or another, and the choice affects character.

I find myself agreeing with some of the points you're making (anonymously) here, though I do have to point out, only slightly facetiously, that any actor that scans the line "that IS the QUESTion" deserves a swift and merciless slap on the basis that a) it's a dull, plodding reading and b) it completely misses the sense of the passage (he hasn't been debating with himself or us whether it is this question or maybe one of the other questions he's been thinking about, but, rather, he hits on this particular question at the opening of the speech, in the present moment, as it were). The heartbeat analogy is relevant, I think, albeit one of those Romanticized actor truisms with which the profession is plagued. Provided a citation is 'owned' in the text of the article, I think it's appropriate; but only with a citation from a well-known voice coach (that is, someone who fulfills criteria in professional theatre terms analogous to a reputable scholar; I'll look through Ciceley Berry and Patsy Rodenberg's books when I get a chance to see if there's something along those lines in there somewhere). The last point you make is, for me, the most significant. The article as it stands appears to lack any practical engagement with the speaking of verse; while Shakespeare and co. are far from being the only ones to use the metre, I would imagine that most of the users on an english wikipedia are coming for them. Even the opening definition that restricts it to 'poetry' is factually incorrect, not withstanding the misleading glosses about other media in that article (poetry doesn't mean verse in Aristotle, for instance; the historical shifts in meaning are more complex that the article implies). I would suggest that we look at specific areas and particular examples that may be used to explore these aspects. I'll start to have a tinker in the next week or so. DionysosProteus 03:25, 8 September 2007 (UTC)

Ten feet in a pentameter???[edit]

I have — at least for now, pending clarification here — removed the following sentence from the lead section. "In the ancient poetry, however, no "iambic pentameter" exists; also, if it had existed, a verse would consist of ten (not five) iambic feet, just like the iambic trimeter consists of six ones." Can someone (a) explain this, and (b) provide a source. Stumps 04:44, 31 August 2007 (UTC)

Idea[edit]

Let's use some sample audio. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 128.104.62.216 (talk) 23:41, 12 December 2007 (UTC)

Restore the brilliant introduction from 178760928 as an example.[edit]

The explanation of Iambic pentameter in Iambic pentameter is too well done to simply be deleted in the name of proper article formatting. Since it's obvious it's going to continue to be deleted and restored as an introduction and will get no rest there, I've restored it instead as an example where I hope it will prove less contentious. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Schwern (talkcontribs) 23:26, 1 January 2008 (UTC)

Regardless of the creative merit or otherwise of the passage in question, it strikes me as a piece of original work that comes under the policy relating to original research. I don't think this sort of thing belongs in wikipedia. Stumps (talk) 00:49, 4 January 2008 (UTC)
I disagree. The presentation helps example the subject, and does not in any way detract from it. --Muna (talk) 03:03, 13 January 2008 (UTC)
Surely there a thousands of better possible examples that could be included? Stumps (talk) 03:04, 21 January 2008 (UTC)

While it is very funny to have the introduction in iambic pentameter - probably doesn't belong in a encylopedia.... 167.247.219.10 (talk) 10:19, 15 January 2008 (UTC)

BTW, the line "The two expressions meaning just the same" is incorrect. Do we need a poet to edit this part of the encyclopedia? Stumps (talk) 03:07, 21 January 2008 (UTC)

Clever as it may be, the explanation of Iambic pentameter in Iambic pentameter is not, strictly speaking, IN iambic pentameter. The syllables in the first line (iambic pentameter) do not naturally fall into the unstressed, stressed pattern of iambic pentameter. It reads as "i-AM-bic pen-TA-me-ter", which is clearly not constructed of iambs. Due to the neighboring unstressed syllables in "pentameter", one really cannot mention it in a work in iambic pentameter. I would request that this poor example be taken down and replaced with a poem that better demonstrates iambic pentameter at work, with the syllables NATURALLY falling into iambic pentameter. 69.140.175.26 (talk) 17:42, 26 January 2008 (UTC)

I am confused. It would appear that the general consensus is to remove the example, yet there it is still on the page. 18.239.1.80 (talk) 20:44, 2 February 2008 (UTC)

I've removed it as per this consensus. Stumps (talk) 20:48, 2 February 2008 (UTC)

Lack of classical examples[edit]

The article says that iambic pentameter is a Greek thing that we apply to English by analogy with the classics, but then goes on to give only English examples. Greek and Latin examples are sorely lacking. — Chameleon 12:14, 25 May 2008 (UTC)

On a similar note, the article could profit from a sound bite of how these are actually read. Do you have to talk like Shatner when reading these?98.223.111.14 (talk) 12:01, 12 August 2009 (UTC)
...is there any chance of getting Shatner to do the recordings for the article? 143.92.1.33 (talk) 08:54, 6 March 2013 (UTC)

meter?[edit]

Shouldn't it be metre? —Preceding unsigned comment added by Glandrid (talkcontribs) 21:44, 8 October 2008 (UTC)

No comments? Glandrid (talk) 18:11, 4 December 2009 (UTC)

Both words 'meter' and 'metre' exist and are used in several different contexts, of which poetic footing is one. I understand that different English-speaking countries sometimes use different spellings in some contexts, but that there is general agreement that 'meter' is acceptable (preferable, even?) for the poetic context. Is that correct? Feline Hymnic (talk) 20:45, 12 December 2009 (UTC)

history[edit]

Two questions. The criticism section says critics deny something about iambic pentameter and Shakespeare, but it's not clear what. Exactly what did the critics say?

Second question: how did the choice of iambic pentameter for serious poetry in English get started? I've heard that it was imported from Italian poetry where an 11-syllable line was standard (the weak llth syllable was turned into an optional "feminine" ending in English). Can some expert confirm or deny this? CharlesTheBold (talk) 06:21, 1 January 2009 (UTC)

substitution[edit]

Is there a general article about substitution etc.? This article (specifically about iambic pentameter) has a lengthy section "Rhythmic variation". And there is a Trochaic substitution article. But shouldn't there be an article about substitution in general, of which our "Rhythmic variation" might provide the initial sketch? Feline Hymnic (talk) 11:16, 18 July 2009 (UTC)

I've just started "substitution (poetry)". Feline Hymnic (talk) 15:52, 18 July 2009 (UTC)

Richard III[edit]

This example is a bit too ambiguous, much like "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day" that was previously removed: it can be interpreted many ways, including in standard iambic pentameter. Ansh666 (talk) 05:08, 19 October 2009 (UTC)

Less Halle and Keyser[edit]

Since the Halle and Keyser "stress maximum" theory has been thoroughly refuted, shouldn't there be less on it? —JerryFriedman (Talk) 04:14, 12 June 2011 (UTC)

Larkin poem[edit]

The article on Larkin's "Aubade" is clearly only one person's opinion. For another opinion, The Harper Anthology of Poetry contains ten or so poems in iambic pentameter after 1950 (coincidentally, A. N. Wilson's year of birth) and before 1980, including Larkin's "Lines on a Young Lady's Photograph Album", but not this one.

If we want to have some kind of coverage of the history of iambic pentameter after Shakespeare, we need to see what poems have been reprinted the most and whether there's any kind of consensus among critics. A process such as that might or might not include "Aubade" among the notable poems in iambic pentameter along with works by poets of greater reputation than Larkin—Dryden, Pope, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley, Keats, Browning, Yeats, Eliot, Frost, etc. (By the way, I feel sure that the most notable poem in iambic pentameter from Wilson's lifetime is "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night", though it doesn't happen to be to Wilson's taste as much as "Aubade" is.) But at this point, I see no reason to single this poem out in the history of iambic pentameter. I haven't removed it again yet, but I will if no one else does and no one provides a good reason to leave it. —JerryFriedman (Talk) 19:31, 18 July 2011 (UTC)

I was hoping a good quote could be found supporting the statement. I do think we need more than one example! I would counsel against surveying the contents of anthologies - obviously original research. What we need are statements by critics. Yngvadottir (talk) 21:39, 18 July 2011 (UTC)
I must say I don't understand why citing editors' choices is OR but citing critics' comments isn't.
I prefer anthologies because they're supposed to represent what people should read. An editor might include a poem that's widely considered to be important even though it isn't among his or her favorites, and what we need is what's widely considered to be important. A critic is more likely to just point out his or her favorites, as A. N. Wilson did.
Apologies to Donne and Milton for leaving them out of my list above. It's laughable for a section on the history of iambic pentameter to mention "Aubade" but not Paradise Lost, and until someone really improves the history section, I don't think we should leave the section in this laughable state. —JerryFriedman (Talk) 17:21, 20 July 2011 (UTC)
Yes, what we have now is an example of recentism. It should be relatively easy to find a few citations from histories of English lit and put in a summary of important uses of the metre since Chaucer. But I'm afraid that's the policy - no counting up what's in anthologies, just citations of what critics - or better, literary historians - have said. I believe that's the way to deal with the objection that the critics are also only expressing their personal taste: cite several of them. I'm loath to do this myself: I have a low tolerance for non-alliterative poetry and a tin ear for metre. But it sounds very much as if you could draft such a short overview. Yes please, put Donne and Milton in it. Surely there are citations to that effect??
Can I just point out that I am no literary critic at all. I am just someone who likes poetry, and the more direct and unpretentious, the better. I am quite happy to accept that the notability of 'Aubade' is my opinion, but it's not a sole opinion, and given the then complete dearth of references to modern works in this section, I thought my mention of it would be a welcome addition. If you think that my inclusions gives a single poem undue prominence then surely the answer is not to pretend it doesn't exist, but to provide more, equally or even more prominent, examples of contemporary poems. The article is no worse for its inclusion: I don't make any claims for its merit exclusive of other works. The section as it stood beforehand was a joke anyway as it didn't even acknowledge any poems written in the 20th century. Deadlyvices (talk) 22:20, 20 July 2011 (UTC)
I think you may be misunderstanding. The section didn't have anything about any poems after Shakespeare. It's not that the Larkin example needs to go - it's that something about the entire use since Shakespeare needs to go in. It isn't just the 20th century that's been missing! But we need citations from critics/literary historians, not just personal opinions. You've supplied one for the Larkin, but the rest of the gap still needs to be filled. With cited stuff. Yngvadottir (talk) 22:57, 20 July 2011 (UTC)
Where can I find the policy on anthologies? More later on other issues we're discussing. —JerryFriedman (Talk) 05:15, 21 July 2011 (UTC)
What I'm going by is the No Original Research policy. IMO, counting up what's in how many anthologies is unadmissable synthesis. (It's also going to lead to a lopsided view from a regional point of view - survey anthologies are basic in college courses in the US, were unknown in the UK when I studied there, and I suspect if they are used in Australia and New Zealand they look quite different.) What's needed is statements from critics/historians; that could include the prefaces of anthologies, articles in the Times Literary Supplement, the New York Review of Books, the Chronicle of Higher Education, College English . . . reviews of the latest edition of the Norton Anthology of English Literature included. But even if there's a chunk of Paradise Lost in every single anthology in the library at a major research university, the statement that that is one of the great examples of iambic pentameter in English needs to be supported by a cite (and it may after all be in the anthologies for other reasons). At least that's how I understand the policy. Yngvadottir (talk) 14:48, 21 July 2011 (UTC)
I think you're misunderstanding me now. I did not say that it was 'one of the great examples of iambic pentameter' I said it was a very notable poem (which it is) which just happens to be written in IP. Deadlyvices (talk) 21:01, 21 July 2011 (UTC)
What I originally had in mind in the "history" section was to trace the development of iambic pentameter up to the point where it became iambic pentameter (so maybe "Development" would be a better title). After that I don't know much in the way of further development, and don't remember seeing anything in my research. I think Marilyn Hacker's pentameter would be quite recognizable to John Milton, even if he'd blush all over at her subject matter.
So what would a continuation look like? Just "here are some notable poets who used iambic pentameter, and here are some notable poems in the meter"? (I take it we don't need sources to say that a poem is in iambic pentameter any more than we need sources to calculate someone's age in some year.) Maybe an occasional remark on Milton's enjambments and inversions, Pope's rhetorically balanced lines, and Roethke's heavy end-stopping? I'm not sure we need that, but I'm not sure we don't, either.
And if we do need it, what will the criterion be? What if Historian A says Poem P is great or important, Historian B says Poems P and Q are, and Historian C says Poems P, Q, and R are? Should we go by numbers and just mention Poem P? Should we try to decide who's more reliable on this subject? I did the present history section with inadequate sourcing because I thought the facts were right and something was better than nothing, but with something as subjective and provocative as which poems are notable, I'm not sure it's worth doing without finding a consensus of many sources. Of course, someone could just find sources that support what he or she believes to start with, like my list above (and apologies to Tennyson).
In view of the above, I still don't see any difference between the kind of research you do to decide what poems to include based on histories of poetry and the kind you do based on anthologies.
Anyway, this is a big project. I don't have any histories of poetry and I don't even know the names of any. If I do it (which I haven't offered to), it's not going to happen right away. And until then, yes, I think mentioning "Aubade" and nothing else does make the article worse. As well as being lopsided and "recentist", it's anticlimactic--iambic pentameter is the meter of the majority of poetry in English, and here's one example out of the huge number of possibilities. —JerryFriedman (Talk) 02:55, 22 July 2011 (UTC)
Well, get rid of it then. But while you do that, remember that Wikipedia is always a work in progress, and if somebody adds some material that temporarily unbalances that work, then adding some more material to restore balance is going to be preferable to stripping it bare again. It's the nature of the beast: organic growth is rarely symmetrical. You could amend the sentence to say that 'not many modern poems have been published in this form, although there are exceptions, such as .....' How would that sound?
Can I also ask you as to whether you have read 'Aubade'? The first time I read it, it was in a newspaper, and it moved me so much I cut it out and kept it. It has been described as 'the first post-Christian poem about death'. So, if you haven't read it yet, I enjoin you to do so since, in that case, it would lend weight to your argument.Deadlyvices (talk) 11:27, 22 July 2011 (UTC)
I read it in the last couple days. Although I certainly think it's a good poem and understand why people like it so much, I'm afraid it doesn't do for me what it does for you and some others. A personal thing. No doubt you would say the same about some of my favorite poems.
Which is the point. Whether I read it or not has nothing to do with the strength of my argument. If we decide that what this article needs is more material of this type, which I'm still not sure about, our criterion won't be your feelings or mine; it will be the opinions of reliable sources.
By the way, were you thinking of Seamus Heaney's phrase "the definitive post-Christian English poem" [1]? —JerryFriedman (Talk) 18:47, 22 July 2011 (UTC)
I still think this article needs more modern examples. If it's got to have a 'History' section then it should have the whole history, to show how IP is still used in modern poetry. Deadlyvices (talk) 14:19, 31 July 2011 (UTC)

Removed text on "Aubade"[edit]

Here's the text on "Aubade" that I just removed, in case we find additional sources justifying putting it back in.

One of the most notable modern poems to be written in iambic pentameter is Philip Larkin's bleak 'Aubade'.[1]

JerryFriedman (Talk) 01:00, 30 July 2011 (UTC)

OK, I'm happy with that. I've enjoyed the civilised discussion very much, and it more than makes up for the loss of my edit. Deadlyvices (talk) 11:23, 30 July 2011 (UTC)

Donne sonnet meter (please check)[edit]

I undid an edit by an anonymous user a few months ago, who changed the meter marking on the John Donne poem without explanation. I found this in the history because after his changes, the meter markings didn't agree with the explanation or the rest of the article. But if someone who knows something about poetry could check that my recent edit was correct I would really appreciate that. -- Creidieki 12:19, 16 September 2011 (UTC)

Your reverted version is correct. I guess you dolphins just understand poetry even when it's not haiku. —JerryFriedman (Talk) 14:18, 16 September 2011 (UTC)

Notes on the removal of the H-K theory[edit]

I am removing the entire section on the Halle-Keyser theory to the talk page for now because 1) it is a confusing digression from the topic of "rhythmic variation" to which it is not in fact germane; 2) H-K possibly should not occur at all in the article, but if so, 3) its treatment should be substantially reduced and placed in a section on "alternate theories". For those who want slightly deeper arguments, I offer this more protracted complaint:

Theoretical objections
  • "[Generative metrics] covers three differing theories of meter advanced from 1966 through 1977..." (Brogan 1993, p 451) There has never been consensus on which if any of these theories is correct, and "[i]n retrospect, there seem to have been as many internal differences and reversals in 20 years of generative metrics as there were in 2000 years of traditional metrics." (Brogan 1993, p 453)
  • Halle-Keyser is famously self-refuting, allowing (they themselves note) "billows, billows, serene mirror of the marine boroughs, remote willows" as a complex but well-formed iambic pentameter line. (Halle & Keyser 1972, p 234)
    • Side note: even the generative theories of Chisholm and Kiparsky, which Derek Attridge finds to be improvements over H-K, allow lines like "Jittery Caroline, skittery Lil" and "Long hours on a hard chair at a broad desk" as well-formed but complex iambic pentameter lines. (Attridge 1982, p 50-51)
  • H-K's ultimate criterion of metricality is that the Stress Maximum does not fall on an S-position. (H & K 1972, p 224-26) The fact that lines are judged to be metrical because of features they don't contain is considered (e.g. in Wimsatt 1970, p 781) to be a practical and theoretical weakness.
  • Halle's new theory seems (this is just my sense from a brief perusal) to invalidate his old one: "[O]n our view, the rhythm [of metrical verse lines] is a by-product of the way line length is restricted. In this respect our approach departs radically from most other approaches to meter..." (Fabb & Halle 2008, p 3) ...including H-K, yes? Paul Kiparsky, by the way, finds Fabb-Halle to be self-refuting. (Kiparsky 2009, p 8) A pattern?
Practical objections
  • The article's present info on H-K is a burdensome digression. It occurs in the section "Rhythmic variation" but serves instead mainly to define the theory itself; it is then followed by (necessitated) explanations of why what you just read is invalid. There may be a place for explanation, example, and counterargument, but it is not here... and H-K would have to materially aid a reader's understanding of iambic pentameter to justify this.
  • We mainly explain the iambic pentameter line using the "classical approach" (Attridge's term) (side-note: yes, I think this approach, too, can be improved... but first things first). Do we need other approaches? Maybe. We could outline the various temporal approaches: musical, isochronic, acoustic; we could explain the structural linguistic methods; there are 2 contrasting generative theories and any number of addenda; Geoffrey Leech and Coventry Patmore think pentameters have 6 feet; Burton Raffel thinks they're crypto-tetrameters; Alan Holder thinks they're free verse in drag (OK a bit biased, but not that far from his actual position). Why should we privilege H-K as we now do? Point being, if we want to expose dissent from the "classical approach" let's describe them economically and proportional to their notability... in their own section.
References
  • Attridge 1982: The Rhythms of English Poetry
  • Brogan 1993: "Generative Metrics" in The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics
  • Fabb & Halle 2008: Meter in Poetry: A New Theory
  • Halle & Keyser 1972: "English III: The Iambic Pentameter" in Versification: Major Language Types
  • Kiparsky 2009: Review of Nigel Fabb and Morris Halle (2008), Meter in Poetry
  • Wimsatt 1970: "The Rule and the Norm" in College English Vol 31, No 8

Below is the removed text. Phil wink (talk) 01:38, 17 July 2012 (UTC)

Removed text[edit]

Linguists Morris Halle and Samuel Jay Keyser developed a set of rules (English Stress: Its Forms, Its Growth, and Its Role in Verse, Harper and Row, 1971) which correspond with those variations which are permissible in English iambic pentameter. Essentially, the Halle-Keyser rules state that only "stress maximum" syllables are important in determining the meter. A stress maximum syllable is a stressed syllable surrounded on both sides by weak syllables in the same syntactic phrase and in the same verse line. In order to be a permissible line of iambic pentameter, no stress maxima can fall on a syllable that is designated as a weak syllable in the standard, unvaried iambic pentameter pattern. In the Donne line, the word God is not a maximum. That is because it is followed by a pause. Similarly the words you, mend, and bend are not maxima since they are each at the end of a line (as required for the rhyming of mend/bend and you/new.) Rewriting the Donne quatrain showing the stress maxima (denoted with an "M") results in the following:

 /  ×   ×  M       ×   M  ×     /    ×   /
Batter my heart three-personed God, for you
×   M   ×    /      ×        /   ×    M    ×  /
As yet but knock, breathe, shine and seek to mend.
  ×  /  ×   M   ×     /   ×      /   ×(×)   /
That I may rise and stand o'erthrow me and bend
 ×    M     ×   /      ×    /   ×    M    ×  /
Your force to break, blow, burn and make me new.

The Halle-Keyser system has been criticized because it can identify passages of prose as iambic pentameter.[2] Other scholars have revised Halle-Keyser, and they, along with Halle and Keyser, are known collectively as “generative metrists.”

Later generative metrists pointed out that poets have often treated non-compound words of more than one syllable differently from monosyllables and compounds of monosyllables. Any normally weak syllable may be stressed as a variation if it is a monosyllable, but not if it is part of a polysyllable except at the beginning of a line or a phrase. Thus Shakespeare wrote in The Merchant of Venice, Act I, Scene 2:

 ×    ×  /    /      ×  /    ×  /(×)×  /
For the four winds blow in from every coast

but wrote no lines of the form of "As gazelles leap a never-resting brook". The stress patterns are the same, and in particular, the normally weak third syllable is stressed in both lines; the difference is that in Shakespeare's line the stressed third syllable is a one-syllable word, "four", whereas in the un-Shakespearean line it is part of a two-syllable word, "gazelles". (The definitions and exceptions are more technical than stated here.) Pope followed such a rule strictly, Shakespeare fairly strictly, Milton much less, and Donne not at all—which may be why Ben Jonson said Donne deserved hanging for "not keeping of accent".[3]

Derek Attridge has pointed out the limits of the generative approach; it has “not brought us any closer to understanding why particular metrical forms are common in English, why certain variations interrupt the metre and others do not, or why metre functions so powerfully as a literary device.”[4] Generative metrists also fail to recognize that a normally weak syllable in a strong position will be pronounced differently, i.e. “promoted” and so no longer "weak."

End of removed text

I have reverted your cuts. I quite agree there's a debate here, and that H-K is not the last word by any means. So I would respectfully suggest that you describe the debate in the article itself, and add the materials that you put in this talk page as reasons for deleting. This is a live debate, and the article can and should reflect it, not censor it because some of its editors disagree with one position within that debate. The reference to H-K is highly valuable for people looking for that sort of thing; so are your references in the talk page. You should promote them to the article. Add, don't delete interesting material. Nightspore (talk) 02:58, 18 July 2012 (UTC)

I'm all in favor of adding interesting material and deleting boring material. The current description of H-K is boring (though the reference may be valuable) because the theory never worked. We certainly don't need an example of it. Furthermore, what I expect general readers to be interested in is the traditional approach rather than competing linguistic formalisms, which can be dealt with by means of brief mentions with references. The one exception I know of is the one by Kiparsky and Hayes (which I added), because it points out a rule that traditional analysts apparently hadn't noticed. That, I think, is worth some discussion. —JerryFriedman (Talk) 03:31, 18 July 2012 (UTC)
Generative metrics happened. It is notable. It should be covered by Wikipedia. It should be covered (pro and con) much more fully than it is now. The place to do so is in Generative metrics. Iambic pentameter should reference it and allow interested readers to go there for details. If someone will be kind enough to spin this text off to Generative metrics I'd be happy to help expand both pro and con; I have 3 or 4 useful references. But expand this already burdensome digression within Iambic pentameter? No! No! A thousand times no!
Regarding Jerry's text, my initial feeling is that it can easily be reintegrated into the "rhythmic variation" section, and will probably even make more sense simply as an example of fine distinctions among authors, than it currently does as a complaint against H-K. Phil wink (talk) 03:12, 20 July 2012 (UTC)
I think that's an excellent idea. I don't know why you don't want to start it yourself, but I'll be happy to do it tomorrow unless there are objections. —JerryFriedman (Talk) 04:41, 20 July 2012 (UTC)
Although I clearly delete text with gusto, I have no idea how to move a section. I would only be able to delete the section, then paste to the new page en bloc, which would destroy the history and -- I presume -- make someone cross. Phil wink (talk) 04:57, 20 July 2012 (UTC)
It's not hard to satisfy the attribution requirement, actually. When you start the new page you do so with an edit summary clearly stating that you have taken text from Iambic pentameter (preferably with a section link). That plus the date would do, but you could also then start the talk page by giving the URL of the specific version from the history. --Yngvadottir (talk) 12:19, 20 July 2012 (UTC)
Yes check.svg Done Phil wink (talk) 17:42, 21 July 2012 (UTC)

The new plan[edit]

OK, we have a shiny new Generative metrics article, which is now in a pretty good state. My next step here will be to delete (again) the current text on the H-K theory in this article, but I'm not going to do that until I work up a broader and more concise treatment of alternate IP theories which can replace it.

In the mean time, JerryFriedman, there is a contradiction in the "gazelles" statement: first it claims that Shakespeare wrote no lines in that form, then that Shakespeare followed this prohibition "fairly strictly", which implies that he must indeed have written some line in that form. I'd be much obliged if you could sort that out. As for the future of the "gazelles" text, my own feelings are: 1) Updates should be made in the Generative metrics version, since it has been reformatted (I think advantageously). 2) Although there's nothing wrong with stating it twice, I think the better home is here in IP, so that after the contradiction is resolved and the IP H-K text replaced, then the "gazelles" text should be moved back here from GM and slightly re-worded in its new context. Phil wink (talk) 20:50, 22 July 2012 (UTC)

Come to think of it, isn't the "gazelles" structure precisely that which Groves finds in Shakespeare his criticism of Generative metrics#Kiparsky? Maybe that's why Kiparsky failed to allow for it? He just hadn't happened to find any of these lines in Shakespeare? It's probably still an interesting and valid point for Pope, but I'm questioning the validity of the statement with respect to Shakespeare. Phil wink (talk) 03:26, 23 July 2012 (UTC)

Now is the winter of our discontent[edit]

In the article, it's marked like this:

Now is the winter of our discontent

but to put accent on 'of' like that is counter-intuitive in the extreme.

More natural, to my ear at least is two dactyls and a choriamb (/ x x / x x / x x /), which isn't pentamic. 143.92.1.33 (talk) 08:52, 6 March 2013 (UTC)

  1. ^ Wilson, A. N. (04 Feb 2008). "Philip Larkin's almost perfect poem". Daily Telegraph. 
  2. ^ Derek Attridge, The Rhythms of English Poetry, 41.
  3. ^ Kiparsky, Paul (1975), "Stress, Syntax, and Meter", Language 51 (3): 576–616, retrieved 2011-06-11 . See also Hayes, Bruce (1989), "The Prosodic Hierarchy in Meter", Phonetics and Phonology, Volume I: Rhythm and Meter, Academic Press, pp. 201–260, retrieved 2011-06-11 
  4. ^ Derek Attridge, The Rhythms of English Poetry, 50.