Dear Language Nerd,
I’m reading a book on Shakespeare’s sonnets that keeps referring to “iambic pentameter,” but hasn’t really told me what that is. Little help?
A syllable is just one vowel-marked sound
An iamb though is two, first weak then strong
They make a certain rhythmic bouncing pound:
ba-DONK ka-DONK a-DONK a-DONK a-DONG.*
The meter tells the pattern of the line
“Penta” means five, so send five iambs out
Ten syllables in loping pairs refined
To march along their careful sonnet route
It’s difficult to keep the meter perfect
A poet may invert a pair, strong-weak
Or on the end an extra weak inject
Like what I did three lines ago, go peek.
That’s all about iambs, least all that I’ve heard,
So see you next week —
The Language Nerd
*Alright, this line is probably the most useful one as far as showing how iambs work, but I admit that rhyme-wise it’s totally cheating.
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