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What is Iambic Poetry?

by Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th Edition

IAMBIC, the term employed in prosody to denote a succession of verses, each consisting of a foot or metre called an iambus (?αμβος), formed of two syllables, of which the first is short and the second long(). After the dactylic hexameter, the iambic trimeter was the most popular metre of ancient Greece. Archilochus is said to have been the inventor of this iambic verse, the τρ?μετρος consisting of three iambic fed. In the Greek tragedians an iambic line is formed of six feet arranged in obedience to the following scheme:—

Much of the beauty of the verse depends on the caesura, which is usually In the middle of the third foot, and far less frequently in the middle of the fourth. The English language runs more naturally in the iambic metre than in any other. The normal blank verse in English is founded upon an iambic basis, and Milton’s line—

And swims | or sinks | or wades | or creeps | or flies | —

exhibits it in its primitive form. The ordinary alexandrine of French literature is a hexapod iambic, but in all questions of quantity in modern prosody great care has to be exercised to recollect that all ascriptions of classic names to modern forms of rhymed or blank verse are merely approximate. The octosyllabic, or four-foot iambic metre, has found great favour in English verse founded on old romances. Decasyllabic iambic lines rhyming together form an “heroic” metre.