Before learning about Iambic meter and its examples, let’s first know ”Iambic” which comes from the word ”iamb”, a metrical and poetic foot (a unit of stressed and an unstressed syllable) used in poetry containing a short, unstressed syllable followed by a longer stressed syllable.
What is Iambic Meter in Poetry?
When a line of poetry is composed of two-syllable units, where the first is a stressed syllable, following the second unstressed syllable, creating an Iambic meter in the poetry and making the da-DUM sound.
A tree that may in summers wear
A nest of robins in her hair..
The above two lines from Joyce Kilmer‘s poem, Trees, which is composed of strict iambic tetrameter, a meter in poetry containing four pairs of first unstressed & second stressed syllable in four poetic feet and making the repeated (da-DUM) sound in each line.
See the complete meter scansion to understand better-
A tree/ that may/in sum-/mers wear
da DUM/da DUM/da DUM/da DUM
A nest/ of ro-/bins in/ her hair
da DUM/da DUM/da DUM/da DUM
Note- da DUM = One foot
Types of Iambic Meter in Poetry
1. Iambic diameter (two iambs per line containing two feet)
2. Iambic trimeter (three iambs per line containing three feet)
3. Iambic tetrameter (four iambs per line containing four feet)
4. Iambic pentameter (five iambs per line containing five feet)
5. Iambic hexameter (six iambs per line containing six feet)
6. Iambic heptameter (seven iambs per line containing seven feet)
Here we will only discuss the generally used iambic meters in poetry like Iambic Dimeter, Trimeter, Iambic Tetrameter and Iambic Pentameter.
Iambic meter is defined as a meter in poetry consisting of two iambic feet (two pairs of a first unstressed and second stressed syllables).
Examples of Iambic Dimeter in Poetry-
Example #1- Alexander’s Feast by John Dryden
With rav-/ished ears
The mon-/arch hears
Assumes/ the God
Affects/ to nod…
Example #2- Dust of Snow by Robert Frost
The Way/ a crow
Shook down/ on me
The dust/ of snow
From a hem-/lock tree
Example #3- The Robin by Thomas Hardy
When up/ aloft
I fly /and fly,
I see /in pools
The shin-/ing sky…
Iambic trimeter is defined as a meter in poetry consisting of three iambic feet (three pairs of first unstressed and second stressed syllables).
Examples of Iambic Trimeter in Poetry-
Example #1- The way, not mine, O Lord by Horatius Bonar
The way,/ not mine,/ O Lord,
Howev-/er dark/it be;
Lead me / by thine / own hand,
Choose out/ the path/ for me.
Example #2- My papa’s Waltz by Theodore Roethke
We romped/ until / the pans
Slide from/ the kit-/chen shelf;
My mo-/ther’s coun-/tenance
Could not/ unfrown/ itself.
Example #3- The only news I know by Emily Dickinson
The on-/ly news/ I know
Is bul-/letins /all day
The on-/ly show /I see,
Tomor-/row and/ today
Example #4- I love the Jocund dance by William Blake
I love/ the joc-/und dance,
The sof-/tly brea-/thing song,
Where in-/nocent eyes /go glance,
And where/ lisps the/ maiden’s tongue
Example #5- If you were coming in the fall by Emily Dickinson
If only/ Centu-/ries, delayed,
I’d count/ them on/ my hand,
Subtracting,/ till my /fingers dropped
Into /Van Die-/man’s land…
Iambic tetrameter is defined as a meter in poetry consisting of four iambic feet (four pairs of a first unstressed syllables are followed by an unstressed syllable).
Examples of Iambic Tetrameter in Poetry-
Example #1-The Lay of the Last Minstrel by Sir Walter Scott
The way /was long / the wind / was cold,
The min-/strel was / infirm/ and cold;
The harp,/ his sole / remain-/ing joy,
Was car/ried by/ an or-/phan boy.
Example #2- I wandered lonely as a cloud by William Wordsworth
I wan-/dered, lone-/ly as /a cloud
That floats /on high /o’er dales/ and hills
When, all /at once, /I saw/ a crowd
A host/ of gol-/den daff-/odils.
Example #3- Trees by Joyce Kilmer
I think /that I /shall nev-/er see
A po-/em love-/ly as /a tree.
A tree / whose hung-/ry mouth /is prest
Against /the earth’s /sweet flow-/ing breast
Example #4- Jerusalem by William Blake
And did/ those feet/ in an-/cient time
Walk up/on Eng-/lands moun-/tain green:
And was/ the ho-/ly lamb/ of God,
On Eng-/lands plea-/sant pas-/tures seen!..
Example #5- The Romany Girl by Ralph Waldo Emerson
The sun/ goes down, /and with/ him takes
The coarse-/ness of /my poor /attire;
The fair/ moon mounts, /and aye /the flame
Of Gyp-/sy beau-/ty blazes/ higher.
Iambic pentameter is defined as a meter in poetry consisting of five iambic feet (five pairs of a first unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable).
Iambic pentameter is the most common meter used in poetry writing and often can be seen in poetries of many poets and writers.
Sonnets are the best examples of Iambic Pentameter as they are often written in Iambic pentameter
Examples of Iambic Pentameter in Poetry
Example #1- Sonnet, 71 by William Shakespeare
No long-/er mourn/ for me/ when I/ am dead
Than you/ shall hear/ the sur-/ly sul-/len bell
Give warn-/ing to /the world /that I / am fled
From this/ vile world / with vil-/est worms/ to dwell…
Example #2- The Last Duchess by Robert Browning
That my/ last Du-/chess pain-/ted on/ the wall
Looking/ as if/ she were/ alive/. I call
That piece/ a won-/der, now;/ Fra Pan-/dolf’s hands
Worked bu-/sily /a day, /and there /she stands.
Example #3- Paradise Lost by John Milton
Of Mans / First Di-/sobe-/dience, and/ the Fruit
Of that/ Forbi-/dden Tree,/ whose mor-/tal tast
Brought Death/ into /the World,/ and all/ our woe
With loss/ of E-/den till /one grea-/ter Man
Restore/ us, and /regain /the bliss-/ful seat…
Example #4- Holly Sonnet 14 by John Donne
Batter /my heart/ three-per-/soned God,/ for you
as yet/ but knock,/ breathe, shine /and seek/ to mend.
That I/ may rise /and stand/ o’erthrow /me and bend
Your force /to break, /blow, burn /and make /me new.
Example #5- Sonnet 18 by William Shakespeare
Shall I / compare/ thee to / a sum-/mer’s day
Thou art / more love-/ly and /more tem-/perate:
Rough winds/ do shake/ the dar-/ling buds/ of May,
And sum-/mer’s lease/ hath all/ too short /a date…
Related: A Huge List of Poetry Themes
Watch this below informative video by Ted-Ed on why Shakespeare loved Iambic Pentameter.