Iambic tetrameter  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

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, In Memoriam stanza, long measure (or long meter) ballad stanza.


Quantitative verse

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.

Accentual-syllabic verse

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



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

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


 ×    /   ×  /    × /  ×       /
Dies Bildnis ist bezaubernd schön<ref>"This image is enchantingly lovely".  See Dies Bildnis ist bezaubernd schön.</ref>

(Emanuel Schikaneder, libretto to The Magic Flute)


× /  × /  ×  /   × /
Adon Olam Asher Malach<ref>"Master of the world who reigns". See Adon Olam.</ref>

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

See also

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