Indentify which of the following poems is written in iambic pentameter.
"O I fear ye are poisoned, Lord Randal, my son!
O I fear ye are poisoned, my handsome young man?"
"O yes! I am poisoned; mother, make my bed soon,
For I'am sick at the heart, and I fain wald lie down."
From "Lord Randal
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
from Sonnet CXVI by William Shakespeare
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The second poem is written in iambic pentameter. An iambic foot is a unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable. Teachers often try to describe this to their students as the "da-DUM" rhythm, or rather, meter of a poem. (ie: let ME not TO the MAR-iage OF true MINDS).
Pentameter stipulates that there must be 5 iambic feet in each line. While we could identify iambic feet in the first poem, it does not have 5 feet in each line.
Enotes has a great reference article about iambic pentameter structure if you need to mark the meter of your poem with stressed and unstressed syllables. Check it out!
When you think of iambic, think of a heartbeat. (Unstressed, stressed, unstressed, stressed, etc.) Some scholars say that people are naturally drawn to iambic because it mimics the mother's heartbeat in the womb. While that is not science, it makes sense! Pentameter generally has 10 syllables (which comes to 5 metrical feet). You can have trochaic (DAda) pentameter, but iambic (daDA) is the most popular form of poetry. Many new writers don't even realise that they naturally write in some form of iambic. The first sample you provided is automatically not iambic pentameter because it has more than ten syllables. Automaticallt you could have ruled it out. It is, however, iambic. Another clue would be that the second poem is a sonnet. Sonnets, for the most part, are in iambic pentameter. Shakespeare wrote all of his sonnets this way; this is how we now have the term "the Shakespearian Sonnet."
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