2 responses

  1. “After great pain, a formal feeling comes” and “The Soul selects her own Society” are notable counterexamples to the claim that Dickinson never uses iambic pentameter.


    • Thanks Sam. You got me. Sort of. The first four lines of “After great pain” are indeed Iambic Pentameter, but one wonders if that was intentional. In any case, she quickly abandons anything remotely resembling IP in the next stanza and re-establishes it in the last two lines. The poem is not written in Iambic Pentameter but has some IP lines. In “The Soul selects”, just one line counts as IP. The rest are not. There may be other poems where an Iambic Pentameter line pops up, but whether those were intentional remains speculation.

      By way of comparison, and out of curiosity, I loaded up this article:


      The subtitle says:

      The prince of Helmsdorf’s skeleton revealed three brutal injuries, including one that suggests he knew his killer and attempted to fend off the attack.

      Which, makes quite good Iambic Pentameter:

      The prince of Helmsdorf’s skeleton revealed
      Three brutal injuries, including one
      That suggests he knew his killer and attempted
      To fend off the attack.

      The third line begins with an anapest and ends with a feminine ending, both of which are allowable variant feet. The fourth line is incomplete but is also Iambic as far as it goes. So there you have it, a notable example of Smithsonian Magazine also using Iambic Pentameter. My point is mainly that, yes, one might find the occasional Iambic Pentameter line or lines in Dickinson’s poetry, but I would not say that she “writes Iambic Pentameter”. :)


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