Poetry 101: Iambic Tetrameter Continued

Poetry 101: Iambic Tetrameter Continued

by James Matthew Byers


Greetings from the Darque Bard! Who’s ready for more poetry? Last week we delved into the realm of iambic tetrameter. After we review a bit, I’m going to give some examples. Remember that an iamb is a metrical foot consisting of one short, or unstressed, syllable followed by a long, or stressed, syllable.

Tetrameter means there are four beats per line. These are primarily known as feet. I use the word beats to denote the stresses. The unit is counted in syllables that are unstressed, stressed, unstressed, stressed, unstressed, stressed, unstressed, and stressed. Maybe an easier way to feel this is to say duh-DUH-duh-DUH-duh-DUH-duh-DUH.

Either way, the point is simple. Four beats, unstressed, stressed, and a whole lot of rhythmic emotion. Another reason I used it for Beowulf: The Midgard Epic stems from the natural feeling accommodated by reading it aloud.

But when I say unstressed, stressed, or duh-Duh, how does that apply to actual words? Let’s take a look:

A maiden fair came round the way

A is unstressed … the duh.
Maiden has two syllables. Mai gets the stressed accent, and den gets the unstressed. We are now at duh-DUH-duh.
Fair is stressed. DUH. (Feels very valley girl, right?)
Came, unstressed, round, stressed, the, unstressed, way, stressed.

A maiden fair came round the way

And there it is! Let’s do another.

Above the castle keep to play

Above has two syllables. duh-DUH.
The, duh, castle, DUH-duh.
Keep, stressed, to, unstressed, play, stressed.

Above the castle keep to play.

Now it’s time to practice what I preach!

[Below is an excerpt from James Matthew Byers’ (Stitched Smile Publications, 2016) Beowulf: The Midgard Epic]

A maiden fair came round the way
Above the castle keep to play
Rapunzel, letting down her hair
Unto the prince who met her there
And climbed atop the tower wall
As she would loose her locks to fall
And all was fine in love and life
Until the witch came with a knife
Removing all the hair in length
Appearing to deplete the strength
Of what the two in love had shared
Rapunzel cried; how she despaired
But came the prince in secret path
And lo, the witch felt all his wrath
Disposed of, falling to her death
As down below, her final breath
Escaped her lips as shadows draped
Rapunzel and her prince escaped
Departing in the setting sun
Another happy ending won …


There you have it! A brief retelling of Rapunzel in iambic tetrameter. Feel free to try one yourself and leave it in my comments below. I’ll leave you a line and you can take it as a prompt. Start your poem with it and make the rest your own …


The dragon loosed a blazing flame


Until next time, happy writing!

-The Darque Bard


About the Author

James Matthew Byers, the Darque Bard, is a published, award winning poet. He has been in numerous anthologizes, eZines, and magazines, such as Weirdbook, Grievous Angel eZine, and Heroic Fantasy Quarterly. His debut publication, Beowulf: The Midgard Epic, was published in 2016 by Stitched Smile Publications and is a rhyming version of the ancient poem. He has also won or placed in multiple contests in the Alabama State Poetry Society. He resides in Odenville, Alabama, drifting between the forests. A bard’s work is never done.