The Body of a Poem

In The Prelude, Wordsworth uses unrhymed iambic pentameter to set the tone for his poetry. This literary style choice is purposeful for many reasons. Iambic pentameter is a strong and steady beat that imitates the sound of a heartbeat and creates a steady rhythm that flows throughout the poem. Throughout The Prelude, Wordsworth is autobiographically explaining the human experience in reflection of nature. Iambic pentameter allowed Wordsworth to create a steady flow throughout the poem to lay a basic groundwork with which he could build off of and expand his thought from, but iambic pentameter also gives the poetry a distinctly human quality. Because it mirrors a heartbeat, the poetry itself comes alive when it is spoken, the human voice throwing life and creating a steady heartbeat for the poem. In addition, because of the shortness of the line, lines written in iambic pentameter can generally be repeated in one breath. This quality allows the poem to come alive because now the speaker is not only creating a heartbeat for the poem, but a steady and constant breathing pattern is also generally created.

It is interesting to contrast the steady, living and breathing quality of the poem with its fantastical substance. Studying the use of iambic pentameter as the body of a poem can be compared to the strong, generally consistent body of a man, but as the reader discovers, the experiences (or content) are the most varied and misunderstood. Iambic pentameter was used to lay the groundwork of Wordsworth epic journey throughout The Prelude, as a body is created to be the vessel for human experience.


~ by dianawitless on August 30, 2012.

One Response to “The Body of a Poem”

  1. diana, you do a great job of foregrounding the importance of form and poetic style in your analysis, but your interpretation seems disconnected from the category theme. I wonder what your analysis of the blank verse, or unrhymed iambic pentameter, tells us about Wordsworth’s self-referential allusions: the “measure strain,” the spontaneous “poetic numbers,” and the “corresponding breeze” (breath) in The Prelude, book I. Clearly, the question of form is central to the experience of poetic prophecy for Wordsworth.

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