Home  »  Volume VIII: English THE AGE OF DRYDEN  »  § 3. Variations of the Iambic Line

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VIII. The Age of Dryden.

IX. The Prosody of the Seventeenth Century

§ 3. Variations of the Iambic Line

It is one of the paradoxes frequent in prosodic as in other history that this verse, in its origin and for some considerable time, might seem to have been chosen as the very sanctum of the foot of two syllables only. In Surrey, you will not find a trisyllabic foot; except, and then rarely, by giving value to a syllable (such as one or other of those in “sp&ibreve;r&ibreve;t”) which was probably, if not certainly, meant by the poet to be slurred—though it may improve the verse to unslur it. So, in the rare fragments (such as Gascoigne’s Steele Glas) of other non-dramatic sixteenth century work; and so, almost more, when the drama seized on blank verse, or blank verse on the drama. The tramp of Gorboduc is as unbroken as the ticking of a clock, as the “rub-dub”—not yet “rub-a-dub”—of the drum to which it was early compared.