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The iambic ( ancient Greek ἴαμβος iambos , Latin iambus ; plural iambs ) is quantitierenden ancient Verslehre one of two Verselementen existing metrical foot in which a breve ( short / easy ) a longum (long hard /) follows, listed as ◡-. Its metric counterpart is the trochee (—◡). In the accented metric of modern languages ​​like German, the iambus was modeled using a two-syllable , consisting of an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable.


According to tradition, the name is derived from Iambe ( Ἰάμβη ), in Greek mythology a servant in the house of the king of Eleusis , where the goddess Demeter, who mourns her kidnapped daughter Persephone, visits. Iambe succeeds in making the goddess laugh again through rough jokes. The iambus is therefore traditionally associated with joke and ridicule poems. Iambos also means a poem in iambus among the Greeks. Because of the connection with the jokes of the mythical Iambe and the use of the iambus for insulting and mocking poems, especially by Archilochus , Iambos was also a term for "mocking poem" par excellence. From the obscene ridicule poems of Iambos -Festes in Dionysos and Demeter cult and the invective of Archilochos and his successors, the genus of passes Iambik forth, whose representatives Iambiker or Iambographen be mentioned.


In ancient poetry, the iambus appears in an ambivalent form with an anceps in the first place:

× -

It can therefore not only be realized as ◡—, but also sponderously as —— and as anapaest ◡◡—.

Dipody applies to the iambus , that is, the metron , the basic element that the iambus appears as in ancient metrics, consists of two feet of verse, formed according to the following scheme:

× —◡—.

In the accentuating metrics of modern languages ​​such as German, the iambus lacks ambivalence and is regularly formed according to the scheme ◡— (or xx́ in Heusler's notation ), which means that it always consists of two syllables, the first unstressed and the second is stressed.

The iambus is a common word base in German. Examples are "Ver standing ", "He set " and "ge nau " (the italics are indicated by underlining the corresponding syllables).

Iambic meter measures

Ancient seal

Iambic meter measures in ancient metrics are:

× —ˌ◡

× —ˌ ​​× —ˌ × —ˌ◡ , also catalectic (yes 4c) as × —ˌ × —ˌ × —ˌ

× —ˌ◡—. × —ˌ◡ , also catalectic (yes dc) as × —ˌ◡ — ˌ × —ˌ

× —ˌ ​​× —ˌ × —ˌ × —ˌ × —ˌ◡

× —ˌ◡—. × —ˌ◡—. × —ˌ◡
  • Hipponakteischer trimeter, better known as choliamb , Hinkjambus or Skazon (yes ts):
× —ˌ◡—. × —ˌ◡ — .◡ — ˌ—

× —ˌ ​​× —ˌ × —ˌ◡  ‖ × —ˌ × —ˌ × —ˌ

× —ˌ ​​× —ˌ × —ˌ◡  ‖ × —ˌ × —ˌ × —ˌ◡

A common epode form is the connection of an iambic trimeter with a dimeter. This form of the distich was used, for example, by Rudolf Borchardt in his poem Nomina Odiosa (1935).

Modern poetry

In the accentuating metric of modern languages ​​such as German, the iambus loses its ambivalence, as already said. The iambic meter measures are therefore regular and can only be determined by the number of uplifts. In German, for example, one speaks of iambic four lifter , five lifter , etc.

The formation of iambic verses in German is relatively easy, as numerous two-syllable words form iambic word feet and with a monosyllabic, regularly unstressed proclitic like the article together with monosyllabic nouns ("das Haus ") or trochaic two-syllables ("der Va ter") let it easily form iambic rhythms.

Iambic meter measures in German

Iambic meter measures are accordingly popular in German poetry and in the literatures of other similarly structured languages. Well-known examples of such iambic meter measures are:

Iambic three-lifter

◡ — ˌ◡ — ˌ◡—

Example: From the evening song by Matthias Claudius :

The moon is on ge gan gen,
The gold NEN Star lein pran gen
At Him mel bright and clear

Iambic four-lifter

◡ — ˌ◡ — ˌ◡ — ˌ◡—

Example: The following verse comes from a poem in Goethe's novel Wilhelm Meister :

Who never be bread with Trä nen ate
Iambic pentameter
  • Blank verse , a non-rhymed iambic five-key , very popular in German stage poetry, especially classical music:
◡ — ˌ◡ — ˌ◡ — ˌ◡ — ˌ◡—
Example: From Gotthold Ephraim Lessing's drama Nathan the Wise :

It cif re depending of whether ner un be stoch nen,
From Above for tei len free s Lie be after !

◡ — ˌ◡— ‖ ◡ — ˌ◡ — ˌ◡ — ˌ (◡)
Example: The Mignon song , also from Goethe's Wilhelm Meister :

Know Greek you the land ? where the Ci tro nen bloom
in dun angles leaves the gold -O ran gen glow [...]?

  • Endecasilabo is the Italian equivalent of the French verse commun with a fixed main tone on the 10th syllable and a movable main tone before the caesura after the 4th or 6th syllable. Loved to be used by the romantics.
Iambic six-lifter
◡ — ˌ◡ — ˌ◡— ‖ ◡ — ˌ◡ — ˌ◡ — ˌ (◡)
Example: The first two verses of Andreas Gryphius ' sonnet Menschliches Elende :

What are we men rule yet ? a living Hauss grim mer Schmer tzen,
A ball of fal rule fortune , a labyrinthine light the ser time .

Often in German poems, stanzas are built from iambic verses of different lengths. So in the following poem Die Stadt Theodor Storms , in which iambic four and three-pointers alternate. Here is the first stanza:

On gray s beach , on gray s Sea
And since starting is the city ;
The Ne bel pushes the Däch it difficult ,
and by the style le roars the sea
A king to the city .

Position of the iamb in German

If, for example, one notes the iambic four-lifter in Heusler's notation, it becomes apparent that the iambic interpretation of the measure sequence is not unambiguous.

x | x́x | x́x | x́x | x́

One has a sequence of individually trochaic bars with a prelude and an incomplete last bar. In fact, it is not easy to tell whether the rhythm of a sequence of words is intrinsically iambic or trochaic. A (not infrequently) hypercatalectical verse could instead of iambic

◡ — ˌ◡ — ˌ◡ — ˌ◡ — ˌ◡

also as acephalic trochaic

◡ˌ — ◡ˌ — ◡ˌ — ◡ˌ — ◡

be understood. An attempt has been made to identify a rising movement in the iambic verse due to the prelude, which is why, according to a suggestion by Ivo Braak, the iambus in German should be better referred to as Steiger . Gerhard Storz saw the iambus according to the pattern of German iambs described above with a preceding functional word ("das Haus ") or prefix ("Ge stalt ") as proclitic in contrast to the enclitic trochaeus. Wolfgang Kayser said that the iambus is more balanced in movement, more supple, softer and more gliding than the trochee.

The tradition of such ascriptions with contradicting results is old, as Philipp von Zesen thought as early as 1641 that the iambus was useful "for serious songs and poems / than for joking and lusting games", namely because of the "male gait". Enoch Hanmann, on the other hand, said in 1645, "an iambic chant rhymes better with happy than sad things". According to Gottfried August Bürger , the iamb is “the only, true, genuine, natural, heroic meter of our language”, a core German verse, although the language actually offers more natural trochies than iambs.

For Andreas Heusler , the iambus was therefore not appropriate to the German, he probably also rejected it, since the annoying prelude disrupted his clock scheme. However, it can also be argued against such an argumentation operating at the word or word base level that the frequent mismatch between word and verse base creates a useful tension that reduces the risk of "clattering" that can easily arise when word- and roots of the foot all too often coincide. As Heinrich Heine writes in a letter to Immermann , it is undesirable "that the words and the feet of the verse always collapse, which is always unbearable with four-footed troches, namely if the meter is not supposed to parody itself".


Individual evidence

  1. ^ CMJ Sicking: Greek verse teaching. Munich 1993, p. 88
  2. ^ Wilhelm Pape : Concise dictionary of the Greek language. Volume 1. 3rd edition. Vieweg & Sohn, Braunschweig 1914, p. 1233.
  3. Ewen Lyall Bowie: Iambograph. In: The New Pauly (DNP). Volume 5, Metzler, Stuttgart 1998, ISBN 3-476-01475-4 , Sp. 853-856.
  4. Knörrich: Lexicon of lyrical forms. 2nd Edition. Stuttgart 2005, p. 66.
  5. ^ Johann Wolfgang Goethe: In: Berlin edition. Poetic works. Volume 1, Berlin 1960 ff, p. 355, online
  6. Gotthold Ephraim Lessing: Nathan the Wise. 3rd act, 7th appearance. In: Works. Volume 2, Munich 1970 ff., P. 279, online .
  7. ^ Goethe: Wilhelm Meister's apprenticeship years. Volume 2, Frankfurt and Leipzig 1795, pp. 7–8, text
  8. ^ Andreas Gryphius: Complete edition of the German-language works. Volume 1, Tübingen 1963, p. 35, online
  9. ^ Ivo Braak: Poetics in Key Words. 8th edition. Stuttgart 2001, p. 82.
  10. ^ Philipp von Zesen: Complete Works. Volume 10, Part 1: High German Helicon. De Gruyter, Berlin 1977, ISBN 3-11-007083-9 , p. 112.
  11. Martin Opitz, Enoch Hanmann: Prosodia Germanica or book of the deudschen Poeterey […] made by Martin Opitzen. But now by Enoch Hannman […] it has been increased and improved with nice comments. 8. Pressure. Klein, Frankfurt a. M. 1658, p. 203, digitizedhttp: //vorlage_digitalisat.test/1%3D~GB%3D9ZQPAAAAQAAJ~IA%3D~MDZ%3D%0A~SZ%3DPT208~ double-sided%3D~LT%3D~PUR%3D .
  12. ^ Citizen: To a friend about his German Iliad. In: Der Teutsche Merkur 1776, IV. Vj., P. 52 f., Digitized .
  13. ^ Letter to Immermann, February 3, 1830, in connection with Heine's proposed changes to Immermann's little tulip coat .