Spondee

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For other uses, see Spondee (disambiguation).
Metrical feet
Disyllables
˘ ˘ pyrrhus, dibrach
˘ ¯ iamb
¯ ˘ trochee, choree
¯ ¯ spondee
Trisyllables
˘ ˘ ˘ tribrach
¯ ˘ ˘ dactyl
˘ ¯ ˘ amphibrach
˘ ˘ ¯ anapaest, antidactylus
˘ ¯ ¯ bacchius
¯ ¯ ˘ antibacchius
¯ ˘ ¯ cretic, amphimacer
¯ ¯ ¯ molossus

In poetry, a spondee is a metrical foot consisting of two long syllables, as determined by syllable weight in classical meters, or two stressed syllables, as determined by stress in modern meters. The word comes from the Greek σπονδή, spondē, "libation".

The spondee typically does not provide the basis for a metrical line. Instead, spondees are found as irregular feet in meter based on another type of foot.

For example, the epics of Homer and Vergil are written in dactylic hexameter. This term suggests a line of six dactyls, but a spondee can be substituted in most positions. The first line of Vergil's Aeneid has the pattern dactyl-dactyl-spondee-spondee-dactyl-spondee:

Ārmă vĭrūmquĕ cănō, Troīaē quī prīmŭs ăb ōrīs

In classical meter spondees are easily identified because the distinction between long and short syllables is unambiguous. In English meter indisputable examples are harder to find because metrical feet are identified by stress, and stress is a matter of interpretation.

For example, this line from Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida (in iambic pentameter) seems to begin with two spondees:

Crý, crý! Tróy búrns, or élse let Hélen gó.

But some may argue that these are in fact regular iambs, with increased stress falling on the second "cry," and on "burns."

Perhaps a better example is this from Othello,

If I do prove her haggard,
Though that her jesses were my dear heart-strings,

where "heart-strings" is awkward to pronounce iambically and is probably best scanned as a spondee.

See also[edit]