The ionic (or Ionic) is a four-syllable metrical unit (metron) of light-light-heavy-heavy (‿ ‿ — —) that occurs in ancient Greek and Latin poetry. Like the choriamb, in classical quantitative verse the ionic never appears in passages meant to be spoken rather than sung. "Ionics" may refer inclusively to poetry composed of the various metrical units of the same total quantitative length (six morae) that may be used in combination with ionics proper: ionics, choriambs, and anaclasts. Equivalent forms exist in English poetry.
Examples of ionics
Pure examples of Ionic metrical structures occur in verse by Alcman (frg. 46 PMG = 34 D), Sappho (frg. 134-135 LP), Alcaeus (frg. 10B LP), Anacreon, and the Greek dramatists, including the first choral song of Aeschylus' Persians and in Euripides' Bacchae. Like dochmiacs, the ionic meter is characteristically experienced as expressing excitability. The form has been linked tentatively with the worship of Cybele and Dionysus.
An example of pure ionics in Latin poetry is found as a "metrical experiment" in the Odes of Horace, Book 3, poem 12, which draws on Archilochus and Sappho for its content and utilizes a metrical line that appears in a fragment of Alcaeus.
The anacreontic may be analyzed as a syncopated form of ionics, ‿ ‿ — ‿ — ‿— —. The galliambic is a catalectic ionic tetrameter; Catullus used galliambic meter for his Carmen 63 on the mythological figure Attis, a portion of which is spoken in the person of Cybele.
Ionic a minore and a maiore
The "ionic" almost invariably refers to the basic metron ‿ ‿ — —, but this metron is also known by the fuller name ionic a minore in distinction to the rarely used ionic a maiore (— — ‿ ‿). Modern metricians generally consider the term ionic a maiore to be of little analytic use, a vestige of Hephaestion's "misunderstanding of metre" and desire to balance metrical units with their mirror images.
The sotadeion, named for the Hellenistic poet Sotades, has been classified as ionic a maiore by Hephaestion and by M. L. West. It "enjoyed a considerable vogue for several centuries, being associated with low-class entertainment, especially of a salacious sort, though also used for moralizing and other serious verse." Among those poets who adopted it was Ennius.
- The pair seemed lovers, yet absorbed
- In mental scenes no longer orbed
- By love's young rays. Each countenance
- Às ìt slówlý, às ìt sádlý
- Caùght thè lámplíght's yèllòw glánce,
- Held in suspense a misery
- At things which had been or might be.
Compare W. B. Yeats, "And the white breast of the dim sea" ("Who will go drive with Fergus now?" from The Countess Cathleen) and Tennyson, "In Memoriam," "When the blood creeps and the nerves prick" (compare pyrrhic).
- James Halporn, Martin Ostwald, and Thomas Rosenmeyer, The Meters of Greek and Latin Poetry (Hackett, 1994, originally published 1963), pp. 29–31.
- Halporn et al., Meters, p. 125.
- Halporn et al., Meters, p. 23.
- Graham Ley, The Theatricality of Greek Tragedy (University of Chicago Press, 2007), 139, citing the work of Dale (1969).
- Ley, The Theatricality of Greek Tragedy, 171; Edwards, Sound, Sense, and Rhythm, p. 68, note 17.
- Ley, The Theatricality of Greek Tragedy, 139, citing the work of Dale (1969).
- Paul Shorey, Horace: Odes and Epodes (Boston, 1898), p. 346.
- Halporn et al., Meters, p. 23.
- Kiichiro Itsumi, "What's in a Line? Papyrus Formats and Hephaestionic Formulae," in Hesperos: Studies in Ancient Greek Poetry Presented to M. L. West on his Seventieth Birthday, OUP, 2007, p. 317, in reference to Hephaestion's description of Book IV of the Sapphic corpus as "ionic a maiore acatalectic tetrameter."
- J. M. van Ophuijsen, Hephaestion on Metre, Leiden, 1987, p. 98.
- Halporn et al., Meters, p. 25.
- Hephaestion on Metre, pp. 106f.
- West, Greek Metre, pp. 144f.
- Frances Muecke, "Rome's First 'Satirists': Themes and Genre in Ennius and Lucilius," in The Cambridge Companion to Roman Satire (Cambridge University Press, 2005), p. 36.
- Edwards, p. 79.
- Thomas Hardy, "Beyond the Last Lamp" (1914), lines 8–14, as scanned by Edwards, Sound, Sense, and Rhythm, p. 80. The line "Held in suspense a misery" is a choriamb; the rest is iambic.
- Ionics, in Erling B. Holtsmark's Enchiridion of Metrics