Talk:Dactylic hexameter

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Could someone add transliteration from the greek on the page? I know some greek letters, but not enough to read it, and I hate coming across something in another language I can't even pronounce when I'm reading. It breaks things up and makes it harder to analyze if I can't pronounce what I'm seeing. Bobbias (talk) 19:33, 20 December 2009 (UTC)


I hesitate to make statements about how common thy terminology is, but I can say that all of the noteworthy poets at least one prominent United States university use the terms "stressed" and "unstressed" rather than "long" and "short." I haven't thought of a way to add the other terms without making the entry unwieldy, so I'll leave it to your discretion.  :-) --Koyaanis Qatsi


stressed & unstressed are right for English, but Greek and Latin poetry work somewhat differently -- though they both HAD syllable stress, the poetry is better thought of in terms of sung music with the lengths of notes. Greek also had pitch, but that's a different matter and not perfectly understood, anyway. So, think of long syllables as half notes and short syllables as quarter notes and you're not too far off - and it will help you remember that the poetry was mean to be performed orally even when it was composed on the page. This system was somewhat artificial for Latin and had been adopted wholesale from Greek metrics, but it worked. We should distinguish this on the entry. --MichaelTinkler


You're right; I was thinking only of English; and it's best to keep that distinction. I have no experience with Greek or Latin poetry, aside from reading them in mediocre to good translations; I think I'll defer to you. --KQ


What about "heavy" and "light"? Some academics use these terms to avoid confusion with vowel length (long vowels [or diphthongs] make a syllable heavy but short ones don't necessarily make it light).

Also, can anyone vouch for the reasoning given for the ill repute of the Cicero line? I thought it had more to do with the cacophonous repetition of the syllables "natam" (and the unbelievably arrogant sentiment). Ou tis 23:00, 27 March 2006 (UTC)


I like the terms heavy and light. And I agree with you about Cicero. Overuse of spondees was bad, and their use in both of the first two feet in a line was generally frowned upon. But the heavily spondaic line was admissable and even preferable in certain circumstances - an author might wish, for example, to create a sort of spoken equivalent of a dramatic pause - and I think it's alright in this Cicero line provided he didn't do it too often (which he didn't). Cicero's metrical style is usually condemned as forced and repetitive, containing technically proficient lines but with little enjambment or interesting variation in word order, metre or placement of hiatus. In fact Cicero seems to have established many of the conventions used by later poets. For really bad lines look to Ennius where there are examples of almost everything that was avoided by the later poets.--Lo2u 15:30, 8 May 2006 (UTC)

is there any way we can hear these?[edit]

are there english and greek examples online, that could give foreigners a rough idea how they should sound?

Unicode notation?[edit]

Instead of using the clumsy use of "U" to denote two-shorts-or-one-long, we could use Unicode to get the proper signs, like this:

–⏕ | –⏕ | –⏕ | –⏕ | –⏑⏑ | –⏓

However, while this looks fine to me, I suspect some may lack the proper fonts and get squares or something else instead of the intended signs, so I'm a bit wary of making the edit. Are there guidelines for things like this? Alatius 20:02, 18 July 2007 (UTC)

I get squares, I imagine this is a common problem -- might be best to either go back to "U" or create an image of it.118.71.10.146 (talk) 06:21, 20 October 2009 (UTC)

Better Arrangement and Explanation[edit]

Several comments regarding the caesura were incorrect, and the section on the Greek was very thin. I thought I'd clean this article up to show the point of many of these rules regarding word placement, caesura, etc. and thereby underscore the counterpoint between accentual and metric rhythm which is a hallmark of dactylic hexameter.

In contrast to Homeric epic, Latin epic is highly rhetorical, and the meter plays an important role. Virgil is particularly important in this trend so I thought it was fair to expand this section and explain how the meter can be used to create verbal effects. I also just had to include the quote from Horace; though comical in its own right, it also shows how seriously these rules--which seem rather artificial in the modern age-- were taken by Roman writers.

The hexameter was also employed by late Latin and Medieval writers, sometimes with unusual results; I thought a mention of these variations was worthwhile (Latin poetry did not end with Virgil).

I also added some links to sound files I saw on-line. chjones_60656

Digamma[edit]

There are two places in Iliad I.108, I believe, which show the influence of the lost digamma. The first is at the third foot caesura, where there is now a hiatus. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Seadowns (talkcontribs) 10:47, 11 September 2017 (UTC)

Metamorphoses and De Rerum Natura[edit]

Ovid used this form in this famous work. Should it not be mentioned? - Tbsdy lives (talk) 12:37, 30 January 2008 (UTC)

Lucretius definitely also needs a mention.

Added Metamorphoses. 108.69.134.228 (talk) 09:46, 12 February 2016 (UTC)

Humanist Latin Poets[edit]

I think the article brushes aside the humanist poets too easily. There was a really remarkable output of hexameter verse by people such as Vida, Politian, Pontanus, Fracastor, Naugerius, Palearius, to name some Italians alone. If not the highest poetry, they showed an amazing virtuosity in their command of Latin. A good place to find them, recommended by Henry Hallam, is Pope's anthology Selecta Poemata Italorum Qui Latine Scripserunt.  Seadowns (talk) 09:44, 2 September 2017 (UTC)

Bridges[edit]

Is the description of "Meyer's bridge" in the article correct?

The first, known as Meyer's Bridge, is in the second foot: if the second foot is a dactyl, the two short syllables must be part of the same word-unit.

As stated, this seems to be violated by the opening lines of the Iliad and the Aeneid both:

μῆνιν ἄειδε, θεά, Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος
Arma virumque cano, Troiae qui primus ab oris

As far as I understand the quoted rule, it says that the word break between "ἄειδε" and "θεά" is not allowed, nor is the one between "virumque" and "cano". Neither does the English verse

This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks

follow the rule. If it is as universal as it is implied, shouldn't the article contain more examples that actually respect it? –Henning Makholm (talk) 15:28, 15 November 2009 (UTC)

This stuff about bridges should be left out. Any value it may have would be too advanced for a rudimentary article like this. Also, is a word-unit something different from a word? Seadowns (talk) 00:37, 2 September 2017 (UTC)
I agree. It isn't an essential part of the description of a hexameter, in view of the fact that the very first line of the Iliad contradicts it. I will delete the paragraph. Kanjuzi (talk) 06:02, 3 September 2017 (UTC)

Caesuras[edit]

The statement that a caesura is a break in sense, rather like a comma, is incorrect. It is the end of a word, which may or may not coincide with a break in sense. Seadowns (talk) 18:42, 28 August 2017 (UTC)

Quite right. I have changed it. Kanjuzi (talk) 05:21, 30 August 2017 (UT

i suggest cutting out the last two sentences of the paragraph.. The last but one is unimportant, if true. The last one has no meaning that I can find. Is there an example of what it is trying to say? Seadowns (talk) 00:29, 2 September 2017 (UTC)

Grammar First, then Poetry[edit]

"The sixth foot is always a spondee, though it may be anceps". "Always" means forever, permanently... there should be no "though" as "always" is an absolute; never varied. Please fix it whom is better then I at poetry. 108.38.36.17 (talk) 23:16, 26 February 2012 (UTC)

Bolded note?[edit]

I have no idea why the second note on this page is written in bold text. I've tried looking at the page but can't seem to figure it out. Anybody else know? 23:12, 23 October 2012 (UTC) — Preceding unsigned comment added by 50.4.35.41 (talk)

English hexameter[edit]

English metrical form relies on stress, not quantity. The vowel sound in 'pig' is not made longer by having two consonants after it. Pamour (talk) 21:47, 17 March 2013 (UTC)

Well, this one does say it's in quantitative meter, and I think it does a good job at demonstrating how that would feel in English. But you are right, there is a piglet in the ointment. To fix that, you could pronounce the g syllabically (or as guh), start the m sound early (pigm-), insert an a- prefix (a-munching) - or perhaps replace the pig with a boar. But I do like it the way it is. Perhaps the word break gives it some brevis in longo allowance? 81.159.72.169 (talk) 17:13, 5 August 2013 (UTC)

The deep dark dell line can be read as in stress metre too. It is the first line of an elegiac couplet, and the pentameter reads "Out of her mouth came forth yesterday's dinner and tea". I don't know the poet's name. Seadowns (talk) 10:53, 11 September 2017 (UTC)

Ennius's spondees[edit]

"The following lines of Ennius would not have been felt admissible by later authors since they both contain repeated spondees at the beginning of consecutive lines..." But this isn't actually true, since for example Virgil writes in Dido's curse, in consecutive lines (Aeneid 4.607f):

Sol, qui terrarum flammis opera omnia lustras,
| – – | – – | – – | – u u | – u u | – – |
tuque harum interpres curarum et conscia Iuno,
| – – | – – | – – | – – | – u u | – – |

Perhaps the statement should be modified or omitted therefore. Kanjuzi (talk) 20:40, 29 March 2017 (UTC)