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Allen and Greenough/ New Latin Grammar

DACTYLIC VERSE/ Dactylic Hexameter

615.The Dactylic Hexameter, or Heroic Verse, consists theoretically of six dactyls. It may be represented thus:—

Note— The last foot is usually said to be a spondee, but is in reality a trochee standing for a dactyl, since the final syllable is not measured.

a. For any foot, except the fifth, a spondee may be substituted.

b. Rarely a spondee is found in the fifth foot; the verse is then called spondaic and usually ends with a word of four syllables.

Thus in Ecl. 4.49 the verse ends with incrēmentum.

c. The hexameter has regularly one principal cæsura —sometimes two— almost always accompanied by a pause in the sense.

  1. The principal cæsura is usually after the thesis (less commonly in the arsis ) of the third foot, dividing the verse into two parts in sense and rhythm. See examples in d.
  2. It may also be after the thesis (less commonly in the arsis ) of the fourth foot. In this case there is often another cæsura in the second foot, so that the verse is divided into three parts:—

      pártĕ fĕ|rō´x || ār|dē´nsque ŏcŭ|lī´s || et | síbĭlă | cóllă.— Aen. 5.277.

Note— Often the only indication of the principal among a number of cæsuras is the break in the sense.

A cæsura occurring after the first syllable of a foot is called masculine. A cæsura occurring after the second syllable of a foot is called feminine (as in the fifth foot of the third and fourth verses in d). A cæsura may also be found in any foot of the verse, but a proper cæsural pause could hardly occur in the first or sixth.

When the fourth foot ends a word, the break (properly a diæresis) is sometimes improperly called bucolic cæsura, from its frequency in pastoral poetry.

d. The first seven verses of the Æneid, divided according to the foregoing rules, will appear as follows. The principal cæsura in each verse is marked by double lines:—

    Armă vĭ|rumquĕ că| || Trō|iae quī | prīmŭs ăb | ōrīs

    Ītălĭ|am fā|tō prŏfŭ|gus || |vīniăquĕ | vēnĭt

    lītŏră, | multum il|le et ter|rīs || iac|tātŭs ĕt | altō

    vī sŭpĕ|rum || sae|vae mĕmŏ|rem Iū|nōnĭs ŏb | īrăm;

    multă quŏ|que et bel|lō pas|sus || dum | condĕrĕt | urbĕm,

    īnfer|retquĕ dĕ|ōs Lătĭ|ō, || gĕnŭs | undĕ Lă|tīnum,

    Albā|nīquĕ pă|trēs, || at|que altae | moenĭă | Rōmae.

    1. The feminine cæsura is seen in the following:—

      Dīs gĕnĭ|tī pŏtŭ|ērĕ: || |nent mĕdĭ| a omnĭă| silvae.— Aen. 6.131.

      Note— The Hexameter is thus illustrated in English verse:—

    Over the sea, past Crete, on the Syrian shore to the southward,

    Dwells in the well-tilled lowland a dark-haired Æthiop people,

    Skilful with needle and loom, and the arts of the dyer and carver,

    Skilful, but feeble of heart; for they know not the lords of Olympus,

    Lovers of men; neither broad-browed Zeus, nor Pallas Athené,

    Teacher of wisdom to heroes, bestower of might in the battle;

    Share not the cunning of Hermes, nor list to the songs of Apollo,

    Fearing the stars of the sky, and the roll of the blue salt water.

    —Kingsley's Andromeda.

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