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Dactylic Hexameter.


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

- | - | - || | - | - |- [QUERY]


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. iv. 49 the verse ends with incrémentum.

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

1. The principal caesura 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 caesura in the second foot, so that the verse is divided into three parts: -

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

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


Arma vi|rumque ca|n=o || Tr=o|iae qu=i | pr=imus ab | =or=is

=itali|am f=a|t=o profu|gus || L=a|v=iniaque | v=enit

l=itora, | multum il|le et ter|r=is || iac|t=atus et | alt=o

v=i supe|rum || sae|vae memo|rem I=u|n=onis ob | =iram;

multa quo|que et bel|l=o pas|sus || dum | conderet | urbem,

=infer|retque de|=os Lati|=o, || genus | unde La|t=inum,

Alb=a|n=ique pa|tr=es, || at|que altae | moenia | R=omae.


1. The feminine caesura is seen in the following: -