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RULES AND EXERCISES FOR EACH KIND OF
1. Hexameter Verse
THE hexameter verse consists of six feet, four of which are indifferently dactyls or spondees, the fifth a dactyl, and the sixth a spondee. A spondee is rarely found in the fifth foot, in which case the fourth is then a dactyl. The placing of a spondee in the fifth foot should not be imitated by beginners.
The number of dactyls and spondees in a line should be determined by the character of the thought to be conveyed. A quick, light verse is made up of dactyls, while a correspondingly heavy line consists mainly of spondees. The best effect, in general, is produced by a number of each.
The words should not coincide with the feet. The harmony and rhythm of the line demand that they extend from one foot to the other. The violation of this rule often makes a hexameter line mere prose:
Aurea scribis carmina, Iuli, maxime vatum. Caesura. As has been said before, there are several places in a hexameter line where the caesura may be found. The more common one comes after the first syllable of the third foot. A caesura after the first syllable of the fourth foot is good for the sake of
variety. The weak caesura, namely, the one which occurs after the second syllable of a dactyl either in the third or fourth foot, may be allowed, though rarely.
A caesura must never come after an elided syllable. A caesura in the second foot occurs rarely, except where there is a principal caesura in the fourth.
First Foot. The first foot in a hexameter line should preferably be a dactyl, though the spondee is not forbidden. Rarely is a spondee found there belonging to a sentence of the previous line and followed by a pause. The few instances of the kind, found in Virgil, may be reduced to the following cases:
a) When the spondaic word is followed by a copulative conjunction connecting it with the next proposition:
Atque ipsae memores redeunt in tecta suosque
Virgil, Georgics, III,
b) When a repeated particle is nearly equivalent to a connective conjunction:
Sic canibus catulos similes sic matribus haedos
c) When the word so placed is emphatic:
Ingens quod torva . . .
d) A spondee, consisting of a trisyllable with its final syllable elided, is sometimes found in this position:
Alternis igitur contendere versibus ambo
Coepere alternos musae. Virgil, Eclogue, VII, 18.
Second Foot. The second foot should not be followed by a pause unless the last syllable be elided and
the next word be a monosyllable, or it ends in a monosyllable. Such particles as et, ac, and aut generally follow the elision in Virgil:
Third Foot. The strong caesura, that is the one coming after the first syllable of the third foot, occurs in by far the greatest number of verses. one to be generally used by versifiers.
This is the
If the weak caesura occurs, namely the one after the second syllable of a dactyl in the third foot, a second caesura is generally found either in the second or fourth foot, or in both:
Dixit, et, os impressa torso, 'moriemur inultae.' Aeneid, IV, 659.
According to Herman this caesura is most suited for weak arguments.
Verses divided in the middle were greatly objected to by the ancient critics, but they are by no means
When the third foot has the strong caesura, it may be followed by a monosyllable, or a word of two short syllables.
The equal division of a verse into two parts is less pleasing when the third foot is a spondee.
Fourth Foot. If the first two feet in a line are dactyls, the fourth is preferably a spondee, unless a light, tripping line is desired.
If a spondee occurs in the fifth foot, the fourth must be a dactyl. This combination is too rare to be imitated.
Fifth Foot. This must be a dactyl, as the spondee is not very common in this position.
The fifth foot may be formed of a single word, or by two words, the second of which forms part of the sixth foot:
A monosyllable followed by a quadrisyllable for the fifth and sixth feet, or a single word by itself completing the two feet is not good:
A fifth foot formed of two words does not sound well if the first be a monosyllable; a dissyllable followed by a monosyllable may be suitable:
A word of more than three syllables may be used for the fourth and fifth feet occasionally:
Ca rentia signa.
Sixth Foot. This is always a spondee. The last syllable may be either long, short, or common, as the ancients disregarded its length. A syllable long by nature, or ending in a consonant, was generally preferred. The short vowel at the end of a line is not, however, rare.
A noun, pronoun, or verb is to be preferred to any other part of speech, but the exceptions to this are very common.
A monosyllable at the end of a line, unless it be for effect, is not to be allowed. The following examples, taken from Virgil and Horace, aim at a particular effect, but they are not to be imitated. Est, preceded by a word whose final syllable is elided, is allowed.
Procumbit hu mi bos. Aeneid, V, 481.
Parturiunt montes, nascetur | ridiculus mus.
Mutatae agnoscunt excussaque | pectore | Juno est. Aeneid, V, 679.
Si vis me | flere dolendum est. Ars Poetica, l. 102.
2. Exercises in Hexameter Verse
I. THE FIFTH AND SIXTH FEET
As the fifth and sixth feet of a hexameter line are necessarily fixed and, moreover, contribute most to the effect of the verse, they will furnish a little difficulty to the student in the beginning. For this reason, we begin the exercises with practice in these two feet.
As we have said in the rules for the fifth and sixth feet (page 26), they may be formed in various ways: a word completing each foot; a dissyllable followed by a trisyllable or by a monosyllable and dissyllable; a word of more than three syllables (forming part of the fourth foot) followed by a dissyllable.
a) Murmura montis.
b) Alta parentum.
c) Carentia signa.
d) Comitumque sulorum.
Read over carefully the rules for the fifth and sixth feet (page 26).