A History of European Versification

By M. L. Gasparov; G. S. Smith et al. | Go to book overview

4
Ancient Greek Syllabo-Metrical Verse

13. From Syllabic to Quantitative Metre

When we discussed Common Indo-European verse, we said that it was syllabic, but had quantitative endings: the last positions in the line were fulfilled by long and short syllables in an ordered way. Where there was a feminine ending the penultimate syllable was obligatorily long, the final syllable arbitrary, and the obligatorily long syllable was preceded by a short syllable for the sake of contrast (. . . ◡-x ∥). When the ending was other than feminine, the penultimate syllable was obligatorily short, the last was arbitrary, and the obligatorily short syllable was for contrast preceded by a long syllable, and this long syllable was--again for contrast--preceded preferably by another short (. . . (◡) - ◡ x ∥). In this way the last three or four syllables of the line came to acquire a persistent quantitative rhythm, an alternation of longs and shorts.

This quantitative ending formed the nucleus from which the quantitative rhythm of the line as a whole developed. That is to say, with time the alternation of longs and shorts was no longer confined to the ending, but began to spread from the end of the line ever further towards its beginning, following that same tendency towards contrast by alternation, with long and short syllables coming after each other in such a way that if possible no more than two long syllables should be adjacent and in no case more than two short syllables should be adjacent. If the line was a long one, divided by a caesura into hemistichs, the last part of the first hemistich also developed a quantitative ending, which was sometimes the same as at the end of the second hemistich, and sometimes the reverse: if the end of the line was feminine, the end of the first hemistich was non- feminine (or vice versa). This was done so that the ear would not be confused and take the end of the hemistich for the end of the line; we shall see examples of this further on.

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A History of European Versification
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Editor's Foreword v
  • Preface vi
  • The Author x
  • Acknowledgements xii
  • Contents xiii
  • Notation xvii
  • I - Introduction 1
  • 2 - Slavonic and Baltic Folk Syllabic and Tonic Verse 11
  • 3 - Germanic Tonic Verse 36
  • 4 - Ancient Greek Syllabo-Metrical Verse 49
  • 5 - Greek and Latin Quantitative Metre 65
  • 6 - Greek and Latin Medieval Syllabic Verse 88
  • 7 - Romance Syllabic Verse 119
  • 8 - The Rise of Germanic Syllabo-Tonic Verse 166
  • 9 - Slavonic Literary Syllabic Verse 210
  • 10 - The Expansion of Syllabo-Tonic Verse 238
  • II - International Free Verse 274
  • 12 - Summing-Up 293
  • Appendix 297
  • Bibliography 314
  • Subject Index 325
  • Metrical Index 328
  • Index of Names 330
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