III. THE STANDARD STICHIC METRES

STICHIC metres are those in which the same verse-pattern is repeated line after line with no strophic structure. The greater part of Greek poetry is composed in such metres, especially the dactylic hexameter and the iambic trimeter. We shall also deal in this chapter with the elegiac couplet, the trochaic, iambic and anapaestic tetrameters, and the choliambic.


A. THE DACTYLIC HEXAMETER

This is the metre of Homer and Hesiod and of all later epic and most didactic poetry. It was also used for poems of various other kinds, including short things such as oracles and riddles; and until about 550 BC it was the usual metre for verse inscriptions. It is traditionally thought of as made up of six dactylic feet or metra (- ̮ + ̮ + ̅), of which the last is catalectic (- ×):


The symbols ⋮ and : indicate that there is always a caesura at (at least) one of the places so marked. It is normally at one of the two alternative places in the third foot, but just occasionally a long word extends across the whole of that foot and to the caesura after the fourth princeps. Caesurae after the third and fourth principes are known as penthemimeral and hephthemimeral respectively. In the third foot the 'feminine' caesura - ̮ ∣ ̮ predominates over the 'masculine' - ∣ | ̮ + ̮ + ̅ in the proportion 4:3, and is more often presupposed by formulaic phrases.

In view of the regular word-break in the third foot we may regard the hexameter as consisting of two cola,
- ̮ ̮ - ̮ ̮ - | ̮ + ̮ + ̅ - ̮ ̮ - ̮ ̮ - × ∥
or - ̮ ̮ - ̮ ̮ - ̮ | ̮ - ̮ ̮ - ̮ ̮ - × ∥
The same cola occur independently in other metres. These are the real structural units, not the notional 'feet'. Many of the repeated phrases of epic are designed to fill one or other colon.

-19-

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Introduction to Greek Metre
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents vii
  • Metrical Symbols ix
  • Abbreviations for Text Collections xi
  • I. the Nature of Greek Metre 1
  • Ii. Prosody 10
  • Iii. the Standard Stichic Metres 19
  • Iv. the Lyric Poets 31
  • V. the Lyric Metres of Drama 48
  • Vi. the Later Centuries 68
  • Glossary-Index 85
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