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User:Thomas Wright Sulcer/Dactylic hexameter

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Dactylic hexameter is a form of meter in poetry used primarily in epic poems such as the Iliad and Odyssey by the Greek bard Homer and the Aeneid by the Roman poet Virgil. It is a fairly complex rhyme scheme also known as "heroic hexameter".[1] It is traditionally associated with classical epic poetry in both Greek and Latin and was considered to be the Grand Style of classical poetry.[1] It is used in Homer's Iliad and Odyssey and Virgil's Aeneid.[1]

As a rhyme scheme, it works well with Latin and Greek languages, but there have been not many works in which English poems have been set successfully using dactylic hexameter. In English, it sounds like an "oomph-pah oomph-pah" sound if followed closely, and poets have been reluctant to use it; but in the original Greek language, dactylic hexameter flows smoothly and beautifully, according to classics scholar Elizabeth Vandiver.[2] This is a result of the basics sounds of the languages. Since the basic sounds have changed considerably, the dactylic hexameter is harder to use effectively in poetry, although there have been attempts made by poets writing in English. In English, one can get a sense of the beat if one says the phrase "a shave and a haircut" (America) or "strawberry jam pot" (Britain).[1] However, in spoken Greek and Latin, dactylic hexameter sounds beautiful to the ear. While the rules of dactylic hexameter can be strict and complex, in practice the verse allows a writer to change the tempo and rhythm to create dramatic and surprising changes.[1] Virgil, in the Aeneid, played with the dactylic hexameter beat to achieve surprising effects, such as using the sounds of words to achieve the effect of the crashing of waves against a ship.[1]

The particulars of dactylic hexameter are difficult, requiring serious study and knowledge of either Greek and Latin as a spoken language.[1] Students are strongly urged to consider expert guides such as the one by Dan Curley of Skidmore College.[1]

Further information


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 Dan Curley (2010-12-01). Introduction to the Dactylic Hexameter. Skidmore College: Department of Classics. Retrieved on 2010-12-01.
  2. Elizabeth Vandiver. "Aeneid", The Teaching Company, 2010-12-01.