Dactylic hexameter

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The meter traditionally associated with classical epic poetry, both Greek and Latin. A line of dactylic hexameter consists of six units (or "feet"), in which the first four are dactyls or spondees , the fifth is a dactyl, and the last must be either a spondee or a trochee.

The metrical "feet" in the classical languages were based on the length of time taken to pronounce each syllable. A dactylic foot consists of a long syllable followed by two short syllables. A spondee consists of two long syllables. A trochee consists of a long syllable followed by a short one. The "foot" is often compared to a musical measure and the long and short syllables to whole notes and half notes.

Accordingly, a line of dactylic hexameter can be diagrammed as follows. Note that - is a long syllable, u a short syllable, and U either one long or two shorts:

- U | - U | - U | - U | - u u | - -


| Down in a | deep dark | hole sat an | old pig | munching a | bean stalk |


Meter in poetry