Hendecasyllabic verse

Hendecasyllabic verse

The Hendecasyllabic verse is a quantitative metre used by Catullus. It has a rhythmic pattern that repeats with every eleven syllables, hence the name. The pattern is as follows (L = long syllable, s = short syllable, | = foot division):

:L L | L s s | L s | L s | L s:(spondee | dactyl | trochee | trochee | trochee)

The first foot is also often a trochee (L s) and sometimes an iamb (s L). The last foot can also be a spondee, in which case it is a "Phalaecean" hendecasyllabic.

Another form of hendecasyllabic verse is the "Sapphic" (so named for its use by the Aeolic poet Sappho), which has the pattern:

:L s | L s | L s s | L s | L L

In this form, the second foot can also be a spondee.

Examples of Latin hendecasyllabics are Catullus 7, 10, 43 and 46. The metre has been imitated in English; the most important examples are by Tennyson and Swinburne. In English, the long/short pattern becomes a stress/unstress pattern, although Tennyson maintained the quantitative features of the metre:

:O you chorus of indolent reviewers,:Irresponsible, indolent reviewers,:Look, I come to the test, a tiny poem:All composed in a metre of Catullus...:("Hendecasyllabics")

This form should not be confused with Hendecasyllable.

Example

Catullus 1


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