Hendecasyllable verse (in Italian "endecasillabo") is a kind of verse used mostly in Italian poetry, defined by its having the last stress on the tenth syllable. When, as often happens, this stress falls on the penultimate syllable, the line has exactly eleven syllables (and the literal meaning of the word is just "of eleven syllables").

The most usual stress schemes for an hendecasyllable are stresses on sixth and tenth syllables (for example, "Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita"," Dante Alighieri, first line of "The Divine Comedy)," and on the fourth, seventh and tenth syllables ("Un incalzar di cavalli accorrenti"," Ugo Foscolo, "Dei sepolcri").

Most classical Italian poems are composed of hendecasyllables; for example, the major works by Dante, Francesco Petrarca, Ludovico Ariosto, and Torquato Tasso. They differ greatly in the rhyme system (from terza rima to ottava, from sonnet to canzone. In later poems, since 1800, hendecasyllables are often used without a strict system, with few or no rhymes at all. Examples can be found in Giacomo Leopardi's "Canti". The effect of "endecasillabi sciolti" (free hendecasyllables) is similar to English blank verse.

It has a role in Italian poetry, and a formal structure, comparable to the iambic pentameter in English or the alexandrine in French. A famous example of a hendecasyllabic line in English poetry is John Keats's "Endymion," which begins, "A thing of beauty is a joy for ever"; the last part of "ever" is the eleventh syllable.

This form is not to be confused with "hendecasyllabics", a quantitative meter used by Catullus.


*Raffaele Spongano, "Nozioni ed esempi di metrica italiana", Bologna, R. Pàtron, 1966
*Angelo Marchese, "Dizionario di retorica e di stilistica", Milano, Mondadori, 1978
*Mario Pazzaglia, "Manuale di metrica italiana", Firenze, Sansoni, 1990

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