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Old 09-08-2003, 10:51 PM
Join Date: Aug 2002
Location: The Bubble
Posts: 1,877
So, tell me about dactylic pentameter

I'd give myself 7-5 odds in favor of me correctly spelling that phrase.

Can anyone tell me how it goes, for example, how many beats per line and how many lines per verse and that kind of thing?

Also, any examples of that in use other than something written by Homer would be much needed.


-Scur the Black.
Considrin' a new screen name along those lines.
Old 09-08-2003, 11:08 PM
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Join Date: Oct 1999
Location: Altered States of America
Posts: 12,722
DA-da-da DA-da-da DA-da-da DA-da-da DA(-da-da).

In classical Greek and Latin meter, a line of dactylic hexameter alternating with a line of dactylic pentameter was called the "elegiac couplet." Here's an example from Ovid:

Arma gravi numero violentaque bella parabam
Edere, materia conveniente modis.
Par erat inferior versus: risisse Cupido
Dicitur atque unum surripuisse pedem.

English version by Dryden:

For mighty wars I thought to tune my lute,
And make my measures to my subject suit.
Six feet for ev'ry verse the muse design'd,
But Cupid laughing, when he saw my mind,
From ev'ry second verse a foot purloin'd.

These lines actually talk about the meter they're written in! (But Dryden's version is iambic pentameter, pay no attention to it, I just cited it for meaning.)
Old 09-08-2003, 11:23 PM
Join Date: Aug 1999
Location: 23 male, Boston
Posts: 5,791
I don't know anything about how it actually works, but here's a line I just made up to illustrate it:

Once in a century somebody changes their consciousness.

To me, it sounds more natural if you leave off the last two syllables. I take it from Jomo Mojo's post that that's okay?

Once in a century somebody changes the world.

I'm guessing this is how an "elegiac couplet" would sound....

Humans have struggled with conflict and tyranny, trusting the promise that
Once in a century, somebody changes the world.
Old 09-08-2003, 11:29 PM
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Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: Atlanta area
Posts: 5,949
Poetry is one of my least favorite subjects, but I can tell you a few things before a real poetry expert shows up.

1. You spelled it correctly.

2. Dactyl is from the Greek for "finger," thus a dactylic foot (odd combination, isn't it?), like your finger, has three parts, with an emphasis on the first: DAH-da-da.

3. Therefore dactyllic pentameter would be poetry in which each line was fifteen syllables, five dactyls:

Dah-da-da, dah-da-da, dah-da-da, dah-da-da, dah-da-da.

Not being a fan of poetry, I can't think of any works in dactylic pentameter.

There is a form called the double dactyl which has an interestingly strict format:

Two verses of four lines, each line is two dactyls.
The last lines of each verse rhyme.
The first line has to be a nonsense term, like higgledy-piggledy.
The second line has to be the name of the subject of the verse.
One line has to be to be a single word.

For instance:

Higgeldy, piggeldy,
Benjamin Harrison
23rd president
Was, and as such,

Served between Clevelands and,
Save for this trivial
Didn't do much.

A google on "double dactyl" will provide plenty of examples.

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