Examples of Greek and Latin meters in English verse

Dactylic Hexameter

The hexameter is illustrated in English verse by this passage from Kingsley's Andromeda

Over the sea, past Crete, on the Syrian shore to the southward,
Dwells in the well-tilled lowland a dark-haired Aethiop people,
Skilful with needle and loom, and the arts of the dyer and carver,
Skilful, but feeble of heart; for they know not the lords of Olympus,
Lovers of men; neither broad-browed Zeus, not Pallas Athene,
Teacher of wisdom to heroes, bestower of might in the battle;
Share not the cunning of Hermes, nor list to the songs of Apollo,
Fearing the stars of the sky, and the roll of the blue salt water.

Elegiac Couplet

The elegiac couplet is composed of two lines: the first is dactylic hexameter and the second dactylic pentameter. The most famous example in English is by Coleridge ("Ovidian Elegiac Metre"):

"In the Hexameter rises the fountain's silvery column,
In the pentameter aye falling in melody back."

Fred Schreiber, ekslibris@aol.com

Here's more information about the source of Coleridge's couplet.

There's also another, more folksy, model which I just about remember as taught to me many moons ago by a Brother of the De La Salle order of teachers. It went somewhat as follows:

Down in a filthy sty is an old sow chewin' a bean-stalk;
Out of her mouth she grunts, squealing with greedy delight.

Robert J Baker, Classics & Ancient History, University of New England, Armidale. NSW. 2351, AUSTRALIA.

The version I use, which does actually scan more or less as an elegiac is:

Up springs hexameter, with might as a mountain ariseth,
Lightly the fountain falls, lightly the pentameter.

there are plenty of these, e.g.


And the sunshine and the palm trees and the tinkly temple bells


All the night sleep came not upon my eyelids
shed with dew, nor shook nor unclosed a feather,
yet with lips shut close and with eyes of iron
stood and beheld me.


o mighty mouth'd inventor of harmonies,
o skilled to sing of Time or Eternity,
god-gifted organ of England,
Milton, a name to resound for ages.

Rosemary Wright

This information was originally discussed on the Classics Discussion List
Date: Thu, 21 Apr 1994 17:28:22 +0100
Sender: Classical Greek and Latin Discussion Group (CLASSICS%UWAVM.BITNET@cmsa.Berkeley.EDU)
From: "M. Rosemary Wright"
Subject: Re: elegiac couplet
To: Multiple recipients of list CLASSICS

and was revised and augmented by

John Gruber-Miller, Department of Classical and Modern Languages, Cornell College, 600 First St. W, Mount Vernon, IA 52314-1098; (319) 895-4326.

Last modified 8/30/95 by jgruber-miller@cornellcollege.edu.