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Dactylic hexameter

The dactylic hexameter is a form of meter in poetry, or a rhythmic scheme. The dactylic hexameter is traditionally associated with classical epic poetry, both Greek and Latin, such as Virgil's Aeneid.

The ideal dactylic hexameter consists of six (hexa) metrons or feet of called dactyls (fingers). Each dactyl consists of three syllables, the first long, the other two short. Note that the last foot is not a real dactyl, as it only consists of two syllables, the first long, the second (called anceps) either long (the foot is called a spondee) or short (trochee).

In reality, it is difficult to arrange words in this meter, so poets may replace dactyls by spondees[?], which are feet with two long syllables. Traditionally, the fifth foot in a line is very often a real dactyl. About one line in 20 of Homer has a spondee in the fifth foot, and such a line is called "spondaic."

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 | - -

For example:

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

The "foot" is often compared to a musical measure and the long and short syllables to whole notes and half notes.

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