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(ăl'ĭgzăn`drēn', –drīn'), in prosody, a line of 12 syllables (or 13 if the last syllable is unstressed). Its name probably derives from the fact that some poems of the 12th and 13th cent. about Alexander the Great were written in this meter. In French, rhyming couplets of two alexandrines of equal length, usually containing four accents, have been the classic poetic form since the time of Ronsard, e.g., in the dramas of Racine and Corneille. In English an iambic hexameterhexameter
[Gr.,=measure of six], in prosody, a line to be scanned in six feet (see versification). The most celebrated hexameter measure is dactylic, which was the meter for most Greek and Latin poetry.
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 line is often called an alexandrine. The most notable example is found in the Spenserian stanza, which contains eight iambic pentameterspentameter
[Gr.,=measure of five], in prosody, a line to be scanned in five feet (see versification). The third line of Thomas Nashe's "Spring" is in pentameter: "Cold doth / not sting, / the pret / ty birds / do sing.
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 and an alexandrine rhyming with the last pentameter. Pope's "Essay on Criticism" contains what is probably the most quoted alexandrine in English literature:
A needless alexandrine ends the song
That like a wounded snake, drags its slow length along.



(1) In French versification, a 12–syllable line with fixed accents on the sixth and 12th syllables and a caesura after the sixth syllable. The rhyme pattern is a a b b (heroic alexandrine) or a b a b (elegiac alexandrine) with obligatory alternation of masculine and feminine rhymes. Alexandrine verse has been known since the 12th century; the name is derived from a 12th-century poem about Alexander of Macedonia. During the age of classicism it was the canonical meter of the epic, tragedy, and other exalted genres. During the age of romanticism it acquired greater freedom of sound and was applied to any content.

(2) In Russian poetry, iambic hexameter with a caesura after the third foot and with a rhyme pattern of a a b b and alternation of masculine and feminine rhymes. In the 18th century it was used in “high” genres; in the post-Pushkin era it is found primarily in antique stylizations. An example of the Russian alexandrine is K. F. Ryleev’s satire “To the Favorite.”