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(hĕksăm`ətər) [Gr.,=measure of six], in prosody, a line to be scanned in six feet (see versificationversification,
principles of metrical practice in poetry. In different literatures poetic form is achieved in various ways; usually, however, a definite and predictable pattern is evident in the language.
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). The most celebrated hexameter measure is dactylic, which was the meter for most Greek and Latin poetry. In dactylic hexameter each foot may have a long syllable followed by two shorts, except the last, which has only two syllables, the first being long; any of the first four feet may have two long syllables. The origin of the dactylic hexameter is not known, but it appears first, and in its purest form, in Homer. Classical epic poets thereafter, including Vergil, used this meter, and it was extended to didactic and satirical literature, as in the works of Lucretius and Martial. In modern languages the only possible substitute for the quantitative differences that were essential to classical meters is in the stress accent; hence we have a noticeably singsong effect when English dactylic hexameter is read aloud. One of the few examples of its use in modern languages is in Longfellow's Evangeline: "Thís is the fórest priméval. The múrmuring pínes and the hémlocks." A famous dactylic hexameter in English prose is in Isa. 14.12: "Hów art thou fállen from héaven, O Lúcifer, són of the mórning!" The alexandrinealexandrine
, 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.
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 is the only important modern hexameter.



(1) In classical metric verse a six-foot dactylic meter with a final truncated foot. In every foot except for the fifth, two short syllables can be replaced by one long syllable, forming a spondee (― ―); the caesura is on the third foot (in Greek hexameter after the first or second syllable, in Latin, only after the first syllable) and, more rarely, after the first syllable of the second and fourth feet. The scheme of the hexameter is as follows (⋮ = Greek caesura, ǀ = Latin caesura):

Hexameter is the most general meter in classical poetry and is used in the epic (Homer, Hesiod, Virgil, Ovid), idyll (Theocritus), and satire (Horace, Juvenal).

(2) In syllabotonic verse, hexameter is rendered by combining tonic dactyls (ÚUU) with chorees (ÚU).

Gnev, boginia, vospoi Akhillesa, Peleeva syna

(N. I. Gnedych, translation of The Iliad).

In Russian poetry the hexameter was first used by V. K. Trediakovskii (Argenida, 1751) and became accepted with N. I. Gnedych’s translation of The Iliad (1829) and the poetry of V. A. Zhukovskii. In more recent poetry it is used primarily to affect classical genres (Reynard the Fox by Goethe and The Seasons by K. Donalitius) and subjects (A. Del’vig, N. Shcherbina, and A. Fet).



1. a verse line consisting of six metrical feet
2. (in Greek and Latin epic poetry) a verse line of six metrical feet, of which the first four are usually dactyls or spondees, the fifth almost always a dactyl, and the sixth a spondee or trochee
References in periodicals archive ?
18) In Hungary, Ossian's hexametric translation is inseparable from the traditions of Latinate Classicism, the Jesuit circle of Austrian poets to which Denis belonged, and Milton's Austrian and Hungarian reception.
When founding Magyar Museum together with Ferenc Kazinczy and David Baroti Szabo, Batsanyi, inspired by Denis, (21) asked the latter--Szabo was an ex-Jesuit poet and could thus be expected to approach the clerical subject with heightened sensitivity (22)--to translate Milton from Ludwig Bertrand Neumann's abridged Latin hexametric version.
Seven months later (11 April, 1789) he sends the first version of "Oscar's Death" to the Baron: "I cannot yet send more of Ossian to your Lordship than these few hexametric lines which I was preparing these days.
41) Retzer may have wanted to give an example of the bardic poetry of Austrian Latinate Classicism when he presented "Mors Oscaris" in this context, in the company of a German hexametric version by Anton von Rehbach, possibly a "student" of Denis who also wrote bardic songs.
Batsanyi may have decided to turn to "Oscar's Death" because Denis offers it in a Latin hexametric translation and the Latin hexametric line is more familiar in the Hungarian language.
50) This is rather strange since earlier Ossian scholars such as Gusztav Heinrich or Sandor Maller do point to Denis as a possible source although the earlier refers to him as a general source to most of his translations besides Harold, and the latter means the hexametric form which Batsanyi borrowed.
58) Petersen does not deviate from Harold in significant places and Rehbach's hexameters, for the most part, could not possibly have been of much help when forming the Hungarian hexametric lines.