Poetry Kaleidoscope: Guide to Poetry

Hendecasyllabic

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The Hendecasyllabic verse is a quantitative metre used by Catullus. The pattern is as follows (L = long syllable, s = short syllable, | = foot division):

L L | L s s | L s | L s | L s
(spondee | dactyl | trochee | trochee | trochee)

The first foot is also often a trochee (L s) and sometimes an iamb (s L). The last foot can also be a spondee, in which case it is a "Phalaecean" hendecasyllabic.

Another form of hendecasyllabic verse is the "Sapphic", which has the pattern:

L s | L s | L s s | L s | L L

In this form, the second foot can also be a spondee.

Examples of Latin hendecasyllabics are Catullus 7 and 10. The metre has been imitated in English; the most important examples are by Tennyson and Swinburne. In English, the long/short pattern becomes a stress/unstress pattern, although Tennyson maintained the quantitative features of the metre:

O you chorus of indolent reviewers,
Irresponsible, indolent reviewers,
Look, I come to the test, a tiny poem
All composed in a metre of Catullus...
("Hendecasyllabics")

This form should not be confused with Hendecasyllable.


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