Poetry Guide: Dactyl
A dactyl (Gr. δάκτυλος dáktulos, "finger") is an element of meter in poetry. In quantitative verse, such as Greek or Latin, a dactyl is a long syllable followed by two short syllables. In accentual verse, such as English, it is a stressed syllable followed by two unstressed syllables.
An example of dactylic meter is the first line of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem Evangeline, which is in dactylic hexameter :
- This is the / forest prim- / eval. The / murmuring / pines and the / hemlocks,
The first five feet of the line are dactyls, and the sixth is a trochee.
A more modern example is the Beatles song "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds":
- Picture your self in a boat on a river with
- tangerine tree-ees and marmalade skii-ii-es.
The song is in written in dactylic tetrameter, and has the rhythm of a waltz. The word "skies" takes up a full three beats.