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Poetry Guide: Elegiac Couplet

Elegiac Couplet Definition:

Elegiac couplets are a poetic form used by Greek lyric poets for a variety of themes usually of smaller scale than those of epic poetry. The ancient Romans frequently used elegiac couplets in love poetry, as in Ovid's Amores. As with heroic couplets, the couplets are usually self-contained and express a complete idea.

Elegiac couplets consist of alternating lines of dactylic hexameter and pentameter : two dactyls followed by a long syllable, a caesura, then two more dactyls followed by a long syllable.

The following is a graphic representation of its scansion. Note that - is a long syllable, u a short syllable, and U either one long or two shorts:

    - U | - U | - U | - U | - u u | - - 
    - U | - U | - || - u u | - u u | -

Elegiac Couplet Example:

In the Hexameter rises the fountain's silvery column,
In the pentameter aye falling in melody back.

See also