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Poetry Guide: Sapphics

The Sapphic stanza is a poetic form spanning 4 lines. While Sappho used several metrical forms for her poetry, she is most famous for the Sapphic stanza. It is not clear if she created it or if it was already part of the Aeolic tradition. Her countryman Alcaeus uses the Sapphic stanza; Sappho does not use the Alcaic.

The form is three hendecasyllabic lines of trochee, trochee, dactyl, trochee, trochee and a concluding line of dactyl, trochee, known as the Adonic or adonean line.

Using "-" for a long syllable, "u" for a short and "x" for an "anceps" or free syllable):

- u -  x  - u u -   u - x
- u -  x  - u u -   u - x
- u -  x  - u u -   u - x
       - u u - x

The Sapphic stanza was imitated in English by Algernon Charles Swinburne in a poem he simply called Sapphics:

Saw the white implacable Aphrodite,
Saw the hair unbound and the feet unsandalled
Shine as fire of sunset on western waters;
Saw the reluctant. . .

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