This introductory chapter begins by discussing the nature of metrical form, and explaining the various ways in which metre can contribute to the meaning of poetry, before presenting the main focus of the book: the meaning possessed by metres by virtue of their history of usage. The relation of metrical meaning to genre is discussed, and the inherently negotiable nature of metrical character, which is both complex and changeable over time. Greek precedents for Roman metrical play are considered, but the claim is made for a characteristically Roman perception of metrical form, a consequence of Roman poetry's peculiarly belated and derivative nature; and related to that, for the unusually academic character of Roman metrical practice, and the consequent need to study the metrical theory of Roman metricians alongside poetic practice. The arguments are illustrated with reference to Horace Odes 4.7 and Ovid Remedia Amoris, and finally through close readings of poems by Martial and Catullus.
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