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Musa PedestrisMetre and Meaning in Roman Verse$
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Llewelyn Morgan

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199554188

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199554188.001.0001

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The Dactylic Hexameter and its Detractors 1

The Dactylic Hexameter and its Detractors 1

(p.284) 4 The Dactylic Hexameter and its Detractors1
Musa Pedestris

Llewelyn Morgan

Oxford University Press

This chapter focuses on the benchmark metre in ancient poetry, the heroic hexameter. Three poetic forms embodying a contradiction of the epic ethos embodied by the hexameter are considered: saturnians, satirical hexameters, and elegiacs. Saturnians, the celebratory medium displaced by hexameters by Ennius, are probed for their capacity to convey resistance to the hellenization represented by hexameters, and similar implications attach to Lucilius' decision to adopt the hexameter as the default form for satire, but a hexameter which is a travesty of the magnificent vehicle of epic: later satirists offer interesting twists to this combative relationship with their own form. Finally, elegy has an ambivalent relationship with epic hard-wired into it by the uneasy combination of a dactylic hexameter and pentameter in the elegiac couplet, and poetry by a range of elegiac poets is used to show the creative potential of this metrical combination.

Keywords:   hexameter, dactylic, heroic, saturnian, elegy, elegiac couplet, satire, Lucilius, Ennius

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