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612. A single line of poetry—that is, a series of feet set in a recognized order—is called a Verse.1

Note.--Most of the common verses originally consisted of two series (hemistichs), but the joint between them is often obscured. It is marked in Iambic and Trochaie Tetrameter by the Diæresis, in Dactylic Hexameter by the Cæsura.

a. A verse lacking a syllable at the end is called Catalectic, that is, having a pause to fill the measure; when the end syllable is not lacking, the verse is called Acatalectic, and has no such pause.

b. A final syllable, regularly short, is sometimes lengthened before a pause:2 it is then said to be long by Diastole:

    nostrōrum obruimur,oriturque miserrima caedēs.—Aen. 2.411.

c. The last syllable of any verse may be indifferently long or short (syllaba anceps).

Scansion and Elision

d. To divide the verse into its appropriate measures, according to the rules of quantity and versification, is called scanning or scansion ( scānsiō , a climbing or advance by steps, from scandō ).

Note.--In reading verse rhythmically, care should be taken to preserve the measure or time of the syllables, but at the same time not to destroy or confuse the words themselves, as is often done m scanning.

e. In scanning, a vowel or diphthong at the end of a word (unless an interjection) is partially suppressed when the next word begins with a vowel or with h. This is called Elision (bruising).3

In reading it is usual entirely to suppress elided syllables. Strictly, however, they should be sounded lightly.

In early Latin poetry a final syllable ending in s often loses this letter even before a consonant (cf. § 15.7):—

    seniō cōnfectu s quiēscit.—Enn. (Cat. M. 14).

Note.--Elision is sometimes called by the Greek name Synalœpha (smearing). Rarely a syllable is elided at the end of a verse when the next verse begins with a vowel: this is called Synapheia (binding).

f. A final m, with the preceding vowel, is suppressed in like manner when the next word begins with a vowel or h: this is called Ecthlipsis (squeezing out):—

  1. mōnstrum horrendum, īnforme, ingēns, cui lūmen adēmptum.
  2. Aen. 3.658.

Note 1.--Final m has a feeble nasal sound, so that its partial suppression before the initial vowel of the following word was easy.

Note 2.--The monosyllables , dem , spē , spem , sim , stō , stem, quī (plural), and monosyllabic interjections are never elided; nor is an iambic word elided in dactylic verse. Elision is often evaded by skilful collocation of words.

g. Elision is sometimes omitted when a word ending in a vowel has a special emphasis, or is succeeded by a pause. This omission is called Hiatus (gaping).

Note.--The final vowel is sometimes shortened in such cases.

1 The word Verse (versus) signifies a turning back, i.e. to begin again in like manner, as opposed to Prose (prorsus or prōversus ), which means straight ahead.

2 This usage is comparatively rare, most cases where it appears to be found being caused by the retention of an originally long quantity.

3 The practice of Elision is followed in Italian and French poetry, and is sometimes adopted in English, particularly in the older poets:— T' inveigle and invite th' unwary sense.—Comus 538.

hide References (3 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (3):
    • Vergil, Aeneid, 2.411
    • Vergil, Aeneid, 3.658
    • Cicero, De Senectute, 14
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