RHYTHM[*] 607. The essence of Rhythm in poetry is the regular recurrence of syllables pronounced with more stress than those intervening. To produce this effect in its perfection, precisely equal times should occur between the recurrences of the stress. But, in the application of rhythm to words, the exactness of these intervals is sacrificed somewhat to the necessary length of the words; and, on the other hand, the words are forced somewhat in their pronunciation, to produce more nearly the proper intervals of time. In different languages these adaptations take place in different degrees; one language disregarding more the intervals of time, another the pronunciation of the words. The Greek language early developed a very strict rhythmical form of poetry, in which the intervals of time were all-important. The earliest Latin, on the other hand, —as in the Saturnian and Fescennine verse,—was not so restricted. But the purely metrical forms were afterwards adopted from the Greek, and supplanted the native forms of verse. Thus the Latin poetry with which we have to do follows for the most part Greek rules, which require the formal division of words (like music) into measures of equal times, technically called Feet. The strict rhythm was doubtless more closely followed in poetry that was sung than in that which was declaimed or intoned. In neither language, however, is the time perfectly preserved, even in single measures: and there are some cases in which the regularity of the time between the ictuses is disturbed. The Greeks and Romans distinguished syllables of two kinds in regard to the time required for their pronunciation, a long syllable having twice the metrical value of a short one. But it must not be supposed that all long syllables were of equal length, or even that in a given passage each long had just twice the length of the contiguous shorts. The ratio was only approximate at best, though necessarily more exact in singing than in recitation. Nor are longs and shorts the only forms of syllables that are found. In some cases a long syllable was protracted, so as to have the time of three or even of four shorts, and often one long or two shorts were pronounced in less than their proper time, though they were perhaps distinguishable in time from one short (see § 608. c, d). Sometimes a syllable naturally short seems to have been slightly prolonged, so as to represent a long, though in most (not all) cases the apparent irregularity can be otherwise explained. In a few cases, also, a pause takes the place of one or more syllables to fill out the required length of the measure. This could, of course, take place only at the end of a word: hence the importance of Cæsura and Diæresis in prosody (§ 611. b, c).
Measures[*] 608. Rhythm consists of the division of musical sound into equal intervals of time called Measures or Feet. The most natural division of musical time is into measures consisting of either two or three equal parts. But the ancients also distinguished measures of five equal parts.[*] a. The unit of length in Prosody is one short syllable. This is called a Mora. It is represented by the sign ˘, or in musical notation by the eighth note or quaver (). [*] b. A long syllable is regularly equal to two moræ, and is represented by the sign ¯, or by the quarter note or crotchet (). [*] c. A long syllable may be protracted, so as to occupy the time of three or four moræ. Such a syllable, if equal to three moræ, is represented by the sign (or dotted quarter ); if equal to four, by (or the half note or minim, ). [*] d. A long syllable may be contracted, so as to take practically the time of a short one. Such a syllable is sometimes represented by the sign >. [*] e. A short syllable may be contracted so as to occupy less than one mora. [*] f. A pause sometimes occurs at the end of a verse or a series of verses, to fill up the time. A pause of one mora in a measure is indicated by the sign ^; one of two moræ by the sign [macrcirc]. [*] g. One or more syllables are sometimes placed before the proper beginning of the measure. Such syllables are called an Anacrūsis or prelude. 1 The anacrusis is regularly equal to the unaccented part of the measure. [*] 609. The feet most frequently employed in Latin verse, to gether with their musical notation, are the following:—
a. TRIPLE OR UNEQUAL MEASURES (3/8)2
b. DOUBLE OR EQUAL MEASURES (2/4)
c. SIX-TIMED MEASURES (3/4)
- Ionic ā mâiōre (): as, cōnfēcĕrăt.
- Ionic ā minōre (): as, rĕtŭlissent.
- Choriambus (): as, contŭlĕrant.
d. QUINARY OR HEMIOLIC4 MEASURES (5/8)
- Cretic (): as, cōnsŭlēs.
- Pæon prīmus（): as, cōnsŭlĭbŭs.
- Pæon quārtus (): as, ĭtĭnĕrì.
- Bacchīus (): as, ămīcōs.
[*] Note.--Several compound feet are mentioned by the grammarians, viz. Pyrrhic（˘ ˘); Amphibrach（˘ ¯ ˘); Antibacchīus (¯ ¯ ˘); Proceleusmatic (˘ ˘ ˘ ˘); the Molossus (¯ ¯ ¯); the 2d and 3d Pæon, having a long syllable in the 2d or 3d place, with three short ones; 1st, 2d, 3d, and 4th Epitrĭtus, having a short syllable in the 1st, 2d, 3d, or 4th place, with three long ones.
Irrational Feet[*] e. Feet with these apparent quantities do not always occupy equal time, but may be contracted or prolonged to suit the series in which they occur. They are then called irrational, because the thesis and arsis do not have their normal ratio.5 Such are:— Irrational Spondee: (in place of a Trochee) [acutemacr] > (in place of an Iambus) > [acutemacr] Cyclic Dactyl (in place of a Trochee): Cyclic Anapæst (in place of an Iambus): The apparent dactyl > [acutebreve] ˘, as a substitute for an iambus, and the apparent anapæst [acutebreve] ˘ >, as a substitute for a trochee, occur frequently in the dramatic writers.
[*] Note.--Narrative poetry was written for rhythmical recitation, or chant, with instrumental accompaniment; and Lyrical poetry for rhythmical melody, or singing. It must be borne in mind that in ancient music—which in this differs widely from modern—the rhythm of the melody was identical with the rhythm of the text. The lyric poetry was to be sung; the poet was musician and composer, as well as author. To this day a poet is said conventionally to “sing.”Thus a correct understanding of the rhythmical structure of the verse gives us the time, though not the tune, to which it was actually sung. The exact time, however, as indicated by the succession of long and short syllables, was varied according to certain laws of so-called “Rhythmic,” as will be explained below. In reading ancient verse it is necessary to bear in mind not only the variations in the relative length of syllables, but the occasional pause necessary to fill out the measure; and to remember that the rhythmical accent is the only one of importance, though the words should be distinguished carefully, and the sense preserved. Poetry should not be scanned, but read metrically.