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Leonīni Versus

A name given especially to a form of the Latin hexameter and pentameter rhymed in the middle and at the end. They are ascribed to Leoninus, Canon of the Church of St. Victor in Paris about the middle of the twelfth century, and by some to Pope Leo II.; but they occur in the classical Latin writers of the Augustan Age. Such is the line of Vergil:
“Limus ut hic durescit et haec ut cera liquescit;”

and this from Ovid:
“Quot caelum stellas, tot habet tua Roma puellas.”

In the Middle Ages, however, they were systematically written and chiefly by poets who let their rhyme take the place of syllabic quantity. Many famous old couplets are leonine. Such is the original of “When the devil was ill,” etc.—
“Daemon languebat, monachus tunc esse volebat:
Ast ubi convaluit, mansit ut ante fuit.”

And the famous epitaph of Bede in Durham Cathedral:
“Hac sunt in fossa, Bedae venerabilis ossa.”

And this skit on the legal profession:
“Dirue iuristas, Deus, ut Satanae citharistas;
O Deus extingues hos pingues atque bilingues!”

And the punning line on the Fair Rosamond:
“Hic iacet in hac tumba rosa mundi non rosa munda.”

For a full account of the leonine verse, with abundant specimens, see J. Grimm, Lat. Gedichte; Trench's introduction to his Sacred Latin Poetry; Leyser, Historia Poetarum Medii Aevi, pp. 832-837; and, especially, Eberhard's Labyrinthus, a sort of mediæval Ars Poetica. Cf. also the article Rhyme in this Dictionary.

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