The Poetry of Gaius Valerius Catullus/Meters Used By Catullus

A Note on ScansionEdit

Common Features of Metrical RhythmEdit

DactylEdit

This is made up of a long and two shorts: ¯ ˘ ˘

Example
Example:

moēnǐǎ, Lēsbǐǎ, cūrǐǎ

SpondeeEdit

This is made up of two longs: ¯ ¯

Example
Example:

aēquō, nīsī, vēnī

IambEdit

This is made up of a short and a long: ˘ ¯

Example
Example:

cǎnō, ěgō, ǐbī

TrocheeEdit

This is made up of a long and a short: ¯ ˘

Example
Example:

ēssě, īllǎ, dūrǎ

ChoriambEdit

This is made up of a long, followed by two shorts, followed by another long: ¯ ˘ ˘ ¯

Example
Example:

ēt pǔěrī, āb mǐlǐtēs, ād sěnǎtōrs

Meters Used By CatullusEdit

Catullus uses many meters in his poetry. Some are quick and jumpy designed to reflect a jolly or happy tone in the poem it is featured. Others are slow and brooding, designed to emphasise a particular point and to create a slower, more thoughtful tone. ˘ ¯

Dactylic HexameterEdit

This meter is constructed as shown below:

¯ ¯ | ¯ ¯ | ¯ ¯ | ¯ ¯ | ¯ ˘ ˘ | ¯×

¯ ˘ ˘ |¯ ˘ ˘ |¯ ˘ ˘ | ¯ ˘ ˘| ¯ ˘ ˘| ¯×

Any spondee can be replaced by a dactyl. The fifth foot must be a dactyl and the 6th foot contains a long with the syllaba anceps (×) which is either long or short. This meter has a caesura in the middle, which cuts the 3rd foot in two. The caesura occasionally occurs in other feet.

When a word ends after the first syllable of the third foot, a masculine caesura is created.

Example
Example:

cūm lēctī iǔvěnēs, // Ārgīvaē rōbǒrǎ pūbîs - "Poem 64, Line 4"

  • The syllaba anceps has been shown with a circumflex (â).

When a word ends between the two breves of a dactylic third foot, a feminine caesura is created.

Example
Example:

sēd cōnūbǐǎ laētǎ, // sěd ōptātōs hǐměnaēôs - "Poem 64, Line 141"

  • The word "hǐměnaēôs" should be hyměnaēôs, the short 'I' is equivalent to the 'y' which has been replaced to show the meter.
  • The syllaba anceps has been shown with a circumflex (â).

Elegiac CoupletsEdit

The meter is constructed as shown below:

¯ ¯ |¯ ¯ |¯ ¯ | ¯ ¯| ¯˘ ˘| ¯×

¯˘ ˘ |¯˘ ˘ |¯˘ ˘ | ¯˘ ˘| ¯˘ ˘| ¯×


¯ ¯ | ¯ ¯ | ¯ // ¯ ˘ ˘| ¯ ˘ ˘|×

¯ ˘ ˘ |¯ ˘ ˘ |¯ // ¯ ˘ ˘| ¯ ˘ ˘|×

The first is the dactylic hexameter, and the second is the pentameter. The first two dactyls have the opportunity of being turned into spondees. Then there must be a spondee, cut in two by the caesura followed by two dactyls and the syllaba anceps.

Example
Example:



Nūllī sē dīcīt // mǔlǐēr měǎ nūběrě māllê,

quām mǐhǐ, nōn sī sē // Iūppǐtěr īpsě pětât. - "Poem 70, Lines 1-2"

  • The syllaba anceps has been shown with a circumflex (â).


An easy way to remember this is with the famous English elegiac couplet:

In the Hexameter rises the fountain's silvery column,
In the pentameter aye falling in melody back.

HendecasyllabicEdit

This translates literally to "eleven syllables". It is a bouncy metre used for fun and light hearted poems such as Poem 50.

The meter is constructed as shown below:

– ˘ | – ˘ ˘ | – ˘ | – ˘ | – ×

˘ – | – ˘ ˘ | – ˘ | – ˘ | – ×

– –| – ˘ ˘ | – ˘ | – ˘ | – ×

An English example was written by Tennyson:

Example
Example:



O you chorus of indolent reviewers,
Irresponsible, indolent reviewers,
Look, I come to the test, a tiny poem
All composed in a metre of Catullus...

GalliambicEdit

The meter is constructed as shown below:

˘ ˘ – ˘ – ˘ – –// ˘ ˘ – ˘ ˘ ˘ ˘ ×

This meter is only used in Poem 63.

Example
Example:

Ěgǒ mǔlǐěr, ěgo ǎdǔlēscēns, // ěgo ěphēbǔs, ěgǒ pǔêr - "Poem 63, Line 63"

  • The syllaba anceps has been shown with a circumflex (â).
  • Elision has been shown with struck text (a).

Glyconic & PherecrateanEdit

Stanzas in Poem 34 and Poem 61 Combine Glyconic Lines:

– – – ˘ ˘ – ˘ –

– ˘ – ˘ ˘ – ˘ –

With a Pherecratean:

– – – ˘ ˘ – ×

– ˘ – ˘ ˘ – ×

This meter is as old as the 6th Century B.C. in the time of the Greek lyric poet, Anacreon.

Greater AsclepiadeanEdit

Catullus uses this meter only in Poem 30. The meter has no substitutions, and is made up of three choriambs.

The meter is constructed as shown below:

– – – ˘ ˘ – // – ˘ ˘ – // – ˘ ˘ – ˘ ×

Iambic SenariusEdit

This meter is comprised of an iambic trimeter composed of six iambs. It only appears in Poem 4 and Poem 29.

The meter is constructed as shown below:

˘ – ˘ – ˘ – ˘ – ˘ – ˘ ×

Iambic Tetrameter CatalecticEdit

This meter is composed of four pairs of iambs with the final syllable omitted. A caesura appears after the second iambic pair. This meter is only used in Poem 25.

The meter is constructed as shown below:

˘ – ˘ – ˘ – ˘ – ˘ – // ˘ – ˘ – ˘ – ˘ ×

Iambic TrimeterEdit

This meter is three pairs of iambs, divided by a caesura in the middle f the third foot. Spondees can be substituted in place of iambs in the first and third feet.

The meter is constructed as shown below:

˘ – ˘ – ˘ // – ˘ – ˘ – ˘ –

– – ˘ – – // – ˘ – ˘ – ˘ –

This meter is only used in Poem 52.

Example
Example:

Quǐd ēst, Cǎtūllě? // Quīd mǒrārǐs ēmǒrī? - "Poem 52, Line 1"

Limping IambicsEdit

This meter consists of five iambs and a trochee. Spondees can be substituted in place of iambs in the first and third feet. This meter was invented by the Greek poet Hipponax. This meter is used in eight of Catullus' poems:

The meter is constructed as shown below:

˘ – ˘ – ˘ – ˘ – ˘ – – ×

– – ˘ – – – ˘ – ˘ – – ×

PriapeanEdit

This meter is used in Poem 17 only.

The meter is constructed as shown below:

– ˘ – ˘ ˘ – ˘ – // – ˘ – ˘ ˘ – ×

Sapphic StropheEdit

This meter is named after the famous Greek poetess Sappho of Lesbos, who lived in the 7th Century B.C.

It is used in Poem 11 and Poem 51.

The meter is constructed as shown below:

– ˘ – – – ˘ ˘ – ˘ – –

– ˘ – ˘ – ˘ ˘ – ˘ – – (3 times)

Then the 5th and 6th feet of a hexameter to end:

– ˘ ˘ – ×

Example
Example:

quī sědēns ādvērsǔs ǐdēntǐdēm tē, spēctǎt ět aūdît - "Poem 51, Lines 3-4"

  • The syllaba anceps has been shown with a circumflex (â).
Last modified on 2 October 2012, at 18:28