Northern Drive to St Lucy

Northern Drive to St Lucy
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Friday, April 1, 2011

The Quantitative Meter

Quantitative meter is not about the alternation of heavily stress syllables or lightly stress syllables, as is the case with Qualitative meter, but rather on measuring the length of time required to pronounce syllables from the basic rhythmic units. Since a syllable must contain a vowel, it is the vowel which is the focus for determining the length or shortness of syllable. In scanning quantitative meter written poems, this symbol ( - ) is used to show where the long vowel syllables occur, and this symbol ( ̌ ) to show where the short vowel syllables appear.

Vowels in quantitative meter can be long or short by “nature” or by “position”. Nature and position are determining factors for vowel quality. When the quality of vowels is determined by nature, this is to say that the Romans pronounced them as such, having learned to distinguish their sound during the course of acquiring Latin. “Position quality” vowels are created when vowels that are naturally short become long when followed by two consonants.

Quantitative meter in classical Greek and Latin poetry measures the length and shortness of vowel syllables, and is the heart of the dactylic hexameter, which defines the epic poetry of the Greeks and Romans. Homer’s era epics were more sung than recited to the accompaniment of the lyre. This was not practiced by Virgil who preferred the spoken word. Virgil’s epic poem Aeneid is written in dactylic hexameter. The dactyl has a rhythmic shape in the form of a long syllable (-) and two short syllables ( ̌  ̌ ). In recitation, the dactyl usually sounds like “dum-diddy” with the “dum” equal to the (-) and the “diddy to ( ̌  ̌ ). The dactyl (- ̌  ̌ ) is the basic metron of the dactylic hexameter. The metron (pl. metra) refers to the rhythmic unit that can be repeated in a verse or series of verse. The thesis (-) is the first half of the dactylic foot or metron and the arsis ( ̌  ̌ ) is the second half of the dactylic foot or metron. The hexameter which is the shortened term for dactylic hexameter is a verse of poetry consisting of six metra in a row. The dactylic hexameter is the meter of epic poetry of the Greeks and Romans as mentioned before.

In the classical style of the Greeks and Romans it is impossible to conceive of an epic poem not composed in dactylic hexameter. The proof of the pudding is found in this example taken from Aeneid Book I, lines 1-7 by Latin poet Virgil (the English translation is provided).

Aeneid Book 1, lines 1-7 by Latin poet Virgil

1 Arma vi rumque cano, Troiae qui primus ab oris
2 Italiam, fato profugus, Laviniaque venit
3 Litora, multum ille et terris iactatus et alto
4 Vi superum saevae memorem lunonis ob iram;
5 multa quoque et bello passus, dum onderet urbem,
6 inferretque deos Latio, genus unde Latinum,
7 Albanique patres, atque altae moenia Romae.

The translation of Aeneid Book 1, lines 1-7 from Latin to English

1 I sing of arms and a man, who first came from the shores of Troy
2 To Italy, and Lavina shores exile by fate
3 Having been tossed about much both on lands and the deep
4 By the might of those above on account of the unforgotten anger of harsh Juno
5 And also having suffered much in war; until he should found a city,
6 And carrying the gods to Latium from whence came the Latin Race,
7 And the Alban fathers, and the walls of high Rome.

Quantitative meter is all about the alternation of “long syllables” and “short syllables”. Since a syllable must contain a vowel, it is the vowel that is the focus for determining the length or shortness of the syllable. The long vowels in Latin are shown with this symbol (- )and short vowels by this symbol ( ˇ )

Long vowel sounds in Latin are: ā ē ī ō ū as in these words: părātă; cēna; festīnat; labōrat; cūr.

Short vowel sounds in Latin are: ă ĕ ĭ ŏ ŭ as in these words: părātă; fĕstīnat; ĭntrat; mŏx; ambŭlat.

Click on this link to hear the vowel sounds

Diphthongs consists of two vowel sounds pronounced as one. The common diphthongs found in Latin are ae au ei eu oe ui as in these words: laeta; laudat; deinde; heu; coepit; cui

Click on this link to hear the diphthong sounds


ambŭlat (he, she or it walks)
cēna (dinner)
coepit (he, she or it is beginning)
cui (to whom)
cūr (why)
deinde ( then)
festīnat (he, she or it is hurrying)
heu (sigh)
ĭntrat (he, she or it is entering)
labōrat (he, she or it is working)
laeta (happy)
laudat (he, she or it praises)
mŏx (soon)
părātă (prepared)

Next Topic: Classical Latin Alphabet

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Haiti Under Rubble from 7.0 Earthquake

Natural disasters whenever and wherever they occur impact on all of our lives. The Good Book says we are our brothers and sisters keepers lead by the Holy Spirit. Hence, we must do our part when disaster shows its ugly face. Any assistance, great or small, given from generous and loving hearts has equal weight. I'm passing on this information I received that Barbadians can go to First Caribbean Bank to donate to the Disaster Relief Fund for Haiti. The banking information is shown below:

First Caribbean Bank Account--2645374-- Cheques can be written to: HELP #2645374

For more information click on this link

My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Haiti.

Reading Poetry