Summary of Aeolic Verse
Unlike most verse forms, Aeolic is not composed of feet. Instead, Aeolics are measured in cola. Any Aeolic colon will contain three principal parts:
- Aeolic base + choriambic nucleus + one of several Aeolic tails
The Aeolic base is a series of two beat positions, which varies from line to line in any given work
- It may be an iamb ( ˘– ), a trochee ( –˘ ) or a spondee ( –– ), but never a dibrach ( ˘˘).
The nucleus, in every line of every kind of Aeolic verse, will always appear as –˘˘– .
The Aeolic tail, which varies between each type of verse, takes numerous forms (see below).
Whereas metric poetry contains a set number of feet, with a variant number of possible syllable combinations, Aeolic verse offers a consistent number of syllables in each an every line (of a given work). This makes it easy to scan! All variants of each verse will sound the same.
The most common Aeolic verse forms are named for Greek poets who put them too use, and less common verse forms are often described as a variant of these standard types.
It’s likely helpful to consider ‘Aeolic verse’ as a family of different metrical styles, rather than a set, single ‘game’ of verse, with the same standardized rules.
Aeolic is a collection of dialects; Iambic trimeter is a particular grammar.
The Basic (Glyconic) Verse Line
xx –˘˘– ˘–
Note the base (given in unmarked verse, to demonstrate possible variations), the nucleus (–˘˘–) and the tail (˘–).
- The world ‘glycolic’ is named for Glycon, the early Greek lyric poet
- The final syllable may be brevis in longo, where even a short finally syllable is counted a long
A common stanza in, for instance, Catullus, includes 3 glyolic verses and 1 Pherecratean verse
- a Pherecretean verse is a catalectic glycolic verse, that is: a glycolic verse whose tail is cut short ( xx –˘˘– –)
- the world catalectic (from the Greek καταλέγω, to set down), simply describes a verse with a shortened tail
- the verse form is named for Pharecrates of Old Attic Comedy
The Essential AG: 623-4
Famous Phrase: per caputque pedēsque [through head and feet] (Pherecratean –˘ –˘˘– – with b. in longo)
(i.e. head over heels) -Catullus 17.9
[n.b. this quote is actually a clipping of the line’s longer Priapean style (Priapean = glyconic + pherecratean), which I’ll discuss in the next post!]