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Dactyl

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  • In modern prosody, a dactyl is a metrical foot composed of one accented syllable followed by two unaccented ones. These words are dactyls:

    poetry
    suddenly
    particle
    Longfellow

    Classical dactyl

    In Classical prosody, a dactyl is a foot composed of one long syllable followed by two short ones. Dactyl-based meter, especially dactylic hexameter, was the basis for much Classical Greek and Latin poetry. With the shift to vernacular verse during the Middle Ages, dactylic verse gave way to iambic verse, which was more natural to vernacular speech in almost every European language.

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    Modern dactylic verse

    Since Classical times, dactylic verse has had periodic revivals, but the term is mostly used in the context of scansion. As a basis for English poems, dactylic meter has a humorous tone, as in this double-dactyl poem by Ian Lancashire:

    Higgledy piggledy,
    Bacon, lord Chancellor.
    Negligent, fell for the
    Paltrier vice.

    Bribery toppled him,
    Bronchopneumonia
    Finished him, testing some
    Poultry on ice.

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