Elegiac Couplets Explained

Statue of Ovid in Italy
Statue of Ovid in Italy.

Angelo D'Amico / Getty Images

An elegiac couplet is a pair of sequential lines in poetry in which the first line is written in dactylic hexameter and the second line in dactylic pentameter. The Roman poet Ennius introduced the elegiac couplet to Latin poetry for themes less lofty than that of epic, for which dactylic hexameter was suited.

The typical meter of an elegiac couplet can be represented as:

¯ ˘ ˘ | ¯ ˘ ˘ | ¯ ˘ ˘ | ¯ ˘ ˘ | ¯ ˘ ˘ | ¯ x
¯ ˘ ˘ | ¯ ˘ ˘ | ¯ | ¯ ˘ ˘ | ¯ ˘ ˘ | ¯

The first two lines of Ovid's Amores I, which is written in elegiac couplets, can be scanned (a note on scansion in Latin poetry) as follows, where bolding marks the long syllables, the non-bold are short or anceps, dashes separate syllables, spaces separate words, and the ends of feet are marked by vertical lines:

Ar-ma gra- | nu-me- | vi-o- | len-ta-que | bel-la pa- | -bam
ē
-de-re, | -te-ri- | ā | con-ve-ni- | en-te mo- | dīs.
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Gill, N.S. "Elegiac Couplets Explained." ThoughtCo, Aug. 28, 2020, thoughtco.com/examples-of-elegiac-couplet-118817. Gill, N.S. (2020, August 28). Elegiac Couplets Explained. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/examples-of-elegiac-couplet-118817 Gill, N.S. "Elegiac Couplets Explained." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/examples-of-elegiac-couplet-118817 (accessed September 16, 2021).