Accentual-syllabic hexameter in Estonian poetry at the end of the 19th century – the beginning of the 20th century


Maria-Kristiina Lotman


University of Tartu



Abstract. The aim of the present paper is to analyse the structure of the Estonian accentual-syllabic hexameter of the second half of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. The material includes Jaan Bergmann’s translation of the first song of “The Odyssey”, Friedrich Kuhlbars’ stichic hexameters and elegiac distichs, Villem Ridala’s elegiac distichs and some other attempts of dactylic hexameters in the earlier Estonian poetry. The analysis aims to provide a thorough description of the prosodical, metrical and rhythmical structure of hexameter. It reveals that the prosody of hexameter is not necessarily in correspondence with the prosody of natural language. Yet the prosodical shifts in the given material are rather superficial, allowing for the variation of the number of syllables. The Estonian accentual-syllabic hexameter is prevailingly dactylic and thus the rhythmics is considerably different from that of ancient hexameter, yielding to the natural rhythmic impulse of the Estonian language. Such tendency characterizes the location of word-ends, as well the secondary rhythmics of hexameter, i.e. the proportion of contracted feet.


Keywords: dactylic hexameter, pentameter, elegiac distich, accentual-syllabic versifica­tion, prosodical structure, deep structure, surface structure, secondary rhythm, contraction, caesura