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11 Saucy Syllables

I was reading today about the hendecasyllable, which is the 11-syllable line used in ancient Greek and Latin poetry. Medieval poets used this line as well, including such heavy hitters as Dante. In English poetry, the term hendecasyllable refers to a line of iambic pentameter with an extra beat on the end (A thing of beauty is a joy forev[er]) but for the original Latin poets, the hendecasyllable had its own distinctive beat. At least, that’s what I read, but didn’t fully appreciate until I found this marvel on YouTube, wherein some seriously with-it dude drops us the hendeca beat, followed by a reading (with translation) of the Catullus poem “Invitation to Dinner.” So cool! (He follows that one up with Catallus’s 16, but untranslated on account of its sauciness.) This video is a wonderful way to bring the form of formal poetry to life, and I’m delighted that someone took the time to make it and post it, for free and gratis. The internet is pretty cool, right?

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