is it possible to adapt ancient graeco-roman prosodic styles, forms, principles, modifications into modern verses? does anybody know good authors who write in vernacular or modern languages with greek iambic trimetre and using prosodic rules in greek tragedy or other kinds of plays or poetry? is there a way for it to succeed or is it more about trial and fails? Name for prosodic pattern in which the last line in a verse is much shorter than all the rest for example is said to be sapphic with an adonic final line. or this lyrical poem of nietzsche's in iambic trimetre which i assume he models after greek tragedy's metre and has catalexis and metre substitutions. https://imslp.org/wiki/Junge_Fischerin_(Nietzsche,_Friedrich) (does his lyrics follow or resemble any ancient greek prosodic styles?) what are the major ancient greek prosodic styles, rules, modifications that are possible to be adapted into modern verses?

  • A. C. Swinburne?
    – user14111
    Dec 31, 2023 at 19:50
  • Hi and welcome to Literature Stack Exchange. Could you clarify what you are asking? Whether it's possible to adapt any Greek or Latin meter into any modern language seems like an impossibly broad question. The answer is trivially yes; what's to stop anyone from trying this? When you ask for "good authors who write ... with greek iambic trimetre", it seems like a recommendation question, which is off-topic for this site. (contd.)
    – verbose
    Jan 1 at 7:10
  • If you're asking whether there is a tradition of using Greek or Roman quantitative meters in any modern language, the answer is trivially no; each language develops its own poetic forms and prosody. So the question would benefit from some clarification. Thanks!
    – verbose
    Jan 1 at 7:12
  • @verbose I may be wrong but I believe English poets have adapted classical meters by replacing long and short with stressed and unstressed; thus the iamb in Envlish verse is an adaptation of the classical iamb. For example, Swinburne's Choriambics was not composed in quantitative verse.
    – user14111
    Jan 2 at 0:34
  • @user14111 my question was for the OP, sorry about the confusion
    – verbose
    Jan 2 at 1:12

1 Answer 1


Classical Greek and Latin had poetry based on syllable length, and not on syllabic stress, which is what modern English poetry is based on. The meters of Greek and Latin poetry are thus called quantitative meters, as opposed to the accentual-syllabic meters, of standard English poetry. (They're called accentual-syllabic because they take into account both the number of syllables and which ones are stressed. Old English poetry was written in pure accentual meter, where the main thing that mattered was how many accented syllables there were in a line.)

British English has to some degree long and short vowels (American English has mostly lost this distinction), so one might think that one could use classical prosodic meters in British English poetry. Robert Bridges (1844-1930) tried this in some poems. As an example, see this blog post from The Guardian on his poem Ibant Obscuri. I really don't get the meter of that poem at all; maybe that's because I speak American English, or maybe it's because I'm too used to the accentual meters of English poetry.

Besides Robert Bridges, there are many other English-speaking poets that have adapted some aspects of Greek and Latin poetry and used them for their meters. For example, Robert Frost wrote the poem For Once, Then Something in an imitation of Catullus' hendecasyllabic meter. But it's still in an accentual-syllabic meter, and not in a quantitative meter.

Hungarian has strong syllable length, and some Hungarian poets are writing in quantitative meters. See this question.

  • 2
    Classical meters depend not merely on vowel length but rather syllable length. A syllable whose vowel is long, or (with some exceptions) a diphthong is ipso facto a long syllable, but a syllable whose vowel is short can also be a long syllable, if two or more consonants (or a compound consonant such as ψ or ξ) separate it from the next vowel. The long syllables are twice as long in duration as the short ones: think quarter notes and eighth notes (crotchets and quavers in UK). Dec 31, 2023 at 20:09
  • 3
    The effect can be approximated in English by taking advantage of how some phonemes and clusters may or must take longer to pronounce than others. The best example I have ever seen is a line of dactylic hexameter translated by Lattimore from Solon: "Such is she who, great-hearted, mightily fathered, protects us." Dec 31, 2023 at 20:17

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