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Caesura

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Caesura

Postby rcpalmer11 » Tue Jul 02, 2013 1:16 am

I understand the idea of caesura in scansion, but I don't understand how one recognizes it. I mean to say, when I am attempting to scan a line of poetry, how do I determine where it is. Are there certain rules or is it only by using one's ear?

Thanks for the help.
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Re: Caesura

Postby Qimmik » Tue Jul 02, 2013 8:35 pm

The caesura is simply a tendency for a strong word-break to occur in a fixed position within a particular foot in a verse. In the hexameter, a word-break frequently occurs between the first syllable (a long syllable) of the third foot and the following syllable (long or short). This is referred to as a masculine caesura. A caesura may also occur after the first short syllable of the third foot if the third foot is a dactyl(a feminine caesura). Caesuras sometimes occur after the first syllable of the fourth foot and in that case there may also be a caesura the first syllable of the second foot.

After you've marked the scansion of a line of hexameter, look for a strong word-break after the first syllable of the third foot or, if there's no caesura after the first syllable and the third foot is a dactyl, after the second syllable . If you don't find one in those positions, look for a caesura after the first syllable of the fourth foot, and then after the first syllable of the second foot.

Once you've marked out the scansion and caesuras of, say, 100 lines and read them aloud, you'll get a feeling for the rhythm of the hexameter and you'll be able to scan and recognize caesuras instinctively as you read--you won't need to mark these things out. Be sure to read the lines you've scanned aloud.

The caesuras divide the hexameter line into either two halves or three parts. The caesuras add variety to the rhythm of the hexameter (along with the ability to substitute a long syllable for two shorts in the second half of each foot).
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Re: Caesura

Postby Craig_Thomas » Wed Jul 03, 2013 5:53 am

Usually, you can tell where the pause is without scanning the line, as it falls where there's a clear break in the sense, such as at punctuation or before a conjunction. Where there's no obvious break such as this, it is most logical to take your breath about halfway along the line, usually in the third foot.

sortibus Vergilianis, here are the first dozen lines of the third Aeneid:

Postquam res Asiae Priamique euertere gentem
immeritam uisum superis, ceciditque superbum
Ilium et omnis humo fumat Neptunia Troia,
diuersa exsilia et desertas quaerere terras
auguriis agimur diuum, classemque sub ipsa . . . . . 5
Antandro et Phrygiae molimur montibus Idae,
incerti quo fata ferant, ubi sistere detur,
contrahimusque uiros. uix prima inceperat aestas
et pater Anchises dare fatis uela iubebat,
litora cum patriae lacrimans portusque relinquo . . 10
et campos ubi Troia fuit. feror exsul in altum
cum sociis natoque penatibus et magnis dis.

Lines 2, 5, 7, 8, and 11 are easy: they have punctuation in them. Lines 1 and 10 similarly easy: the pauses fall before the conjunctions. Lines 3, 4, and 6 have misleading "et"s in them: we can hardly pause in the middle of elision, so for those, and for line 9, we'll pause about halfway along. LIne 12 is an ugly one and rather tricky, as you are tempted to pause before "natoque" and "et", but I think he's really saying "with my allies and son, my icons and great gods", and so I would rather put a single pause in the middle.

Postquam res Asiae ||| Priamique euertere gentem
immeritam uisum superis, ||| ceciditque superbum
Ilium et omnis humo ||| fumat Neptunia Troia,
diuersa exsilia et ||| desertas quaerere terras
auguriis agimur diuum, ||| classemque sub ipsa . . . . . 5
Antandro et Phrygiae ||| molimur montibus Idae,
incerti quo fata ferant, ||| ubi sistere detur,
contrahimusque uiros. ||| uix prima inceperat aestas
et pater Anchises ||| dare fatis uela iubebat,
litora cum patriae lacrimans ||| portusque relinquo . . 10
et campos ubi Troia fuit. ||| feror exsul in altum
cum sociis natoque ||| penatibus et magnis dis.

Note that only half of the lines here follow the usual rule of a third foot masculine caesura: in lines 2, 5, 7, 10, and 11 it falls in the fourth foot, while in line twelve we have a feminine caesura in the third. Note also how utterly unnatural it would be to put the pauses anywhere else in these lines.
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Re: Caesura

Postby Qimmik » Wed Jul 03, 2013 5:31 pm

rcpalmer11, are you working on Greek or Latin? Craig Thomas's practical example (much better than my mere restatement of the rules, which you already know) should be very helpful for Latin. I, or someone else, could provide an example for Greek if you are working on Greek and don't already know Latin.

The real key to mastering scansion and caesuras is to read the lines aloud, once you've marked them up. After you've done a certain number of lines, you will get a feel for the rules and won't need to mark the text. Try doing 5 to10 lines a day for 10 to 20 days.
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