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The elegiac couplet is a poetic form used by Greek lyric poets for a variety of themes usually of smaller scale than the epic. Roman poets, particularly Ovid, adopted the same form in Latin many years later. As with the English heroic, each couplet usually makes sense on its own, while forming part of a larger work.

Each couplet consist of a hexameter verse followed by a pentameter verse. The following is a graphic representation of its scansion. Note that - is a long syllable, u a short syllable, and U is either one long syllable or two short syllables:

- U | - U | - U | - U | - u u | - -
- U | - U | - || - u u | - u u | -

The form was felt by the ancients to contrast the rising action of the first verse with a falling quality in the second. The sentiment is summarized in a line from Ovid's Amores I.1.27 Sex mihi surgat opus numeris, in quinque residat - "Let my work rise in six steps, fall back in five." The effect is illustrated by Coleridge as:

In the hexameter rises the fountain's silvery column,
In the pentameter aye falling in melody back.

translating Schiller,

Im Hexameter steigt des Springquells silberne Säule,
Im Pentameter drauf fällt sie melodisch herab.<ref>{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation

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Elegiac couplet sections
Intro  Roman elegy  Elegy in the Augustan Age  Post-Augustan writers  Medieval elegy  Renaissance and modern period  See also  References  External links  

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