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Reading Vergil’s Aeneid

In Latin Reading III, students in the Classical Liberal Arts Academy study Latin poetry. In particular, we study Vergil’s Aeneid. This work was written in a meter called dactyllic hexameter, the same meter in which Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey were written in Greek.

Reading classical poetry is difficult because we must be careful to read so that the natural accents of the words are maintained, while the length of the syllables that make up the rhythm of the poem are spoken correctly. The best way to do this is to imagine the meter of the poem written in modern musical notation, set into measures containing one half-note and two quarter-notes, with six bars per line. This is dactyllic hexameter. In the score below, the accented syllables are set in uppercase letters.

The pitch of the notes is irrelevant, thought it might be desired to raise the pitch of the accented syllables rather than stress them as we do in English. I have set the poem to drum beats below rather than vocal or instrument notes.

Students must use their knowledge of Latin prosody (Latin Grammar III) to rightly “scan” the lines and identify the divisions of the syllables and their accents. This takes time. To get started, students should practice reading the poetry slowly and accurately, being sure to read the accent on the uppercase syllables.

God bless your studies,

William C. Michael, Headmaster
Classical Liberal Arts Academy

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