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Meters of Catullus

Please note that long syllables are marked by bold print.

Catullus was fond of hendecasyllabic meter which consists of 11 syllables divided into five feet. The opening foot is most commonly a spondee (long, long) but occasionally Catullus varies this with a trochee (long, short)or an iamb (short long). The second foot is always a dactyl. (long, short, short)

Example: poem 1,line 1.

Cui do/no le pi/ dum no/ vum lib/ bel lum.
Cui dono lepidum novum libellum...

Catullus also enjoyed the choliambic meter sometimes called 'limping iambs'. This meter has verses of 6 feet with a basically iambic focus as the name implies. The first five feet may be iambs with the sixth a trochee (long, short) or spondee (long, long). The first and third feet may be spondee but the fifth foot is always an iamb which gives the sound a halting or limping movement.

Example: poem 8, line 1.

Mi ser/ Ca tul/ le de/ si nas/ in ep/ ti re
Miser Catulle desinas ineptire,...

Poems 11 and 51 use the Sapphic stanza in which the first three lines have 5 feet each divided generally as:

  • trochee
  • trochee or spondee
  • dactyl
  • trochee
  • spondee
Example: Poem 11, line 1

Fu r(i) et / Au re / li co mi/ tes Ca / tul li
Furi et Aureli comites Catulli...

Joan Jahnige 1999

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