Alexandrine

The Alexandrian is a verse originally derived from the French Renaissance era. In Germany, he was particularly popular in the 17th and 18th century (literaturepochen). The Alexandrian is a six-armed jamben line, which after the third uplift, ie the sixth syllable, has a caesura (incision, speech pause) and starts with an opening.

For the first time, the Alexandrian can be found in the French epic of the twelfth century, where he appears in the novel d’Alexandre, a verse epic. However, it gained popularity only in France in the 15th and 16th centuries and is here the favorite verse of French tragedy.

But only a century later, Martin Opitz, a poet of the Baroque, declared the Alexandrian, in a slightly modified form, the essential measure of German poetry. In the first place, he noted this in his German poetry from 1624:

“Among the Jambian verses are the first to be put forth, which are called Alexandrine, and instead of the Greeks and Romans heroic verses are used: whether gleych Ronsard’s verse communs the common verses to be more efficient; because the Alexandrians, because of their vastness, are too much like the unbound and free speech, when they do not find their husband, who knows how to paint them with vivid colors. ”

Note: Slightly modified here means that the design that Opitz intended for the Alexandrian was a little more severe than it was in the original form. Let us look at the structure and then the differences between German and French Alexandrian.
Construction of the Alexandrin
The Alexandrian is a Jambian alternating six-bar reimber. This means that it begins inactively (unaccented syllable), followed by six lifts, each with a reduction. The sending, that is, the cadence, can be both female (unstressed) and male (emphasized). Accordingly, the Alexandrian can be formed from either 12 or 13 syllables.

The central point of the Alexandrian verse is a caesura (incision, speech pause), which consequently takes place according to six syllables, that is, three elevations. This caesura means not only an incision, but can also be the result of an antithetical or parallel arrangement. Let’s look at an example.

YOU sHST / where you sihst vanity on earth.
What this bawt today / travels this morning:
Where there are towns and cities will be a meadows
The boy will be spied.
The above example is a stanza from the sonnet It is all vain by Andreas Gryphius, which he wrote in 1637, and a typical example for the Alexandrian. Let us go through the whole step by step and once describe the respective characteristics of the Alexandrin one by one.

For the time being, we can conclude that the defining verses of the text are the Yambus. This means that an unaccented and a stressed syllable alternate in the lines of the verse. They are commonly called alternating. The work is therefore alternating in the form of an iambic, which can be shown in color in order to make it more clearly recognizable (unaccented syllable, emphasized syllable).

YOU sHST / where you sihst vanity on earth.
What this bawt today / travels this morning:
Where there are towns and cities will be a meadows
The boy will be spied.
It is clear that the accented and unstressed syllables alternate (alternating) in the Alexandrian. Furthermore, we can see that each line of verse has exactly six heights, and the first and fourth, and the second, and the third line rhyme (ground and ground, in and out). We have pointed out that we are dealing with a jambic alternating six-barred verse, all of which are quite distinct features of an Alexandrian verse.

If we now consider the sending of the individual lines, it becomes clear that they are differently emphasized. The first and fourth line end on a female cadence (unstressed), the second and third on a male (emphasized). Since a yambus always consists of two syllables (unstressed, stressed), the first and last line must have a syllable longer than the ones which have ended, since they end unstressed.

The first and fourth verses are thus composed of 13 syllables, while the second and third verses have only twelve syllables. For the Alexandrian, however, it is important that the verse consist of a maximum of 13 syllables, is alternatively iambic, and consequently has a maximum of six lifts, which is why the cadence can change completely (→ cadence).

 

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