The distich is a two-line, where the first verse is a hexameter and the second line is a pentameter. There are, in principle, two poems which are characterized by the distich: the epigram and the elegy. The epigram consists, for the most part, of a distichon, where the elegy is formed from the series of several distals.
The term comes from the Greek (δι ~ di for two; στίχος ~ stíchos for line) and can be translated into approximately with two lines. The distichon thus consists of two verses, which form an inseparable unity. Let’s look at an example, where the lifts and counters of the distich are marked:
– υ υ | – υ υ | – υ υ | – υ υ | – υ υ | – x (hexameter)
– υ υ | – υ υ | – || – υ υ | – υ υ | – (Pentameter)
The example shows the structure of the verses. It can be seen that the hexameter is formed from a six-armed dactyl, the latter being not complete. The green mark indicates that the last syllable can be stressed or unstressed, which is referred to as Syllaba anceps. The pentameter is also formed from dactylene. However, after the third and sixth uplift, the reductions are omitted, which leads to a heave impingement because two pronounced syllables follow each other (→ caesura).
The insides were separated from each other by a symbol (|), in order to distinguish them better. Let us look at the whole thing in practice, that is in literature. Let us make use of a couple, which is usually used in conjunction with the distich, because it is also a memorandum for this.
In the hexame ter rises the spring spring liquid column.
In the pentame ter, she falls melodically.
The above example is from Friedrich Schiller and bears the title Distichon. In many sources one can find this memorandum without explaining it in detail. If this is missing, however, it is incomprehensible in its own right and causes consequential errors. Let us take a closer look at both lines.
The hexameter is an ancient verse consisting of six verses. These shifts are basically dactyls, that is, one elevation and two sinks. The hexameter is therefore the order of six dactyls. To avoid monotony, some of these dactyls have been replaced in the ancient world by a spondeus, which is formed by two elevations (see: Hexameter).
It is important that Greek or Latin is based on a quantitative metric. This means that the measure is indicated by means of elevations and depressions, ie long and short syllables. A length can be replaced by two short cuts. It is thus conceivable that a dactylus is replaced by the spondeus. A hexameter can thus consist of spondeen and dactylene.
In German, however, the spondeus is rare. Furthermore, the German has an accentuating metric, which means that we do not measure syllables by their length, but divide them into stressed and unaccented syllables. Therefore, the hexameter was adapted to the realities of the German language, which means that instead of the Spondeus the Trochaeus was used, ie a stressed and unstressed syllable.
Let us now look at the first verse of Schiller, which is to represent a hexameter, how this can work. The first two syllables are a Trochhaeus, followed by a Dactylus, then again two Trochaeae, again two dactyls, the last of which is catalectic, ie not complete:
In the He | xa me ter | to rise | Springquells | liquid Pillar.
– υ | – υ υ | – υ | – υ | -υ υ | – υ
It should be seen how the individual feet are separated from each other (|) and also that Schiller has replaced a total of three dactyls by Trochaea. The hexameter is thus still composed of six emotions and the emphasis is on. Let us dedicate ourselves to the pentameter of the distich.
– υ υ | – υ υ | – || – υ υ | – υ υ | – (Pentameter)
The pentameter is defined metric a little more strictly. Basically, however, it is likewise formed from dactyls, the two diminutions being missing after the third elevation, that is, after the seventh syllable, resulting in a caesura (||). The same applies to the end, even here there is only one elevation.
However, the same applies as described in the context of the hexameter: the individual dactyls can be replaced by spondee. In German imitation, and also in Schiller’s example verse, this can also be Trochae. If we look again at the second line in Schiller’s Distichon and separate the verses visually from each other, the following picture results:
Im Pen | tame ter | on it || she falls me lodisch he | rab.
– υ | – υ υ | – || – υ υ | – υ υ | –
Friedrich Schiller thus replaces the first Dactylus by a Trochaeus. This is followed by a dactylus, an elevation, two dactyls, and another elevation. Accordingly, this line of verse can be identified as a pentameter, for which the elevation impact after the third elevation is also characteristic. The work is thus itself a distichon, even if it at first glance does not seem so. It is thus a mercantile.
In the He | xameter | the the Dudel sack | Air in.
Im Pen | tame ter | dráuf || he leaves them again he | Out.
This distich originates from Matthias Claudius, a German poet and journalist, who mainly worked in sensitivity (→ Literaturepochen). Although it is a parody of the previous verse pair, it can also be regarded as an example and memory verse for the construction of the ancient distich.
Note: It is important that the distichon is sometimes difficult to detect. It must always be assumed that the dactylus has been replaced by a spondeus or a trochus.
Overview: The most important part of the Distichon
The Distichon is an ancient two-line, consisting of a hexameter and a pentameter. Basically, these are formed from dactyls. It is important, however, that these dactylic insides can be replaced by speeches and in the German poetry by Trochée. The Pentameter is nevertheless characterized by the heave impact.
The Distichon is especially characteristic of two poems: the epigram and the elegy. Both forms are hardly distinguishable from each other. However, the epigram is usually only a couple, while the elegy is composed of several strophes and thus also of several distichs. Here one speaks of elegiac distichs.
Note: For more examples of the Distichon, see the Elegy article. All the examples given are exclusively elegiac distributions. But pay attention to the emotions.