Pyrrhichius

The Pyrrhichius (also Pyrrhichios) is an ancient verse foot, which is formed from two short syllables. These shortenings are usually represented by the spelling υ υ (→ verse). Since a footer is composed of at least two syllables, and the Pyrrhichius consists only of two shortenings, it is the shortest foot which can be formed.

In principle, we differentiate between Jambus, Trochäus, Anapäst and Daktylus in the German language and save Pyrrhichius. The reasoning seems to refer to an accentuating Mertrik and not to accept any quantitatively, which is mainly the case in ancient Greek and Latin.

This means that we distinguish vices by virtue of their strokes, that is, by emphasized and unstressed syllables, and do not differentiate between shortenings and lengths within a verse, which, however, is the clear characteristic of Pyrrhichius.

If we were to transfer the principle of Pyrrhichius, we would therefore have to equate the brevings with unstressed syllables, which is often done in verse.

Occurrence of Pyrrhichius
The Pyrrhichius can hardly be interpreted as a complete verse, since it seems improbable and almost impossible to use only unaccented syllables over several verses, since this phenomenon is excluded by our language.

It is conceivable that a fundamental structure is given by a different measure, and that this is broken by the employment of the Pyrrhichius, or that Pyrrhichius is presented to the actual measure. Let us take as an example a verse from Lohenstein’s work “Sophonisbe” and characterize the unstressed and stressed syllables.

Yes us with our flames
The problem here is that the first emphasized syllable in the second half verse falls on the word “with” when we continue the iambic structure of Lohenstein’s work. However, this sounds rhythmic very unpleasant and is difficult to speak.

A speech rhythm or speech can be established, however, if we accept a Pyrrhichius after the caesura, ie from “us”. The whole thing would look as follows:

| us with our flames
υ υ – – υ – υ
We would have exchanged the yambus in the second half-verse with a Pyrrhichius, and in the second bar an opposing rhythmic accent, which opposes the structure of the rest of the Alexandrine.

Note: However, the finding of a Pyrrhichius in German makes only a limited sense since it is a question of long and short syllables and we do not use this principle in our language. The above verse is thus to be regarded only as an example for Pyrrhichius.

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