In Whitman's Hand


About this Item

Title: dithyrambic trochee

Creator: Walt Whitman

Date: Between 1846 and 1855

Whitman Archive ID: rut.00022

Source: Special Collections and University Archives, Rutgers University Libraries, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Transcribed from digital images of the original. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of manuscripts, see our statement of editorial policy.

Editorial note: This manuscript consists of notes about various poetic meters, with Whitman writing the derivation of the term, a description of the meter, and then providing an example of a poetic line employing that meter. The example for hexameter (at the bottom of leaf 1 recto) is taken from a line in Homer. Whitman marked this line in an article published in an 1846 issue of the American Whig Review ("Translators of Homer," American Whig Review 4, no. 1 [July 1846]: 364). Thus, the date of this manuscript is after 1846. The manuscript is held at Rutgers University Library along with several similar manuscripts that are numbered sequentially and probably date from around or before 1855: see "American literature must become distinct," "The only way in which," "The money value of real," and "ground where you may." In his transcription of the manuscript, Edward Grier includes an additional section copied from Richard Maurice Bucke's Notes and Fragments. See Notebooks and Unpublished Prose Manuscripts, ed. Edward F. Grier (New York: New York University Press, 1984), 1:355–356.

Notes written on manuscript: On leaf 1 recto, in unknown hand: "2"; on leaf 1 recto, in unknown hand: "9A"; on leaf 1 recto, in unknown hand: "1"; on leaf 2 recto, in unknown hand: "3"; on leaf 2 recto, in unknown hand: "2"

Contributors to digital file: Jeannette Schollaert, Kevin McMullen, Nicole Gray, and Kenneth M. Price

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pyrrhic, a poetic foot of two short syllables.

an ancient quick military danse


Two long syllables, in poetry.


Hexameter,—in ancient poetry, a verse of six feet the first four of which may be either dactyls or spondees,—the fifth must regularly be a dactyl—the sixth always a spondee,

So thus hav ing spok en the casque nod ding
Hec tor de part ed.

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(Anciently—Certain songs, or satires, supposed to have given birth to ancient comedy.)

Iambus—a poetic "foot" consisting of two syllables, the first short, the last long, as in "de-light"

"He scorns—the force—that dares—his fu—ry stay."



(from a Greek word, signifying "to run.")

A poetic foot consisting of two syllables, the first long, the second short.

(I suppose such as this)

Would you—gaze up—on the—wa ters,

Of the—lordly—Missis—sippi?



(from the Greek word for "finger," the joint nearest the hand being long, the other two joints short.)

A poetic foot of three syllables, the first long—the others short

(I suppose such as)

"Thun der ing—up ward and—down ward the—sur ges roll'd."

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