Trochaic septenarius

In ancient Greek and Latin literature, the trochaic septenarius is one of two major forms of poetic metre based on the trochee as its dominant rhythmic unit, the other being trochaic octonarius. It is used in drama and less often in poetry. Together with the iambic senarius, it is one of the two most commonly used metres of Latin comedy (see: Metres of Roman comedy.)

The trochaic septenarius is a catalectic line; that is, it consists of eight trochaic feet, with the last a half-foot. Only the seventh foot is regularly trochaic. The other feet can be varied with a spondee, dactyl, tribrach, or more rarely an anapaest. There is usually a diaeresis after the fourth foot. It is sometimes called catalectic trochaic tetrameter.[1]

In Greek tragedy, Porson's Law applies at the ends of the second and sixth feet.

An example can be found in the Pervigilium Veneris ("Vigil of Venus");

Crās ǎ / met quī / nūnqu(am) ǎ / māvit, // quīqu(e) ǎ / māvit / crās ǎ / met.
Let him love tomorrow who has never loved, and let him who has loved love tomorrow.

The trochaic septenarius is the most common trochaic meter used in the dialogue portions of Latin plays (as distinguished from the cantica or sung portions), and was the favorite meter of Plautus.[2] Its most famous singular use in Latin literature is possibly the ribald versus quadratus sung by the soldiers at the Gallic triumph of Julius Caesar.[3]

Urbā / nī, ser / vāt(e) u / xōrēs: // moechum / calv(um) ad / dūci / mus.
aur(um) in / Galli(a) ef / fūtu / istī; // hīc sūmp / sistī / mūtu / um.
City folk, guard your wives; we're bringing you a bald adulterer.
You (sg.) fucked away your gold in Gaul; here you borrowed it.

The trochaic septenarius is also used in the abecedarian Latin hymn Audite Omnes Amantes ("Hear ye, All Lovers"), believed to have been written by Saint Secundinus.[4]

An equivalent form is also found in English verse, as for instance in Tennyson's Locksley Hall.[5]


  1. ^ James Halporn, Martin Ostwald, and Thomas Rosenmeyer, The Meters of Greek and Latin Poetry (Hackett, 1994, originally published 1963), pp. 67, 86.
  2. ^ Halporn et al., Meters, p. 77.
  3. ^ Suetonius, Divus Julius 51; Halporn et al., Meters, p. 78.
  4. ^ An introduction to the study of medieval Latin versification[citation needed]
  5. ^ Halporn et al., Meters, p. 75.