The History of the Development of the Hexameter in German Poetry
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Abstract: The article traces the history of the development of the hexameter on German soil: from the use of the Leonin hexameter in the Middle Ages and the Reformation, the mixed Latin-German hexameter in the period of humanism (in the form of carmina eroica) and the German hexameter in the 18th–19th centuries (mainly in the form of elegy, epigram and idyll) to derivatives and ironic forms of the XX century (memorandum, instructive poem, etc.). Klopstock played a significant role in the spread of the hexameter in German poetry, bringing a fresh stream to German poetry by rejecting the prevailing in the 17th century predominantly alternating Alexandrian verse. Voss also inspired his contemporaries to create distiches with his translations of Homer’s poems. The flowering of the hexameter falls on the period of classicism: Goethe and Schiller created the best and purest examples of this poetic meter. Goethe and Schiller during the Enlightenment, Hölderlin, Novalis and Kleist in romanticism, Rückert, Platen and Mörike in post-romanticism introduced variety and movement into the hexameter by means of different types of caesura in verse. Austrian poets (Saar, Weinheber, Bachmann) appeal to hexameter as a classic form of German verse, Hauptmann uses it to create a large poetic form. The poets of the pre-war and war period (Colmar, Schröder, Holthusen) seek in him an aesthetic support in an era of timelessness. Poets of the former GDR (Brecht, Bobrowski, Müller), poets of the Federal Republic of Germany (Grünbein, Herbst) use it sporadically and in a transformed form, but at the same time take into account the thematic and genre traditions associated with this antique meter. Most foreign researchers, when determining the hexameter, speak of its dactylic component and only from the middle of the 20th century some of them (Kayser, Mönnighof) note, in addition to the spondees, the possibility of using chorees in the initial syllables of a verse.
Key words: Hexameter; Leonine verse; elegiac distich; idyll; epigram; didactic poem.
Andreiushkina, T. N. (2021). The History of the Development of the Hexameter in German Poetry. In Philological Class. 2021. Vol. 26 ⋅ №1. P. 22–37. DOI 10.51762/1FK-2021-26-01-02.