PENTAMETER, the name given to the second and shorter line of the classical elegaic verse. It is composed of five (vfVTt) feet or measures dj/erpa), and is divided into two equal parts of two and a half feet each: the second of these parts must be dactylic, and the first may be either dactylic or spondaic. The first part must never overlap into the second, but there must be a break between them. Thus:
In the best Latin poets, the first foot of each part of the pentameter is a dactyl. The pentameter scarcely exists except in conjunction with the hexameter, to which it always succeeds in elegaic verse. The invention of the rigidly dactylic form was attributed by the Greeks to Archilochus. Schiller described the sound and method of the elegaic couplet in two very skilful verses, which have been copied in many languages:
Im Hexameter steigt des Springquells fliissige Saule, Im Pentameter drauf fiillt sie melodisch herab.
The pentameter was always considered to add a melancholy air to verse, and it was especially beloved by the Greeks in those recitations (fta Seirat) to the sound of the flute, which formed the earliest melodic performances at Delphi and elsewhere.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)