An alexandrine is a line of poetic meter comprising 12 syllables. Alexandrines are common in the German literature of the Baroque period and in French poetry of the early modern and modern periods. Drama in English often used alexandrines before Marlowe and Shakespeare, by whom it was supplanted by iambic pentameter (5-foot verse). In non-Anglo-Saxon or French contexts, the term dodecasyllable is often used.
In syllabic verse, such as that used in French literature, an alexandrine is a line of twelve syllables. Most commonly, the line is divided into two equal parts by a caesura between the sixth and seventh syllables. Alternatively, the line is divided into three four-syllable sections by two caesuras.
The dramatic works of Pierre Corneille and Jean Racine are typically composed of rhyming alexandrine couplets. (The caesura after the 6th syllable is here marked || )
Baudelaire's Les Bijoux (The Jewels) is a typical example of the use of the alexandrine in 19th-century French poetry :
Even a 20th-century Surrealist, such as Paul Éluard, used alexandrines on occasion, such as in these lines from L'Égalité des sexes (in Capitale de la douleur) (note the variation between caesuras after the 6th syllable, and after 4th and 8th):
In the comic book Asterix and Cleopatra, the author Goscinny inserted a pun about alexandrines: when the Druid Panoramix ("Getafix" in the English translation) meets his Alexandrian (Egyptian) friend the latter exclaims Je suis, mon cher ami, || très heureux de te voir at which Panoramix observes C'est un Alexandrin ("That's an alexandrine!"/"He's an Alexandrian!"). The pun can also be heard in the theatrical adaptations. The English translation renders this as "My dear old Getafix || How good to see you here", with the reply "Aha, an Alexandrine".
In accentual-syllabic verse, it is a line of iambic hexameter - a line of six feet or measures ("iambs"), each of which has two syllables with an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable. It is also usual for there to be a caesura between the sixth and seventh syllables (as the examples from Pope below illustrate). Robert Bridges noted that in the lyrical sections of Samson Agonistes, Milton significantly varied the placement of the caesura.
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