double dactyl

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A form of humorous light verse in two stanzas of four lines each, with ponderous dactylic rhythm. In each stanza the first three lines are double dactyls, i.e. of six syllables with the stress on the first and fourth, while the final line is truncated to four syllables (the first and fourth again stressed). These final lines rhyme with each other, all the other lines being unrhymed. The devilish rules of this verse form additionally require that the first line should be be a compound nonsense phrase (e.g. higgledy-piggledy), the second line the name of some person who happens to be blessed with a doubly dactylic appellation (e.g. Christopher Isherwood), and the sixth line a single six-syllable word (e.g. elephantiasis); otherwise it is all very simple. For examples, consult the anthology Jiggery-Pokery, ed. A. Hecht and J. Hollander (1967).

Subjects: Literature.

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