Substitution 
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The tradition
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Substitution

 
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A poet composes a hexameter verse by placing words into the metrical scheme wherever they best fit. One potential problem is that not every word has one short syllable, let alone two. What to do, then, with words that have only long syllables?

The answer is that the meter must become more flexible. Specifically, the poet, at his or her license, may replace (or contract) the pair of short syllables in the arsis with (or into) a long syllable:  for . The foot is no longer a dactyl, but a spondee for .

The term spondee derives from the Greek spondê, which means "libation". Spondaic feet, because of their stately, "dum-dum" rhythm, often occurred in songs at solemn drink-offerings. 

The opposite of contraction is resolution, whereby the poet breaks up a long syllable for two shorts. Every foot in a hexameter verse, therefore, has the potential to be either a dactyl or a spondee.  Figure C illustrates this notion. 

 
 
 
Figure C. Idealized hexameter verse, with contractions and resolutions.
 
 
Note that the fifth foot is depicted as a pure dactyl.  This is not to say that it may never be a spondee, but that it is rarely spondaic—only when the poet desires (say) some kind of solemn effect. 
 
 
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