A sentence conclusion formed of long and short syllables, stressed or atonal with a regular cadence. In music, cadenza. It marked out the harmonious fluidity of the sentence, which was naturally arranged in small units, stychoi, i.e., short lines. To give a musical flow to a sentence was an exercise learned in rhetorical schools: compositio verborum. It was done after inventio and dispositio, and added a completely personal note. Cicero was a great master of the art of compositio, but his principles were not universally accepted.
As a rule, the rhythm was given by the ordered arrangement of longs and shorts quantitative clausulae, and by the alternation of stressed and unstressed syllables accentuative clausulae. The terms metrical prose for prose characterized by quantity, and rhythmical prose for that characterized by stress, are unclear and cause confusion. To distinguish rhythm based on quantity, it was common to use the terms numerus and cursus the latter dear to the hearts of medieval teachers of ars dictandi terms which indicated rhythm based on stress and quantity, or on stress when quantity was diminished.
These were the sonorous cadences at the ends of sentences. But the term numerus expressed a very complex concept: numerus orationis, the rhythm of oration; numerus poeticus, the rhythm of poetry; numerus cantus, the rhythm of song. Cicero uses the term cursus to indicate the rhythmical rise and fall of speech: cursus orationis De orat. 2, 10, 39; Orat. 58, 198; cursus verborum De orat. 1, 35, 161; De orat. 3, 33, 136. Quintilian and Aulus Gellius use it in the same sense.
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