The prosimeter (from the lat. Prosimetrum) is a literary genre in which prose and verse are alternated in a balanced way.
Very rare genre in literature, perhaps born with parodic intentions towards the poetics and lyrics of the Greek tradition: in fact the first examples are of the Menippian satires, parodic / satirical genre par excellence. It is possible to place his birth in the Caesarian age with the Saturae Menippeae by Marco Terenzio Varrone, even if this type of composition reaches greater success in the imperial age, first with Seneca in the Apokolokyntosis, written to mock the emperor Claudius, and later with Petronius in the Satyricon.
However, in the following centuries the prosimeter takes on a new guise, no longer linked only to satirical motifs, but also to philosophical-religious and poetic themes. Illustrious examples of this are, already in the late ancient world, the De consolatione philosophiae by Severino Boethius and, in Italian literature, the Vita Nuova by Dante Alighieri, The comedy of the Florentine nymphs by Boccaccio, the Commentary on my sonnets by Lorenzo de ' Medici and Jacopo Sannazaro's Arcadia.
Success and decline
The prosimeter was very successful throughout the Middle Ages, during which the alternation between the omnes carminum varietates, present in the late antique prosimeter, was believed to produce "a pleasant musical harmony for the reader"
Subsequently, an ever smaller number of authors devoted themselves to it, up to a total disappearance in contemporary literary production.
Examples of prosimeter in the contemporary age can be considered the Orphic Songs collection by Dino Campana, The Lord of the Rings by John Ronald Reuel Tolkien or The Levant by Mircea Cărtărescu.
Dagmar BARTOÑKOVÀ, Prosimetrum, the Mixed Style, in "Ancient Literature", «Eirene» 14, 1976, pp. 65-92.
A.M. Turcan-Verkerk, Le prosimetrum des artes dictaminis médiévales, in «Archivum latinitatis Medii Aevi», a. LXI, 2003, pp. 111-74.
prosimeter, on Treccani.it - Online encyclopedias, Institute of the Italian Encyclopedia.
(EN) Prosimeter, in Encyclopedia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.