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Early English Metre

Early English Metre

Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 225
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  • Book Info
    Early English Metre
    Book Description:

    Early English Metrepresents a new perspective on early English verse and a new perspective on much of early English literary history. It is an essential addition to the literature on Old and Middle English and will be widely discussed amongst scholars in the field.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-2720-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. CHAPTER 1.1 Introduction
    (pp. 3-12)

    One should, perhaps, hesitate before offering up a new account of Old English metre. Dorothy Sayers’s Miss Lydgate, English tutor at Oxford’s fictional Shrewsbury College, exemplifies one reason for such hesitation:

    The English tutor’s room was festooned with proofs of her forthcoming work on the Prosodic elements in English verse from Beowulf to Bridges. Since Miss Lydgate had perfected, or was in the process of perfecting (since no work of scholarship ever attains a static perfection), an entirely new prosodic theory, demanding a novel and complicated system of notation which involved the use of twelve different varieties of type ......

  5. CHAPTER 1.2 Sieversian Formalism
    (pp. 13-20)

    In the previous chapter, I briefly explored some of the problems of a Sieversian metrical perspective. Nevertheless, it seems worthwhile here to provide a somewhat more extensive survey of Sieversian formalism – and what it can and cannot do – before embarking upon the task of offering a replacement.

    At its heart, Sieversian metrics should be understood as a descriptive formalism that provides a taxonomy for metrical Old English verses according to abstract patterns of linguistic and metrical stress. To put it another way, Sieversian formalism identifies certain stress sequences as metrically acceptable while identifying others as unmetrical; the identification of metrical...

  6. CHAPTER 2.1 A New Formalism for Classical Old English Metre
    (pp. 21-34)

    It may seem somewhat incongruous to begin an account of Old English alliterative metre by quoting from a book calledRhyme’s Reason, but Hollander’s list of the formal characteristics of verse can stand as a salutary reminder of what sorts of formal features we might need to pay attention to. Indeed, in the chapters that follow, I will suggest that the underestimation of the role of rhyme in Old English verse has been endemic on the part of metricists, who have too readily limited the metrical tools of Old English poets to stress and alliteration. Likewise, alliteration itself has been...

  7. CHAPTER 2.2 Scanning Old English Verse
    (pp. 35-50)

    The outline of classical Old English metre presented in the preceding chapter was brief, and some account of how to use that outline as the basis for a system of scansion is in order. In the present chapter, I will use a number of examples to demonstrate the basics of my scansion system and to discuss how it deals with some of the verses which have traditionally been identified as problematic or unmetrical. It is convenient to begin with the following familiar passage fromThe Wanderer: As the scansions to the right of the passage show, most of the basic...

  8. CHAPTER 2.3 Additional Rules: Hypermetric Verses, Rhyme, and Alliteration
    (pp. 51-62)

    In the preceding two chapters, I have discussed the basics of the classical Old English verse system, but it is worthwhile to identify a few more rules used by Old English poets involving hypermetric verses, the use of rhyme, and the use of secondary alliteration patterns such as cross alliteration. As I will suggest, the hypermetric verse system stands as an alternative set of foot-combination rules. The poetic use of rhyme and secondary alliteration, on the other hand, involves alternative verse-combination rules (VC2, in particular). As I will show, rhyme and secondary alliteration patterns are not merely random or purely...

  9. CHAPTER 2.4 Classical Old English Poetics
    (pp. 63-69)

    In previous chapters, I have attempted to describe the basic forms of metrical Old English verses, including the rules for their use. These basic forms, of course, constituted the very tools used by Old English poets. In this chapter, I hope to at least begin considering the poetic value of various formal features of the classical system of Old English verse. At the heart of my analysis here is the supposition that any and all of the formal features recognizable by Anglo-Saxon poets and audiences (alliterative patterns, normal-hypermetric verse distinctions, rhyme, cross alliteration, and so on) could be used to...

  10. CHAPTER 3.1 Late Old English Verse
    (pp. 70-80)

    Studies of Old English metre have generally focused on classical metre, with the metre of a single poem,Beowulf, dominating even that field. Yet it is undeniable that a great deal of Old English verse has always resisted Sieversian analysis, and commentators’ suggestions that these works stand as ‘poems of irregular metre’ (Sedgfield) or ‘debased verse’ (McIntosh) have too rarely been challenged. The appeal of these pejorative terms, it appears, derives from the fact that, by employing them, scholars have been able to simply dismiss the evidence of poems that do not fit the Sievers-Bliss formalism. The possibility that classical...

  11. CHAPTER 3.2 Ælfric and Late Old English Verse
    (pp. 81-90)

    The rules for late Old English verse given in chapter 3.1 were derived strictly from poems generally acknowledged to be late Old English verse: poems already included in theASPRand the passages printed as verse in Plummer’s edition of theAnglo-Saxon Chroniclein particular. An important feature of the analysis that led to those rules, of course, was the assumption (justified by the results, I believe) that the metrical forms of these late poems descended from the forms used in classical Old English poems. The articulation of a descriptive metrical system for late Old English verse has long been...

  12. CHAPTER 3.3 The Poetics of Late Old English Verse
    (pp. 91-98)

    Not only did the very metrical basis of Old English poetry change in the transition to late Old English verse, but the available poetic tools and how they were used for poetic effect also seem to have changed. To take only the most obvious examples, hypermetric verses and lines were no longer available, and verse rhyme was an allowed alternative to alliteration; such changes had poetic consequences as well as metrical ones. The general scholarly neglect of late Old English verse (conditioned, I believe, by the continuing reliance on Sieversian formalism) has resulted in a lack of appreciation for the...

  13. CHAPTER 4.1 Layamon and Early Middle English Verse
    (pp. 99-109)

    It has long been supposed that Layamon’s verse form descended from the alliterative genres of the late Old English period.¹ Older scholarship from the twentieth century tended to hypothesize a popular tradition of late Old English verse from which early Middle English verse descended. N.F. Blake has usefully summarized this line of thinking: ‘There was a popular poetry which has not survived as well as the extant poetry which is literary [and] it was from this type of poetry that the early Middle English poets, particularly La3amon, learned their craft’ (118). Blake, however, imagined an alternative genealogy, based upon the...

  14. CHAPTER 4.2 Layamon’s Old English Poetics
    (pp. 110-120)

    In his influential study ‘Laʒamon’s Antiquarian Sentiments,’ E.G. Stanley articulates his view of Layamon as an ‘archaistic’ poet: ‘We may wonder if archaizing accords with Laʒamon’s sentiments as they emerge from his work: I believe it does. Of course, the wish to archaize is rooted in a love of the archaic; the archaistic is merely imitative of the archaic, and derives from it by a deliberate act of recreation’ (25). The mode and methods of Layamon’s ‘deliberate act of recreation,’ however, continue to demand our examination. Recent scholars, indeed, have been inclined to identify the sources of Layamon’s verse form...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 121-172)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 173-178)
  17. Index
    (pp. 179-184)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 185-185)