A Comparative Study of Old English Metre

A Comparative Study of Old English Metre

F.H. WHITMAN
Copyright Date: 1993
Pages: 170
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/j.ctt2ttq7f
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  • Book Info
    A Comparative Study of Old English Metre
    Book Description:

    After analysing the dominant pattterns of the earliest accentual verse, he turns to Old English metre, and looks closely at the typical length of the halflines, the phenomenon of clashing stress, and the nature of light lines.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7317-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-16)

    For some reason, perhaps because of the paucity of surviving material, we are apt to think of accentual poetry as a rather late development in the Indo-European family. We find it in Old German, of course, and in Old Norse and Old Irish, but none of the texts in these languages predates the seventh century ad. In Latin it is somewhat earlier; here we can talk comfortably of the fourth and fifth centuries ad. But this is as far back as we usually want to go, to the end of the classical period, since classical verse, everyone agrees, was principally...

  5. CHAPTER ONE The Earliest Accentual Verse
    (pp. 17-50)

    For Indo-European studies the date 1444 is especially memorable. In this year a number of metal tablets were uncovered in an underground chamber at La Schieggia near the ancient city of Iguvium (now Gubbio), at the foot of the Apennines, close to the via Flaminia. It would prove to be a major find.

    Since this original discovery, two tablets appear to have been lost. Though obviously ancient, the surviving tablets (now seven) are remarkably well preserved; the lettering stands out clearly and can be copied with ease. But the language is Umbrian, and deciphering the contents has proven an arduous...

  6. CHAPTER TWO German Accentual Verse
    (pp. 51-63)

    German verse underwent a tremendous change in the centuries after a.d. 800; the difference in form between poetry written before and after this change is greater than that between subsequent periods. While the old form gradually became obsolete in all the Germanic languages, the new form has been maintained to the present …¹

    So begins Lehmannʹs influential book on the development of the Germanic verse form. The early Germanic line, Lehmann proceeds to point out, arose from a coincidence of alliteration, natural word stress, and semantically loaded words. Within this system, he says, syllable count, as in prose, was essentially...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Old English: Stressed or Unstressed Initials?
    (pp. 64-84)

    ʹThe crux of the problem of Germanic versification,ʹ observes Pope inThe Rhythm of Beowulf,ʹ[is] in the types that Sievers called b and c.ʹ¹ What brought Pope to this conclusion was something quite particular: Heuslerʹs earlier struggles with Sieversʹs types b and c.² According to Heusler, the first to apply musical notation to early Germanic verse with any success, each half-line, irrespective of type, had two measures in 4/4 time, each with a syllable bearing primary accent situated at the head of a measure followed by an undetermined number of syllables bearing lesser accent to fill up the measure,...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Light Lines
    (pp. 85-90)

    As Hoover quite correctly observes, ʹVerses that apparently contain only one stress have always created problems for traditional theories because they contrast so sharply with the majority of verses in which there are at least two stresses …ʹ¹ From the total number of half-lines in any Old English poem, these ʹlightʹ verses constitute only a small percentage:Beowulf(B.), for instance, has slightly under 5 per cent (299),The Battle of Maldonalmost double this (9–10 per cent: 62); the other poems fall somewhere in between:Genesis Aabout 3 per cent,Exodus4 per cent,Daniel8–9...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Clashing Stress
    (pp. 91-97)

    Old English verse, most readers would agree, both looks arrhythmical and sounds rough. In part this sense of roughness and arrhythmicality is a response to a variation of syllable count from foot to foot and from half-line to half-line, since for centuries poets have composed in metres governed by such strict syllable count that our ears have routinely come to expect that regularity in their work; even today, after a number of generations of prosodic experimentation, it is still difficult to accommodate to the irregularity of Old English measures, and only a rare student of Old English literature takes away...

  10. CHAPTER SIX Towards a New Paradigm
    (pp. 98-130)

    Principle: the feet in any given half-line are of equal duration.

    In Old English studies, Heusler and Pope were among the first to draw attention to past misconceptions about the foot. Previous discussions, by concentrating solely on the distinction between quantities or between stressed and unstressed syllables, obscured and even concealed something fundamental: namely, that each foot is of equivalent time and that the traditional notation is deficient in signalling the distribution of syllables through time.

    For their efforts neither escaped criticism, however. In English the attack was first mounted by Baum,¹ then Bliss,² Taglicht,³ Cable,⁴ and others.⁵ All make...

  11. APPENDIX: Sample Scansions
    (pp. 131-140)
  12. Notes
    (pp. 141-158)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 159-166)
  14. Index
    (pp. 167-170)