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The Metre of Old Saxon Poetry

The Metre of Old Saxon Poetry: The Remaking of Alliterative Tradition

Seiichi Suzuki
Copyright Date: 2004
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 526
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  • Book Info
    The Metre of Old Saxon Poetry
    Book Description:

    This is a comprehensive study of Old Saxon metre, with a particular emphasis on the ‘Heliand’, an alliterative epic of the Gospel story and the most extensive work of Old Germanic poetry. Through a detailed description of the metre in its own terms and a systematic comparison with the Old English alliterative tradition, especially ‘Beowulf’, this book shows how the ‘Heliand’ poet introduced a wealth of metrical innovations, reorganising the traditional scheme underneath an overarching principle of artistic design. After setting out the literary, metrical, linguistic, and practical bases, the author moves on to consider the ‘Heliand’ metre in depth, looking at its properties; he identifies a set of metrical types, determines their distributional constraints, and establishes their paradigmatic and syntagmatic organisation. He also deals with resolution and alliteration, and the composition of hypermetric verses and lines.Appendices cover the scansion of foreign names, and the metre of the Old Saxon ‘Genesis’. SEIICHI SUZUKI is Professor of Old Germanic Studies, Kansai Gaidai University, Japan.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-263-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vii)
  3. Tables
    (pp. viii-xiv)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xv-xvii)
    Seiichi Suzuki
  5. Symbols and Abbreviations
    (pp. xviii-xx)
  6. 1 Bases of Old Saxon metre: an introduction
    (pp. 1-28)

    Old Saxon poetry is known to us in two works, the Heliand (5983 lines; Behaghel and Taeger 1984) and the Genesis (337 lines; Behaghel and Taeger 1984; Doane 1991), the first being preserved in nearly full form, the other only in portions. In view of the extensive corpus size as well as the virtually self-contained status as a single work, I am primarily concerned with the Heliand in this book, relegating therewith the treatment of the Genesis to an appendix (Appendix 2).

    The text of the Heliand survives in two major manuscripts, M and C, and three fragments, P, V,...

  7. 2 Metrical types and positions: levelling and reorganisation
    (pp. 29-193)

    In this chapter, first from a strictly synchronic perspective I shall identify significant metrical types in the Heliand and closely examine their diverse realisations that result from varying associations of drops with language materials. Through comparison of these metrical types and their major variants in the Heliand with those in Old English metre (Beowulf), I shall then bring to light characteristic metrical features of the Heliand that deviate from the Old English metrical tradition, and explore from a diachronic perspective the motivations and mechanisms of these metrical reconfigurations and reorganisations that profoundly affected the Heliand and therewith contributed to forging...

  8. 3 Resolution and alliteration: repatterning and reconstitution
    (pp. 194-294)

    This chapter treats resolution (section 3.1) and alliteration (section 3.2), the two major metrical devices for adding prominence to the lift in the traditional metre. I shall show that these devices underwent profound change in the Heliand metre in the specifics of their operation, and investigate underlying motivations for the metrical reconstitutions that the Heliand poet accomplished as he reorganised the inherited metre.

    A first device for heightening prominence is resolution, an association of a strong position with a disyllabic foot (px or sx). The term ‘resolution’ stems from the observation that a strong position may be regarded as ‘resolved’...

  9. 4 Hypermetric verses and lines: diversification and restructuring
    (pp. 295-329)

    Old Germanic alliterative metre has at its disposal two distinct kinds of verse and line, the normal and the hypermetric (section 1.2), presumably as an inherited feature of Indo-European metre (Suzuki 1988; 1992). In this chapter, I shall be concerned with the synchrony and diachrony of the hypermetric verse and line in the metre of the Heliand, with emphasis on the diversification and restructuring that this metrical category underwent.

    One of the defining features of the normal verse is that the maximal number of lifts does not exceed two. However, there are a number of verses that have more than...

  10. 5 The remaking of alliterative tradition: gradation and harmonisation
    (pp. 330-344)

    In composing a Christian heroic poem in the traditional alliterative metre, the Heliand poet encountered a serious challenge that was scarcely known to his Anglo-Saxon colleagues: he had to work in a significantly different prosodic environment, namely a weakening of stress in Old Saxon. The reduced force of stress in Old Saxon may be demonstrated by the following three phonological processes: (i) restoration of syncopated vowels (section 1.3.1); (ii) development of svarabhakti vowels (section 1.3.2); (iii) retention of /j/that induced West Germanic Gemination (section 1.3.3). Syncopated vowels were restored in Old Saxon primarily by reintroduction of feet in word-final position:...

  11. Appendix 1: Foreign names
    (pp. 345-352)
  12. Appendix 2: The metre of the Old Saxon Genesis
    (pp. 353-365)
  13. References
    (pp. 366-369)
  14. Index to the scansion of the Heliand
    (pp. 370-477)
  15. Index to the scansion of the Old Saxon Genesis
    (pp. 478-484)
  16. Index of authors
    (pp. 485-486)
  17. Index of subjects
    (pp. 487-494)
  18. Index of verses cited for discussion or exemplification
    (pp. 495-506)