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15. Metre and Metric

Russell Poole


Subject Literature » Medieval Literature

Place Northern Europe » Scandinavia

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631235026.2004.00018.x


Extract

Just as Old Icelandic literature is copious in its genres, its settings, its prosopography, and the historical eras it relates to, so too is it rich and various in its metres and stanza forms. To a far greater degree than in West Germanic poetry, metre and stanza form go together to create highly distinctive units of expression, in a tradition noted for its cultivation of the finely crafted single stanza. I shall start with the smallest stanza units and build towards the largest, with a warning in advance that the survey is not exhaustive and that many forms will go unmentioned. Also, I shall first offer a strictly synchronic and taxonomic consideration of the material and proceed to a diachronic analysis, before closing with a brief discussion of medieval poetology and the light it may shed upon metrical practice. This discussion will be conducted using a mixture of the native Icelandic terminology and terms from modern prosody. For a fuller sense of the linguistic foundation for metrics, for instance the weighing of syllables, I refer the reader to the references and further reading list appended to this chapter.   To begin, then, with a stanza form called fornyrðislag (‘old story metre’): much of the verse in the so-called Poetic Edda is in this format, and so too verses spoken by personages in the fornaldarsögur (see chapter 25 ). Perhaps with some such legendary associations ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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