Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2021

Publication Title

Language and Literature

Volume

30

Issue

3

Pages

249-275

Abstract

The metrical theory devised by Eduard Sievers and refined by A. J. Bliss forms the basis for most current scholarship on Old English meter. A weakness of the Sievers–Bliss theory is that it occupies a middle ground between two levels of analytic description, distinguished by Roman Jakobson in an influential article as ‘verse instance’ and ‘verse design’. Metrists in the Sievers–Bliss tradition employ a concept of metrical position (a key component of verse design), yet the focus of attention usually remains on the contours of stress of individual verses. Important exceptions are the studies of Thomas Cable and Nicolay Yakovlev. The theoretical innovations of Cable and Yakovlev, among others, enable a more concise presentation of verse design than anyone writing on the subject has yet offered. The present essay attempts to show what such a presentation might look like, while also giving due acknowledgment to the complexities of position-count in this meter. We presume no prior knowledge of the Sieversian system. Illustrations are drawn principally from Cædmon’s Hymn and the Seafarer.

Identifier

10.1177/09639470211012297

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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