Language and Literature
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.
Ian Cornelius and Eric Weiskott, “The Intricacies of Counting to Four in Old English Poetry,” Language and Literature 30, no. 3 (2021): 249–75, https://doi.org/10.1177/09639470211012297.
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