A History of Old English Meter

A History of Old English Meter

A History of Old English Meter

A History of Old English Meter


"In A History of Old English Meter, R. D. Fulk offers a wide-ranging reference on Anglo-Saxon meter. Fulk examines the evidence for chronological and regional variation in the meter of Old English verse, studying such linguistic variables as the treatment or West Germanic parasite vowels, contracted vowels, and short syllables under secondary and tertiary stress, as well as a variety of supposed dialect features. Fulk's study of such variables points the way to a revised understanding of the role of syllable length in the construction of early Germanic meters and furnishes criteria for distinguishing dialectal from poetic features in the language of the major Old English poetic codices. On this basis, it is possible to draw conclusions about the probable dialect origins of much verse, to delineate the characteristics of at least four discrete periods in the development of Old English meter, and with some probability to assign to them many of the longer poems, such as Genesis A, Beowulf and the works of Cynewulf. A History of Old English Meter will be of interest to scholars of Anglo-Saxon, historians of the English language, Germanic philologists, and historical linguists." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved


The recent early death of Ashley Crandell Amos is a source of profound regret for Anglo-Saxonists of all interests, but particularly metrists and philologists. Her work on the dating of Old English literature is more ambitious and of wider scope than any similar project conceived by Eduard Sievers and his contemporaries, and its effect on the study of Old English verse has been profound. Although the present study lends support to few of her conclusions about metrical history, it should be apparent that the sort of research presented here would not be possible without the background of the questions about Old English philology that she posed, and the framework for discussion that she constructed. the influence of her work is pervasive in the following pages, and it is to the work of Ashley Amos and Eduard Sievers that this study is most indebted.

It is a pleasure to acknowledge two particular debts, to Thomas Cable and Geoffrey R. Russom, who first gave me detailed and perceptive advice about the chapters of this study devoted to resolution and tertiary stress, and subsequently read the entire manuscript carefully and discerningly for the University of Pennsylvania Press. This book has benefited from their suggestions in countless ways. I am indebted to them in a more general sense, as well, since the influence of their published research on Old English meter should be clear throughout.

Some of the conclusions of Chapter 1 were published under the title West Germanic Parasiting, Sievers' Law, and the Dating of Old English Verse, sp 86 (1989), 117-38; and a draft of Chapter 2 appeared as Contraction as a Criterion for Dating Old English Verse, jegp 89 (1990), 1-16. I am grateful to the editors of sp and jegp for permission to incorporate this material here.

While this book was undergoing final revisions I received from Rand Hutcheson portions of his 1991 doctoral dissertation (see below, p. 67, n. 2), in which he reconsiders some of the issues raised in the former of the articles mentioned above, and in a 1989 mla paper based on the chapters below dealing with resolution. the portions of Hutcheson's dissertation that I have seen contain much interesting and useful material, and I am grateful that I have had the opportunity to read them and discuss them with the author. This book has benefited from his criticisms. It is to be hoped that his dissertation will be published, so that his ideas may be discussed in greater depth.

Much of the initial statistical research for this book was carried out at the University of Copenhagen during the period 1987-88. For their . . .

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