Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Old English Poetic Metre

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Old English Poetic Metre

Article excerpt

B. R. Hutcheson, Old English Poetic Metre (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer; Rochester, NY: Boydell & Brewer, "99 5). xvi + 3 5 X pp. ISBN o-8 5 99I-43 5-6. 49 5 o

B. R. Hutcheson has scanned 13,044 lines of Old English verse using a computerized database and his own methodology (which is an adaptation of the Sievers-Bliss model), and this volume presents the results. Amongst others, there are chapters on the basic rules of five-type theory, on the soundchanges which affect the metre, on resolution and anacrusis, together with a detailed reformulation of the five types. The heart of the book is the comprehensive catalogue of the subtypes, with examples and comments on difficult verses. The blurb at the beginning claims that the database is also available from Boydell & Brewer, but in fact the publishers have as yet no date in mind for its publication. Accordingly, I have been unable to check the statistics that underpin Hutcheson's methodology. Those readers who like to judge the information for themselves will find, likewise, that the book is not as useful as it might otherwise have been. This is a pity, because Hutcheson has done a very great deal of work and, even though he does not finally present a grand new theory, his book is full of fascinating detail for those who are interested in the empirical analysis of Old English metre. The 'representative' sample chosen for the database includes all the famous poems and most of those that are datable (in order to chart development or decay). Although it may seem churlish to complain about excluded texts when the author has covered so many, nonetheless the absence of The Metres of Boethius is to be regretted: it is, in this context, precisely datable (to the last decade of the ninth century), and displays some metrical patterns which Hutcheson terms 'unmetrical', together with others not found in his sample, the bulk of which is 'classical' Old English verse. …

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