The evolution of verse structure in Old and Middle English poetry : from the earliest alliterative poems to iambic pentameter / Geoffrey Russom.

Russom, Geoffrey, author.
Cambridge, United Kingdom ; New York, NY : Cambridge University Press, 2017.
xi, 319 pages ; 24 cm.
Cambridge studies in medieval literature ; 98.
Cambridge studies in medieval literature ; 98

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English poetry -- Old English, ca. 450-1100 -- History and criticism.
English poetry -- Middle English, 1100-1500 -- History and criticism.
English language -- Versification.
Poetics -- History.
English language -- History.
English language.
English poetry -- Middle English.
English poetry -- Old English.
Criticism, interpretation, etc.
"In this fascinating study, Geoffrey Russom traces the evolution of the major English poetic traditions by reference to the evolution of the English language, and considers how verse forms are born, how they evolve, and why they die. Using a general theory of poetic form employing universal principles rooted in the human language faculty, Russom argues that certain kinds of poetry tend to arise spontaneously in languages with identifiable characteristics. Language changes may require modification of metrical rules and may eventually lead to extinction of a meter. Russom's theory is applied to explain the development of English meters from the earliest alliterative poems in Old and Middle English and the transition to iambic meter in the Modern English period. This thorough yet accessible study provides detailed analyses of form in key poems, including Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and a glossary of technical terms"-- Provided by publisher.
"Given the structure of English, a sound echo involving stressed syllables will usually have semantic as well as phonological prominence. Ideally, semantic relations marked by the echo will take on special meaning within a particular work. Shakespeare's rhymes highlight semantic kinships in day / May (times associated with youth), shines / declines (high point and descent), dimmed / untrimmed (loss of beauty), and fade / shade (loss of color). At a more abstract level, these rhymes align life and death with light and darkness. Alliteration has comparable semantic importance in Meredith's poem. In the fourth stanza, for example, the unifying sound echoes occur in fish, fur, fierce, fire, faggots, and froze"-- Provided by publisher.
General principles of poetic form
Indo-European and Germanic meters
Old English meter in the era of Beowulf
From late Old English meter to Middle English meter
Middle English type A1 and the hypermetrical b-verse
Type A1 in the a-verse
Types B and C
Survival and extinction in types A2, Da, and E
Type Db and the hypermetrical a-verse
The birth of English iambic meter
General summary.
Includes bibliographical references and index.