Alliterative Verse - Old English Poetic Forms

Old English Poetic Forms

Old English poetry appears to be based upon one system of verse construction, a system which remained remarkably consistent for centuries, although some patterns of classical Old English verse begin to break down at the end of the Old English period.

The most widely used system of classification is based on that developed by Eduard Sievers. Sievers' system is a method of categorization rather than a full theory of meter. It does not, in other words, purport to describe the system the scops actually used to compose their verse, nor does it explain why certain patterns are favored or avoided. Sievers divided verses into five basic types, labeled A-E. The system is founded upon accent, alliteration, the quantity of vowels, and patterns of syllabic accentuation.

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