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A prosimetrum (plural prosimetra) is a poetic composition which exploits a combination of prose (prosa) and verse (metrum);[1] in particular, it is a text composed in alternating segments of prose and verse.[2] It is widely found in Western and Eastern literature.[2] While narrative prosimetrum may encompass at one extreme a prose story with occasional verse interspersed, and at the other, verse with occasional prose explanations, in true prosimetrum the two forms are represented in more equal measure.[3] A distinction is sometimes drawn[4] between texts in which verse is the dominant form and those in which prose dominates; there the terms prosimetrum and versiprose are applied respectively.

Usage of term[edit]

The term prosimetrum is first attested in the Rationes dictandi of Hugh of Bologna, in the early 12th century. Sources differ on the date, one suggesting around 1119,[5] another about 1130.[6] Hugh divided metrical composition into three kinds: quantitative verse (carmina), verse based on syllable count and assonance (rithmi), and "the mixed form ... when a part is expressed in verse and a part in prose" (prosimetrum).[5] The derived adjective prosimetrical occurs in English as early as Thomas Blount’s Glossographia (1656) where it is defined as "consisting partly of Prose, partly of Meteer or Verse".[7]

Works such as historical chronicles and annals, which quote poetry previously composed by other authors, are not generally regarded as "true" prosimetra.[8] In the Old Norse-Icelandic tradition, however, vernacular histories and family sagas that quote verses by other authors are commonly accepted as prosimetra.[9] Quoted or "inset" verses are a familiar feature of longer historical texts in the Old Irish and Middle Irish traditions as well.[10] The role of such verse quotations within the prose narrative varies; they may be mined as historical source-material, cited as factual corroboration of an event or recited by a character as dialogue.[10][11]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Braund, Susanna. "Prosimetrum". In Cancil, Hubert, and Helmuth Schneider, eds. Brill's New Pauly. Brill Online, 2012. Retrieved 2 October 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Brogan, T.V.F. "Prosimetrum". In Green et al., pp. 1115–1116.
  3. ^ Harris & Reichl, p. 11.
  4. ^ Hanson, Kristin, and Paul Kiparsky. "The Nature of Verse and Its Consequences for the Mixed Form". In Harris & Reichl, p. 36.
  5. ^ a b Dronke, p. 2.
  6. ^ Ricklin, Thomas. "Femmes-philosophie et hommes-animaux: essai d'une lecture satirique de la Consolatio philosophiae de Boèce". In Boèce ou la chaîne des savoirs: actes du Colloque international de la Fondation Singer-Polignac, Paris, 8–12 juin 1999. Louvain: Peeters, 2003. p. 131. ISBN 90-429-1250-2
  7. ^ Ziolkowski, Jan. "The Prosimetrum in the Classical Tradition," in Harris & Reichl, p. 48.
  8. ^ Ziolkowski, pp. 55–56.
  9. ^ Ross, pp. 80–81.
  10. ^ a b Mac Cana, Proinsias. "Prosimetrum in Insular Celtic Literature." In Harris & Reichl, pp. 110–111.
  11. ^ O’Donoghue, pp 11–12.
  12. ^ Qian, Ailin (2012). The Maqāmah as Prosimetrum: A Comparative Investigation of Its Origin, Form and Function (PhD). University of Pennsylvania. CiteSeerX
  13. ^ Heinrichs, Wolfhart. "Prosimetrical Genres in Classical Arabic Literature". In Harris & Reichl, p. 249.
  14. ^ Jones, Jones, and Knight, p. 87.
  15. ^ Mac Cana, p. 115.
  16. ^ Heissig, Walther (1996). "The Present State of the Mongolian Epic and Some Topics for Future Research" (PDF). Oral Tradition. 11 (1): 89.
  17. ^ O’Donoghue p. 101.
  18. ^ O’Donoghue, pp. 181–182.
  19. ^ Green et al., p. 1510.
  20. ^ Harris & Reichl, p. 14.
  21. ^ Alexis, André. Beauty and Sadness. Toronto: House of Anansi, 2010. p. 157. ISBN 978-0-88784-750-9
  22. ^ ISBN 978-1910323625
  23. ^ ISBN 978-1910323915
  24. ^ ISBN 978-1910323878


  • Dronke, Peter. Verse with Prose from Petronius to Dante. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1994. ISBN 0-674-93475-X
  • Green, Roland, et al., ed. The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012. ISBN 978-0-691-15491-6
  • Harris, Joseph, and Karl Reichl, ed. Prosimetrum: Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Narrative in Prose and Verse. Cambridge, Eng.: D. S. Brewer, 1997. ISBN 0-85991-475-5
  • Jones, Samuel, Aled Jones, and Jennifer Dukes Knight, ed. Proceedings of the Harvard Celtic Colloquium, 24/25, 2004 and 2005. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009. ISBN 978-0-674-03528-7
  • O’Donoghue, Heather. Skaldic Verse and the Poetics of Saga Narrative. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005. ISBN 978-0-19-926732-3
  • Ross, Margaret Clunies. A History of Old Norse Poetry and Poetics. Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 2005. ISBN 978-1843842798