Talk:Alliterative verse

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Former featured article Alliterative verse is a former featured article. Please see the links under Article milestones below for its original nomination page (for older articles, check the nomination archive) and why it was removed.
Main Page trophy This article appeared on Wikipedia's Main Page as Today's featured article on September 8, 2004.
Article milestones
Date Process Result
November 25, 2003 Featured article candidate Promoted
June 30, 2008 Featured article review Demoted
Current status: Former featured article

older entries[edit]

For a featured article, this needs a lot of reworking. It's too heavily focused on Germanic alliterative verse and Old Norse in particular, it is unintentionally misleading in places, particularly in the Old English section, and there are no real citations other than a few web pages. I've just reworked the intro and corrected the scansion and translation of the runic verse. The following list can be used to track the additional changes that are needed:

  • Add full discussion of Sievers' types
  • Correct material on hypermetric verses
  • Describe Snorri's account of Old Norse forms
  • Explain scholarly controversies in reconstructing verse
  • Add a section on Middle English verse (which is not just a continuation of Old English verse)
  • Explain differences in Old Saxon/Old High German better
  • Add a section on non-Germanic verse
    • Finish/Estonian
    • Turkic/Mongolian
    • Old Irish
    • Latin (Germanic Influenced)
    • Others?
  • Add references


Even so, I changed

The Norse poets tended to break up their verses into stanzas of from two to seven lines


The Norse poets tended to break up their verses into stanzas of from two to eight lines

which happens to be true. Otherwise I have few complaints. Io 14:49, 21 May 2004 (UTC)

My bad. I had to change

The Norse poets tended to break up their verses into stanzas of from two to eight lines


The Norse poets tended to break up their verses into stanzas of from two to eight lines (or more).

Off the top of my head, Ynglingatal has stanzas with considerably more lines than eight, although always in multiples of two. Io 15:03, 21 May 2004 (UTC)

Well another edit. I'll summarize, when I'm done. The parts I argue about have to do with the Norse part of the article - spelling, grammar and such. The other ones I won't touch. Io 15:20, 21 May 2004 (UTC)

Too tired now to make further changes, but neither the stanza from Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks nor the stanza from Skírnismál are correct. It should at least be Herv&#0491r instead of Herv&#248r, l&#491ng instead of long and more that sort. I'll look it up when I have the chance. Also, the stanza of king Haraldr should probably be rendered in the classical spelling. Io 15:44, 21 May 2004 (UTC)

The stanza from King Haraldr is in the spelling given in Gordon's Old Norse textbook. I avoided using the hooked o character because it has issues in a number of fonts and browsers; my understanding is that ø is the canonical replacement, though I may be wrong. Thanks for the edits; I borrowed the line from Hávamál from the Auden translation, and I thought it looked funny. Smerdis of Tlön 16:41, 21 May 2004 (UTC)
The replacement of "hooked-o" (i.e., u-umlauted a, pron. [ɒ] i.e. rounded a) is not ø (i.e., i-umlauted o, pron. [ø]) but rather ö. (NB: ö is used in Modern Icelandic orthography which is the reason for this use. In Faroese, though, one uses ø in most situations.)
Jens Persson jepe2503 [at] hotmail [dot] com ( 18:12, 12 March 2006 (UTC))

I edited the stanza of king Haraldr before I saw your reply. It is now spelled according to the "samræmd stafsetning forn", whatever that is in English. It is the standard spelling of the scholarly editions of today - of course with the exception of those editions which aim for accuracy in their manuscripts, letter for letter. I added the hooked o according to Unicode so that might be a problem for some browsers, but it should vanish with time. Whatever you do to my edits, please don't remove the link I added. It is a wonderful site. Io 16:48, 21 May 2004 (UTC)

PS: You are right about browsers - Unicode doesn't even support one character necessary for the "classical" spelling, namely hooked o with an acute. Hence the hooked o with a macron, which I used in the edits.

Anyway, feel free to undo what you wish, I'm just another Wikipedian. Io 16:59, 21 May 2004 (UTC)

I restored the brackets to Krjúpum vér fyr vápna. My mistake. I'll let the page be for a time. I'm loth to meddle in well-written pages. Io 12:34, 22 May 2004 (UTC)

I couldn't leave well alone. I've changed the following:

Hlewagastir > HlewagastiR

I also altered the stanzas of Hervör and the stanza from Skírnismál according to my best sources. According to the saga of Haraldr harðráði (at least my version - manuscripts may differ) it was he himself who first composed an inferior stanza, then improved upon himself.

As for ø being the canonical representation of o with an ogonek, there is the problem, that ø was a letter in its own right with a different pronunciation and origin than ǫ. Normally one uses ö if the hooked version is not available. One last thing: the goddess of the hawkland (i. e. battlefield) is a valkyrja. Io 14:58, 22 May 2004 (UTC)

Looks like someone less well informed hasn't been able to leave well alone either since you made that change! I've just replced the lowercase "r" I found there with "z" (following the practice of the articles "Golden horns of Gallehus" and "Proto-Norse"). Maybe that will look less anomalous to casual readers. Dependent Variable (talk) 09:11, 18 March 2008 (UTC)

Re: Common Features and Origins:[edit]

The number of weak syllables ... can vary from one to three.
This is not the case with Old High German and Old Saxon alliterative verse (e.g. Hildebrandslied - Heliand).
The famous lines 4 and 5 of the Hildebrandslied where four or even five weak syllables seem to be used as a poetic device (note especially the last half-line) show this:
Garutun se iro gúdhamun gurtun sih iro suert ana,
Helidos, ubar hringá, dó si tó dero hiltiu ritun
They made ready their fighting raiment, girded their swords on,
The heroes, over ringmail, before they to that fight rode.

I've added some detail on this to the German section, but since most sources see these additional syllables as a German innovation, I don't think it's unreasonable to leave the general statement as it is. What is missing here is:
  • something on the use of half-stresses, and how compounds are stressed
  • statements about what alliterates - currently only in the OE section
  • something on the preponderance of staves on nouns and how the other parts of speech compare.
Pfold 12:54, 6 March 2006 (UTC)

Request for references[edit]

Hi, I am working to encourage implementation of the goals of the Wikipedia:Verifiability policy. Part of that is to make sure articles cite their sources. This is particularly important for featured articles, since they are a prominent part of Wikipedia. The Fact and Reference Check Project has more information. Thank you, and please leave me a message when you have added a few references to the article. - Taxman 20:00, Apr 21, 2005 (UTC)

New Translations of Beowulf[edit]

Hi! I'm new and I'm afraid I didn't do this right, but I edited the piece to refer to the two most recent translations of Beowulf. - MaggieT 14:17, 15 February 2006 (UTC)

Spoken Article?[edit]

Is there still a desire to record this article for Spoken Wikipedia?

I would be willing to take it on, but I'll need someone to help me with pronunciations. I've only take 1 undergrad course that covered Old English (several years ago) and 2 for Middle English, so my pronunciation is going to be rusty. Also, I have no experience pronouncing words in any of the other languages. I DO have a broad knowledge of the IPA, though, and I'm familiar with most of the literary terms. Ckamaeleon ((T)) 17:31, 16 March 2006 (UTC)

I have made a recording but by no means perfect and I start to sound tired near the end BUT ITS done so you can improve upon it later and replace the existing file is fine with me. I am conversational in Norwegian, trained in Icelandic so I can approach the Old English fairly easy but I'm not really sure if I'm placing stresses correctly, Icelandic defaults to the first syllable ALL the time and I tried to follow the bolded but blah, give me some criticism, feedback and I can re-record portions of the article. .:DavuMaya:. 07:29, 21 October 2007 (UTC)

Tolkien and alliterative verse[edit]

I was pleased to see that alliterative verse was a featured article, but was surprised to see this bit:

"Alliterative verse is occasionally written by modern authors. J. R. R. Tolkien composed several poems about Middle-earth in Old English alliterative verse; these poems were found among his papers and published posthumously."

Tolkien did much more than this. He wrote alliterative verse in Modern English, in the style of Old English alliterative verse (he was one of the major Beowulf scholars of his time - see Beowulf: the monsters and the critics). Examples of Tolkien's alliterative verses include those written by him for the Rohirrim, a culture in The Lord of the Rings that borrowed many aspects from Anglo-Saxon culture. There are also many examples of alliterative verse in Tolkien's posthumously-published works in The History of Middle-earth series. Of these, the unfinished 'The Lay of the Children of Húrin', published in The Lays of Beleriand, is the longest. Another example of Tolkien's alliterative verse is at the introduction to the article on Mirkwood. Outside of his Middle-earth works, Tolkien also worked on alliterative modern English translations of several Middle English poems by the Pearl Poet: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl, and Sir Orfeo. These were published posthumously in 1975. In his lifetime, as well as the verse in The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien published The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm's Son in 1953, an alliterative verse dialogue recounting a historical fictional account of The Battle of Maldon.

So, what I'm proposing, is that this is put into the article in some form or other. If I don't get any objections, I'll go ahead and add something like what I've written above. Carcharoth 23:04, 23 January 2007 (UTC)

I think it'd be great to add what you said above. It could even be its own article if we had enough text. --Fang Aili talk 23:46, 23 January 2007 (UTC)
OK. Done. Carcharoth 16:56, 24 January 2007 (UTC)


It seems to me that the Germanist's penchant for long lines has taken over the Old Norse chapter. Ljóðaháttr is, e.g., said to be comprised of four lines, whereas any Norse scholar would analyze it as having six. I'll wait a while and then change it back to the conventions of Norse studies instead of Old High German and comparable fields of study, if nobody objects. Cheers Io 21:20, 18 May 2007 (UTC)

Long is one night[edit]

(Long is one night, long is the next; how can I bear three? A month has often seemed less to me than this half "hýnótt" (word of unclear meaning)).

I think hynott means night doesnt it? Its probably pronounced similiar with swedish "natt". I dont speak norse though but it seemes logical and in place. If so it should be:

- "Long is one night, long is the next, how can i bear three? A month has often seemed less to me than this half night"

'nótt' (or 'nátt') means 'night' but the compund hý-nótt is unclear. Haukur 11:30, 10 June 2007 (UTC)


Not sure why saw it necessary to remove the entire Survivals section. I re-instated it. (talk) 20:50, 18 January 2009 (UTC)

The only reservation I have about this section is its title. Certainly the modern works are revivals, not survivals, and the 14th Century stuff is normally regarded as part of a movement called the "Alliterative Revival". Could someone who knows about the Middle English stuff come in on this? --Pfold (talk) 17:06, 19 January 2009 (UTC)

Modern Uses[edit]

Is it worth mentioning John Myers Myers's "The Death of Bowie Gizzardsbane", included in Silverlock? This begins:

Harsh that hearing for Houston the raven
Fools had enfeebled the fortress at Bexar
leaving it lacking and looted the while.
"Riders!" he rasped "to race after Bowie"
"Bowie!" he barked when that bearcat of heros

The verse "Bowie Gizardsbane" tells the traditional or legendary story of the Alamo in alliterative verse, an interesting modern analog of such older heroic tales as that of Beowulf. It is included in the chapter of Silverlock entitled "At Heorot", being recited at a feast to celebrate the slaying of Grendel. (talk) 16:13, 23 February 2013 (UTC)


Mention should be made of the Welsh cerdd dafod poems using alliterative metres, the cynghanedd, such as the awdl, cywydd, and englyn. The rules of the cynghanedd are not only as strict as in Germanic alliterative verse, but actually far more exacting and difficult.RandomCritic (talk) 22:07, 27 August 2013 (UTC)

modern Iceland[edit]

The second sentence of note 1 seems to be miswritten. Some context:

The entire Old Norse poetic corpus is alliterative, and still survives in Iceland. … the alliterative poetry is alive, e.g. Disneyrímur by Þórarinn Eldjárn. Many people compose stanzas and poems for their amusement using the rímur meters…

Of course the corpus survives, wherever there are libraries that have copies. This seems to be trying to say that the form survives. I'm about to change it accordingly. --Þnídur (talk) 03:19, 10 December 2013 (UTC)

Where does this material come from?[edit]

This a very complex article, but has few references. it may be derived from cited works, but needs inline refs. it thus reads like original research.Mercurywoodrose (talk) 01:33, 20 September 2014 (UTC)

It may be as well to recall that many if not all older articles were written when people felt it was fine simply to list the references at the end, as indeed other encyclopedias still do today. Unfortunately, that doesn't work well when multiple editors over many years work together on an article, and the original traceability to sources is broken. I think we should accept in the case of a serious article like this one that the material was added in good faith from the undoubtedly reliable sources cited. The challenge, of course, is to develop an accurate set of inline references to connect the text to the sources. That will take substantial effort, and could involve rewriting as well as referencing. Much of the text, however, consists of lists of examples, which should probably be in a stand-alone list article (if anywhere). Chiswick Chap (talk) 15:32, 18 January 2015 (UTC)
The whole article is way too detailed. In my view it should provide a summary, with all the detailed stuff moved to separate articles. This is particularly the case with the exhaustive list of Tolkien's material, but also the coverage of the ON forms. As it stands, I suspect most readers need only a small proportion of the material and if they want detailed info, it will only be that relating to one particular tradition. I would suggest that each major section should be reduced to couple of paragraphs at most, to provide an overview, with cut material formaing the basis of new articles on the individual traditions. --Pfold (talk) 14:48, 19 January 2015 (UTC)
Sounds about right. The trouble is, we can't really create sub-articles without rather better referencing, so we either just cut, or move material to this talk page. Chiswick Chap (talk) 15:10, 19 January 2015 (UTC)