James Keddie

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


The classic explanation of Old English meter, Eduard Sievers' Theory of Five Types, has a number of faults. Because it offers a pragmatic description of verse-patterns rather than a justification for them, it is less a theory than a taxonomy. There is inconsistency as to where metrical stress occurs, and the role of resolution. The updated version by A. J. Bliss adds to these faults a proliferation of categories that detracts from the original simplicity of the Types. Recent proposals to simplify resolution or to rely on alliteration solve some problems, but crate others.;The solution proposed here is to allow all six possible Types in a simplified form. Examination of the grounds for rejecting the sixth Type reveals no sound basis for doing so. Having six Types provides a theoretical basis for composition: to use all possible varieties of two lifts and two drops. This allows the retention of the most enduring aspects of Sievers' theory: the concept of Types as a simple guide for poet and audience, and the basic four-part verse. To these are added the concept of the word-group made familiar by Geoffrey Russom. Allowing six Types leads to a radical revision of aspects of resolution and the role of the half-stress.;The Old English texts Beowulf, Juliana, and The Battle of Maldon are used to test the theory, whose university is judged by a brief examination of sixteen Old Norse eddiac poems. The body of hypermetric verses defined by Bliss is used to demonstrate how hypermetric verses are affected by the new theory. The six Types work well for the three sets of texts. In conjunction with some features of the metrical-grammar theories of Calvin B. Kendall, they allow the development of a strategy to illustrate how an Anglo-Saxon reader might have used them as a set of simple templates to decode the meter of an unpunctuated text.



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