Go to National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa
Volume 43, 1910
This text is also available in PDF
(4 MB) Opens in new window
– 606 –
Section I.

1. Next to the stress-unit, the smallest uniform aggregation of parts is the verse. This normally contains eight stresses, or their temporal equivalents, and is usually divided, when printed, into two equal parts. Each part of a verse so divided is commonly known as a line.

2. From a casual examination of poetry, the length of the line—that is, the number of its stress-units—would appear to be quite arbitrary. It would appear that it rested with the poet himself to decide whether a line should contain one stress-unit or eight. Whilst the line thus appears to be, and really is, under his control, it is otherwise with the verse. The length of the verse is determined by a natural law, and the poet has not yet lived who has broken this law with impunity. The length of a line may range from one duple stress-unit, as in Herrick's

(1.) Thus I
Passe by,
And die:
As one
Unknown,
And gone:

to eight triple stress-units, as in Tennyson's—

(2.) Fame blowing out from her golden trumpet a jubilant challenge to Time and to Fate;
Slander, her shadow, sowing the nettle on all the laurell'd graves of the Great.

(“Vastness,” stanza 11.)

It will not be denied that the poet is at perfect liberty to print the verse as he pleases; so that Coleridge's verse will by one poet be printed as two lines—

(3.) The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew,
The furrow followed free;

(“Ancient Mariner,” part 11.)

—whilst by another it will be printed as three—

(3a.) The fair breeze blew,
The white foam flew,
The furrow followed free;

And what Browning prints as two lines—

(4.) How sad and bad and mad it was—
But then, how it was sweet!

(“Confessions,” last stanza.)

—Herrick might print as five,—

(4a.)  How sad
And bad
And mad
It was—
But then, how it was sweet!

So far, then, as printing is concerned, the poet has absolute liberty to do as he pleases, or as the printer pleases.

– 607 –

3. It is to be observed, however, that the line had assumed definiteness, and maintained that definiteness, whatever it was, before the poet could have any thought of printing at all; at the time, in fact, when the poems were recited or sung. So absolute was this definiteness that on the introduction of printing it required no ingenuity, no labour, on the part of the printer to set down the poems in a way that has not to this day changed in any essential particular. In many instances where he had manuscript before him he would no doubt be guided by the scribe, who, if the lines were run on, would show the divisions and subdivisions by periods and colons, or by some other equivalent device.

4. At the time of the mingling of the Saxon and Norman races the form of English poetry underwent a great change, passing from the alliterative stave of the skald to the metrical verse of the minstrel. That such change did not take place without the struggle attendant on all changes is well shown in the “Vision of Piers Plowman,” a poem which is a connecting-link between the two forms. The type of the new form is seen in the “Metrical Romances,” which were built up of verses of eight stresses, not yet divided into stanzas. M. Leon Gautier thinks that these verses, divided into four-stressed lines, were derived from a Latin form, the “iambic dimeter” :—

Forti sequemur pectore. *

The tracing of the absolute origin of these lines must be accomplished before the final word can be written, but it need not concern us here, seeing that the English form was not derived from the Latin, but from the already evolved French type. It was in this French eight-stressed verse that a notable developmental change took place when the metre became acclimatized in England.

5. Professor Saintsbury has noted that the verse of the “Metrical Romances” showed a constant tendency to drop a unit; and this tendency has resulted in the metre becoming seven-stressed, the seventh stress being followed by a pause. The new metre, once evolved, became one of the most popular and persistent forms in English poetry, which it still pervades, forming the basis of all the lyrical metres. It will therefore be of interest to see if any cause can be assigned to the fact that the new metrical form was a verse of eight stresses, and that the eight stresses shortened to seven stresses and a pause.

6. Any regular stanza will serve as illustration: take Burns's—

(5.) Ye banks and braes o' bonie Doon,
How can ye bloom sae fresh and fair?
How can ye chant, ye little birds,
When I'm sae weary, fu' o'care!
Thou'll break my heart, thou warbling bird,
That wantons thro' the flowering thorn!
Thou minds me o' departed joys,
Departed never to return.

(“The Banks o' Doon,” stanza 1.)

These verses, being modern, are thus printed, each verse being split into two lines of four stresses each. It will readily be noted, however, that

[Footnote] * H. E. Berthon, “Specimens of Modern French Verse,” p. xv of Introduction.

[Footnote] † “History of English Prosody,” vol. i, p. 248, and Appen. vi, p. 406.

– 608 –

every line is not complete in itself, but that they go naturally in couples; that every two lines are in fact one long verse :—

(5a.) Ye banks and braes o' bonie Doon, how can ye bloom sae fresh and fair?
How can ye chant, ye little birds, when I'm sae weary, fu' o' care!

Every verse is now a complete sentence, consisting of two clauses, occupying a line each. It was because each line was a clause that the Romance metre was so easily resolved into two parts, and was written in couplets. Even in the couplet form the complete relation of the two lines is evident :—

(6.) Wild as the scream of the curlew,
From crag to crag the signal flew.
Instant, through copse and heath, arose
Bonnets and spears and bended bows;
On right, on left, above, below,
Sprung up at once the lurking foe;
From shingles grey their lances start,
The bracken bush sends forth the dart,
The rushes and the willow-wand
Are bristling into axe and brand,
And every tuft of broom gives life
To plaided warrior arm'd for strife.

(“The Lady of the Lake,” canto v, section ix.)

The same holds as regards all Lyric stanzas; they are composed of integral parts, each integral part being a verse of eight stress-units, or their temporal equivalents—that is, if the verse contain only seven or six stress-units, it will be found to contain also one or two pauses, equivalent to the units dropped. Take the following examples :—

(7.) The raging rocks,
And shivering shocks,
Shall break the locks
Of prison-gates;
And Phibbus' car
Shall shine from far,
And make and mar
The foolish fates.

(“Midsummer Night's Dream,” I,ii .)

(8.) We join the throng
Of the dance and the song,
By the whirlwind of gladness borne along;
As the flying-fish leap
From the Indian deep,
And mix with the sea-birds, half asleep.

(“Prometheus Unbound,” IV, line 83.)

(9.) By the fair and brave
Who blushing unite,
Like the sun and wave
When they meet at night;
By the tear that shows
When passion is nigh,
As the rain-drop flows
From the heat of the sky;

(“Lalla Rookh.”)

(10.) Weep, weep, weep, and weep,
For pauper, dolt, and slave!
Hark! from wasted moor and fen,
Feverous alley, stifling den,
Swells the wail of Saxon men—
Work! or the grave!

(C. Kingsley, “Alton Locke's Song.”)

– 609 –

(11.) My Peggy speaks sae sweetly,
Whene'er we meet alane,
I wish nae mair to lay my care,
I wish nae mair of a' that's rare.
My Peggy speaks sae sweetly,
To a'the lave I'm cauld:
But she gars a' my spirits glow
At wawking of the fauld.

(A. Ramsay, song 1 of “The Gentle Shepherd.”)

(12.) By whom was David taught
To aim the deadly blow,
When he Goliath fought,
And laid the Gittite low?
No sword nor spear the stripling took,
But chose a pebble from the brook.

(W. Cowper, Olney Hymn, iv.)

All are divided into groups of eight-stressed verses, dropped units being represented by pauses :—

  • (7a.) The ra/ging rocks/, and shi/vering shocks/, shall break/ the locks/ of pri/songates/;

  • (8a.) We join/ the throng/ of the dance/ and the song/, by the whirl/wind of glad/ness borne/ along/;

  • (9a.) By the fair/ and the brave/ who blu/shing unite/, like the sun/ and wave/ when they meet/ at night/;

  • (10a.) Weep/, weep/,  weep/, and weep/, for pau/per, dolt/, and slave!/   /. Hark !/ from wa/sted moor/ and fen/, fe/verous al/ley, sti/fling den/,

  • (11a.) My Peg/gy speaks/ sea sweet/ly,  /whene'er/ we meet/ alane/,  / I wish/ nae mair/ to lay/ my care/, I wish/ nae mair/ of a'/ that's rare/.

  • (12a.) By whom/ was Da/vid taught/   /to aim/ the dead/ly blow/,  / When he/ Goli/ath fought/,  /and laid/ the Git/tite low?/   / No sword/ nor spear/ the strip/ling took/, but chose/ a peb/ble of/ the brook/.

This division shows the pauses that are felt instinctively in reading, and shows that each verse has the full value of eight stress-units. The relation of the variations, one to another, will be examined more at large in a subsequent paragraph.

7. Remembering that when the full eight-stressed verse developed poetry was commonly sung or recited, it will be evident that great regard would naturally be had to facility of delivery. In speech, a sentence consists of as much thought as may be conveyed readily in one breath: the more broken a complete thought is in its utterance the less forcible it becomes; and it follows that the most incisive thought is that which, the matter of thought being equal, can be distinctly uttered, in one breath. The most incisive thoughts are those which appeal most deeply to the emotions, and a sentence will therefore be shorter or longer as it is more or less emotional. The earliest poetry is almost purely emotion, bare of all ornament of rime, alliteration, metre, or even rhythm. The first ornament was metaphor; then came rhythmic expression. As the people emerged from barbarity, evolving music and dance with its poetry, a finer rhythmic sense developed. In the Maori language poetry may be studied in many stages, from unrhythmical Iaments and love-chants to perfectly rhythmical war-songs, some of which were on the verge of becoming rimed and metrical, when their development was rudely interrupted by civilization. It would appear as if the dance of motion and gesture was the force controlling the rhythm of poetry and music: once the rhythm was established, it developed

– 610 –

independently of the dance. In rhythmic poetry the sentences were of varying lengths; in metrical verse they tended to assume a uniform length —an average of the length of rhythmic or emotional sentences: in other words, the average length of a breath.

8. This average had been established when the metre of the “Metrical Romances” was introduced into England; but that the evolution of the verse-form was still in progress is evident from the fact that the eight-stressed verse showed a tendency, already referred to, in the direction of discarding a unit at the end of the verse. Can any reason be seen for this tendency? During the early days of the metre in England the Church wrote “Lives of the Saints” in the same popular measure as the “Metrical Romances.” This measure still pervades Church hymns, and these hymns have in a most important particular faithfully preserved the old metre. On examining the Church hymns, ancient and modern, it will be noted that they are distinguished chiefly as being in three “measures” or metres L.M., long measure; C.M., common measure; and S.M., short measure —these measures being respectively eight-, seven-, and six-stressed verses, or verses of sixteen, fourteen, and twelve syllables. If the music of the hymns be examined it will be found that almost every verse of two lines, whether L.M., C.M., or S.M.—more, that verse of even five stresses—is sung to sixteen crotchets or sixteen syllables—the Romance verse: the Church has, in its music, preserved the old form. Is not this a most significant fact; and is it not a revelation of the extraordinary power of the unobstrusive law, in obedience to which poets have moulded their evervarying, yet ever typically constant, Lyric measures? Now, I can vouch for it that at least one not too highly trained Church choir was taught to sing the sixteen crotchets, usually written as eight minims, in one breath; a hurried breath or gasp was taken, and the next sixteen crotchets were sung, and so on. We have here a perpetuation of the old methods of modification—a remnant of the processes of evolution—the only vital modern addition being the harmony of the music—the elaboration of melody. The gasp would be more noticeable in the voice of the poet, unaccompanied by musical instrument as often as not; and the dropping of the final unit in the eight-stressed verse was prompted by the necessity for drawing a more Ieisured breath after the delivery of each metrical sentence. The breath was taken easily and silently, so that whilst the eighth unit had no articulate existence, it was still present temporally—that is, so far as its time was concerned, the verse was unaltered, the resulting seven-stressed verse being temporally equal to the eight-stressed. This equality is quite apparent when the two verses occur together, as in the old ballad of “King Cophetua and the Beggar-maid” :—

(13.) The blinded boy, that shootes so trim,
From heaven downe did hie;
He drew a dart and shot at him,
In place where he did lye:
Which soone did pierse him to the quicke,
And when he felt the arrow pricke,
Which in his tender heart did sticke,
He looked as he would dye.
“What sudden chance is this,” quoth he,
“That I to love must subject be,
Which never thereto would agree,
But still did it defie?”

(Stanza 2.)

– 611 –

Here the pauses following “hie,” “lye,” and “dye” are palpably longer than those following “pricke” and “be,” the reason being, of course, that the verses ending with the two latter words have retained the eighth unit, whilst those ending with the three former have dropped that unit :—

(13a.) The blin/ded boy/,  that shootes/  so trim/,  from hea/  ven downe/  did hie/;  /
He drew/  a dart/  and shot/  at him/,  in place/  where he/  did lye/:   /
Which soone/  did pierse/  him to/  the quicke/,  and when/  he felt/  the ar/row pricke/,
Which in/  his ten/der heart/  did sticke/,  he looked/  as he/  would dye/.   /“What sud/den chance/  is this/,” quoth he/,  “that I/  to love/  must sub/ject be/,
Which ne/ver there/to would/  agree/,  but still/  did it/  defie?”  /   /

This fact is still more evident in stanzas of the following type, an exceedingly popular one both among poets and readers :—

(14.) We played at love in Mulga town,
And O, her eyes were blue!
We played at love in Mulga town,
And love's a game for two.
If three should play, alack-a-day!
There's one of them will rue,
Dear Heart!
There's one of them will rue.

(W. H. Ogilvie, “In Mulga Town,” stanza 1.)

This stanza could quite well be rounded off at the first “rue,” when it would be composed of three ordinary Ballad verses of seven stress-units each. The addition of the “Dear Heart!” however, converts the last line of these stress-units into one of four, again followed by one of three :—

(14a.) If three should play, alack-a-day!
There's one of them will rue, dear heart!
There's one of them will rue.

It simply means that the pause at the end of the line containing only three stress-units is filled, making it equal to the line preceding. There is a telescoping, as it were, of an eight-stressed and a seven-stressed verse, the former resulting when the first and second lines of (14a) are taken together, the latter when the second and third are taken together. The special point to be observed is that the pause following the seven-stressed verse is of sufficient duration to admit of its place being taken by an ordinary stressunit of two syllables in the present example, or three syllables in a triple metre, and when its place is so filled the pause altogether disappears. The inference is that whenever a verse containing only seven stress-units occurs the pause by which it is followed is simply a gap from which sound has been dropped, and into which sound may at any time be replaced. In other words, the verse of seven stress-units, or Ballad verse, is merely a variation of the verse of eight stress-units, the Romance verse. The pause may not always be exactly equal to the dropped unit, for a pause being unable to assert itself as articulate sound is able, it has a tendency to collapse on itself as it were—to shorten unequally. It nevertheless always retains the power to expand so as to admit the restoration of the dropped unit, should such restoration be desired.

9. The full verse of eight stress-units will hereafter be called the Romance verse, from the fact that it formed the metre of the French romances; the verse of seven stress-units will be called the Ballad verse, from the fact that it forms the vital metre of the common English ballad. The Romance metre, too, is considered as being the parent of the Ballad.

– 612 –

10. The Ballad metre has two lesser brethren, also probably sprung from the Romance, though not on English ground. The first of these may be called the Nibelungen metre, from the fact that it forms the metre of the great German epic, the “Nibelungen Noth.” It is an important ballad-metre both in Germany and in Denmark. It is easy to see the relation existing between Ballad and Nibelungen metres: a verse of each is contained in Christina Rossetti's “He and She” :—

(15.) Should one of us remember,
And one of us forget,
I wish I knew what each would do—
But who can tell as yet?

This forms the typical metre of “Horatius”; and in thirty-nine out of the forty-five stanzas of that poem the two metres mingle. The Nibelungen has a most distinctive lilt, and its peculiarity is due to the fact that the stressed syllable of the fourth unit has been dropped :—

(15a.) Should one/  of us/  remem/ber,  /   and one/  of us/  forget/,
I wish/  I knew/  what each/  would do/—but who/  can tell/  as yet?/

For variations in the Nibelungen metre one must turn to the great German epic itself as to a treasure-house. The following are noted :—

  • (16.) a. We are/  in an/cient sto/ries   /   won/ders ma/ny told/

  • b. Fair/  with out/  a ble/mish,   /   her gra/cious bo/dy was/,

  • c. Of fes/tival and/  rejoi/cing,   /   of wee/ping and/  complai/ning,

  • d. Who al/so in/  his youth/ful days/  great ho/nour of/ten won/.

  • e. For whom/  must ma/ny good/ly war/riors lose/  both bo/dy and breath/.

  • f. Of no/ble he/roes' stri/vings must/  ye e'en now/  to won/ders hear/ken.

  • g. I will/  of both/  avoid/  me,   /  that I/  from mis/chance may/  be spared/.

  • h. How sor/row   /  to true/  love   /   oft/  at length/  is bared/;

  • i. So yet/  to thee/  will God/  allot/  a good/ly knight/  of stur/dy limb/.

These variations all occur in the first Adventure, containing nineteen stanzas of four verses each; and besides these, there are many verses varied internally—that is, at other places besides the line-ends and verse-ends. It will therefore be evident that the metre, whilst retaining its peculiar character, is infinitely varied. In d, e, and f above it swells to full Ballad; in i it swells to full Romance; in g we have a Romance verse with a Nibelungen unit, an exceedingly rare verse in British poetry. Burns has a striking example in “Sae flaxen were her Ringlets”—

(17.) Sae flaxen were her ringlets,
Her eyebrows of a darker hue,
Bewitchingly o'er-arching
Twa laughing een o' bonie blue.
Her smiling, sae wyling,
Wad make a wretch forget his woe!
What pleasure, what treasure,
Unto those rosy lips to grow!
Such was my Chloris' bonie face
When first that bonie face I saw,
And ay my Chloris' dearest charm—
She says she lo'es me best of a'!

(Stanza 1.)

It is seen by the concluding verses that the whole is a Romance stanza; it will be noted, too, that verses three and four are parallels to quotation h so far as the opening is concerned—an opening used by very few British poets outside Scotland. Tennyson has a happy combination of the three verses Nibelungen-Romance, true Nibelungen, and true Romance in his song in “The Miller's Daughter”—

– 613 –

(18.) It is the miller's daughter,
And she is grown so dear, so dear,    (Nib.-Rom.)
That I would be the jewel
That trembles in her ear:        (Nib.)
For, hid in ringlets day and night,
I'd touch her neck so warm and white.        (Rom.)

—which is divided,—

(18a.) It is/  the mil/ler's daugh/ter,   /  and she/  is grown/  so dear/,  so dear/,
That I/  would be/  the jew/el   /  that trem/bles in/  her ear/:   /
For, hid/  in ring/lets day/  and night/,  I'd touch/  her neck/  so warm/  and white/.

The swelling of the Nibelungen to this Nibelungen-Romance has almost the effect of the Alexandrine swell in the Spencerian stanza :—

(19.) Now came the lovely maiden,    as morning steals in rose
Forth from sullen shadows;    then slipped their many woes
From men's faint hearts, new gladdened    to have old aches dispelled;
He saw the lovely maiden,    her grace and her splendour he beheld.

(Adventure v, stanza 17.)

This swelling, whilst common in the epic, has nevertheless a strange sound to English ears, and one would rather suppose the Nibelungen metre to have sprung from the Ballad than from the Romance direct. This can only be determined by tracing the Nibelungen to its source; but it is only necessary, so far as this analysis is concerned, to show the practical identity of the two metres, Nibelungen and Ballad.

11. The second brother of the Ballad is the metre known as the Alexandrine, so called from its being the metre of an old French romance whose subject is Alexander. * It is a still further shortening of the Ballad metre; it drops the whole of the fourth unit—the unit from which the Nibelungen drops only the stressed syllable. Its relation to the Ballad is also easily seen :—

(20.) In court whoso demaundes
What dame doth most excell;
For my conceit I must needs say,
Fair Bridges bears the bel.
Upon whose lively cheeke,
To prove my judgment true,
The rose and lillie seem to strive
For equall change of hewe.

(Gascoigne's “Praise of the Fair Bridges.”)

Divided, this reads,—

(20a.) In court/  whoso/  demaundes/   /  what dame/  doth most/  excell/;  /
For my/  conceit/  I must/  needs say/,  fair Brid/ges bears/  the bel/.   /

The relation to the full Romance is shown in quotation (12a) :—

When he/  Goli/ath fought/,   /  and laid/  the Git/tite low ?/   /

No sword/  nor spear/  the strip/ling took/,  but chose/  a peb/ble from/  the brook/.

The three metres, Alexandrine, Ballad, and Romance, occur side by side in J. Montgomery's “Night” :—

(21.) Night is the time for rest;
How sweet, when labours close,
To gather round an aching breast
The curtain of repose,
Stretch the tired limbs, and lay the head
Down on our own delightful bed!

[Footnote] * “Roman d'Alexandre,” by Alexandre de Bernay, twelfth century.

– 614 –

(21a.) Night/  is the time/  for rest/;  /  how sweet/,  when la/bburs close/,
To ga/ther round/  an a/ching breast/  the cur/tain of/  repose/,   /
Stretch/  the tired limbs/,  and lay/  the head/  down/  on our own/  delight/ful bed I/

The Alexandrine in (21) is made Nibelungen by substituting “resting” for “rest,” and Ballad by adding “and peace” to “rest”;—

(21b.) Night/  is the time/  for rest/;  /  how sweet/,  when la/bours close/,
Night/  is the time/  for rest/ing;  /  how sweet/,  when la/bours close/,
Night/  is the time/  for rest/  and peace/; how sweet/,  when la/bours close/,

No dislocation of metre ensues; the pause is simply filled; and is not that an indication that the pause is occasioned by syllables having been dropped ? The pause is evident enough when the Alexandrine occurs with other metres; when, however, a poem is entirely in Alexandrines it is not quite so apparent. The following is from song xxvi in Drayton's “Polyolbion” :—

(22.) And of these archers brave, there was not any one
But he could kill a deer, his swiftest speed upon,
Which they did boil and roast in many a mighty wood,
Sharp hunger the fine sauce to their more kingly food.
Then taking them to rest, his merry men and he
Slept many a summer's night under the greenwood tree.
From wealthy abbots chests and churls abundant store,
What oftentimes he took he shar'd amongst the poor:
No lordly bishop came in lusty Robin's way,
To him, before he went, but for his pass must pay:

As already said, the pause, which tends to shorten, may not have, and most probably has not, the full value of the dropped unit; it is, nevertheless, potential to expand for the reception of such unit should necessity demand it.

In the old Romances these Alexandrines are at times written as couplets, as was also more generally the full Romance verse. Of verses written at length, Warton says,* “And some critics may be inclined to suspect, that the verses which we call Alexandrine, accidentally assumed their form merely from the practice of absurd transcribers, who frugally chose to fill their pages to the extremity, and violated the metrical structure for the sake of saving their, vellum.” In France the Alexandrine has been highly developed; in England it is used principally in its simplest form—a verse of two parts each containing three stress-units, and divided by a pause. It is here wished to show merely that this simpler form is closely connected with the Ballad.

12. Whilst Alexandrine and Nibelungen are closely related to Ballad, there seems to exist between them a curious antipathy, except when they are interwoven in short stanzas. In the following they blend well :—

(23.) I loved a lass, a fair one,
As fair as e'er was seen;
She was indeed a rare one,
Another Sheba Queen.
But fool as then I was,
I thought she loved me too:
And now, alas! she's left me,
Falero, lero, loo.

(Wither, “I Loved a Lass.”)

In the “Nibelungen Noth,” on the other hand, whilst all manner of variations, and combinations of Nibelungen verses with Ballad and Romance

[Footnote] * “History of English Poetry,” section 1 (page 30 of Ward, Lock, and Tyler's reprint in one volume).

– 615 –

occur, Alexandrines are almost absent—as though the two national metres were, like the two peoples, mutually inimical. In the first eight Adventures* of the great epic—that is, in 544 stanzas, containing 2, 176 verses—there are only five Alexandrines, viz. :—

  • (24.) a. E'en so/  did she/  excel/   /  all good/ly dames/  thereby/; (Adv. v, st. 19, v. 3.)

  • b. Dame U/te there/  also/,   /  the king/ly wife/  sat/. (Adv. v, st. 54, v. 3.)

  • c. Though not/  so much/  for thee/   /  I serve/  or love/  of thine/,  (Adv. vi, st. 71, v. 1.)

  • d. Full soon/  Brunhild/  the fair/   /  did on/  a state/ly robe/; (Adv. vii, st. 29, v. 1.)

  • e. And mark/  aright/  thou/,   /  what thou/  dost hear/  me ut/ter. (Adv. vii, st. 68, v. 2.)

Of these, the first example is perhaps better scanned,—

(24a.) a. So stood/  she   /  before/  them   /  and good/ly dames/  excelled/;

this being a common type of verse in the epic (see example (16) h). Again, d might be scanned :—

(24a.) d. Brunhild/   /  the fair/  one   /  donned quick/ly a state/ly robe/;

but this is doubtful, as, were such intended, “Brunhild” would probably have been written “Brunhilde,” as in—

(25.) The love/ly   /  Brunhil/de,   /  she/  who bore/  a crown/  (Adv. x, st. 26, v. 3.)

This means that four, or at most five, Alexandrines are admitted in a total of 2, 176 verses, a proportion so small, considering the large amount of variation the Nibelungen verse takes, as to suggest a foreign form. One conclusion may perhaps be drawn with some certainty—that is, whilst the Nibelungen appears to be a variation, by shortening, of the Ballad, the Alexandrine is not a variation, by shortening, of the Nibelungen. It may not be demonstrable, but it will possibly be found that the Alexandrine, being a peculiarly French form, developed directly from the Romance metre in France, as the Ballad developed from the Romance in England. Warton quotes a “Norman-Saxon poem” in which there are traces of Nibelungen in a body of Alexandrine verse. He was of opinion “that a pause, or division, was intended in the middle of every verse; and in this respect its versification resembles also that of ‘Albion's England,’ or Drayton's ‘Polyolbion,’ which was a species very common about the reign of Queen Elizabeth.”

13. If, however, we turn to modern Danish poetry, we may find perfect examples of the blending of Nibelungen, Alexandrine, and Ballad in poems whose metre is basically Nibelungen. The following examples are from Winther's series “Woodcuts” :—

  • (26.) a. When on/  the o/cean fell/   /  the sun's/  low e/ven beam/,

  • And our hou/ses and/  church stee/ple then/  were bathed/  in ro/sy gleam/,

  • Upon/  the door's/  board mos/sy   /  his fol/ded arms/  he laid/,

  • Whilst down/  the vale/  below/  him,   /his glance/  unwea/ried strayed/.

(Steffen og Anne, st. 2.)

[Footnote] * German edition by Dr. Gustav Pfizer: Stuttgart und Tübingen, 1843.

[Footnote] † “History of English Poetry,” section 1 (page 16 of Ward, Lock, and Tyler's reprint in one volume).