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An Introduction to the Study of Medieval Latin Versification

Dag Norberg

Publication Year: 2012

Dag Norberg's analysis and interpretation of Medieval Latin versification, which was published in French in 1958 and remains the standard work on the subject, appears here for the first time in English with a detailed, scholarly introduction by Jan Ziolkowski that reviews the developments of the past fifty years.

Published by: The Catholic University of America Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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An Introduction to Norberg’s Introduction

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pp. ix-xx

For nearly forty years, English-speakers who have wished to study classical meter have relied upon such fine staples as Latin Metre: An Introduction by D. S. Raven and The Meters of Greek and Latin Poetry by James W. Halporn, Martin Ostwald, and Thomas G. Rosenmeyer.1 Of approximately the same vintage, Dag Norberg’s ...

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Translators’ Preface

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pp. xxi-xxii

A few technical comments need to be made about the translation itself. We have added a Glossary of Terms, which is not in Norberg’s book; the definitions in the Glossary of Terms are based on those given in the second edition of the Oxford English Dictionary and on the definitions provided by James W. Halporn,Martin Ostwald, and Thomas G. Rosenmeyer, The Meters of Greek and Latin Poetry, rev. ed. ...

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Foreword to the French Edition

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pp. xxiii-xxiv

Metrics is one of those subjects that generate a great deal of controversy, and the interpretation of Medieval Latin verse is particularly controversial. Latinists are inclined to consider it more or less like Classical Latin verse; Romance language specialists see it as merely Romance-language verse in disguise. Others rely on modern versification or on general metrical considerations ...

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1 Prosody and Accentuation

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pp. 1-22

It is obviously impossible to formulate rules of prosody that would be generally valid for the quantitative poetry of the Middle Ages. The authors, in principle, were bound to models that, for them, were classical; some authors were successful, others were less so. But on this point we ought to note that they were imitating not only Virgil, Ovid, and the other poets of the ...

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2 Synaeresis, Diaeresis, Syncope, Prosthesis, Elision, and Hiatus

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pp. 23-30

... One could cite, although to a lesser extent, analogous cases borrowed from the rhythmic poetry of more recent times. None of them implies anything new, as a rule, nor anything that did not already exist in Virgil. However, it seems necessary to underscore the phenomenon while noting the scholarly treatment of the Goliardic verses of Hugh of Trimberg.3 Much ...

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3 Assonance, Rhyme, and Alliteration

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pp. 31-47

We know that in classical poetry assonances and rhymes are more or less accidental or serve to produce a special effect.1 Classical verse without rhyme also existed in the Middle Ages, practiced by a large number of writers who were closely inspired by the older models. But at the same time a systematic and regular use of assonance was developing and, later, of rhyme, a use ...

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4 Acrostics, Carmina Figurata, and Other Poetic Devices

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pp. 48-57

... One of the most common devices is the practice of making what is called an acrostic with the first letters of each verse or of each strophe. Quite frequently in epitaphs the name of the deceased is given in this way and, in liturgical poetry, the name of the saint whose feast was celebrated. Often an author preserved for posterity his own name by slipping it into his poem in ...

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5 Metrical Versification

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pp. 58-80

For reasons set forth in the introduction, the summary of quantitative verse that I will give in this chapter will be particularly brief. I will begin by saying a few words to explain the most common and the most important verse even in the Middle Ages, the dactylic hexameter. A few medieval poets know the different rules governing the construction of the hexameter so well that their verses, if they ...

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6 The Beginnings of Rhythmic Versification: Rhythmic Versification and Metrical Poetry

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pp. 81-129

Quantitative verse is based on the opposition in length between long and short syllables. In the classical period the principle was natural since when pronouncing words one made a distinction between long and short syllables. However, during the imperial era the Latin accent changed and, after having been musical, or at least basically musical, it became mainly a stress accent even among cultured people. At the time of St. Augustine, according to Augustine ...

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7 Rhythmic Versification and Music

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pp. 130-155

Rhythmic poetry was, in general, intended to be sung and not to be read. We have, therefore, good reason to examine the relationship between the melody and the text. Obviously, given the nature of the documents that we possess, this examination will have a hypothetical result in quite a few cases; yet in others it will be more certain; and we are, in any case, compelled to ...

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8 Sequences, Tropes, Motets, Rondeaux

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pp. 156-179

The oldest Christian religious service was not at all lacking in songs or poems. Well before St. Ambrose introduced in the West the poetic hymn that assumed the form of ancient versification, singers had been singing, in the East as well as in the West, hymns and songs, either borrowed from the Bible or composed after models offered by biblical poetry. In the Bible, it was ...

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9 Conclusion

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pp. 180-186

The Latin versification of the Middle Ages was entirely dependent on school teaching. Because the medieval school continued the traditions of late antiquity, there was no break in the evolution of versification. Throughout the entire Middle Ages, poets continued to write ancient quantitative verses according to the model of Virgil or Sedulius, of Horace or Prudentius. Certain versifiers appropriated ...

Glossary of Terms

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pp. 187-189


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pp. 191-198

Index of Words

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pp. 199-201

Index of Names

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pp. 202-205

Index of Anonymous Texts

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pp. 206-208

General Prosodic Index

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pp. 209-211

Rhythmic Verses

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pp. 212-215

Rhythmic Strophes

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pp. 216-217

Production Notes

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E-ISBN-13: 9780813216348
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813213361

Page Count: 244
Publication Year: 2012

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Latin poetry, Medieval and modern -- History and criticism.
  • Latin language, Medieval and modern -- Metrics and rhythmics.
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