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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Vol. I. Poetry for Scandinavian Rulers 1: From Mythological Times to c. 1035 2. General Introduction 4. The metres of skaldic poetry

4. The metres of skaldic poetry

Kari Ellen Gade 2012, ‘The metres of skaldic poetry’ in Diana Whaley (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 1: From Mythical Times to c. 1035. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 1. Turnhout: Brepols, p. li.

The poetry edited in the volumes of SkP comprises poems and stanzas composed in what are conventionally labelled ‘skaldic’ metres (such as kviðuháttr ‘poem’s form’, dróttkvætt ‘court metre’, hrynhent ‘flowing-rhymed’ and runhent ‘end-rhymed’) as well as those composed in ‘eddic’ metres (e.g. metres characteristic of the poetry of the Poetic Edda, such as fornyrðislag ‘old story metre’, málaháttr ‘speeches’ form’ and ljóðaháttr ‘songs’ form’). As discussed in §1.1 above, the term ‘skaldic’ poetry is difficult to define, because eddic metres are not limited to the poetry found in the Poetic Edda (and hence excluded from the present edition); rather, just like the skaldic metres, all three eddic metres were used in lausavísur (free-standing occasional stanzas) and in longer encomiastic poetic compositions. Furthermore, the skaldic metres clearly evolved from the eddic fornyrðislag, either as hypometrical or hypermetrical variants (with or without internal rhyme) or as regularised fornyrðislag with internal rhyme or end-rhyme (see the overview at the end of §4.1). The present section of the Introduction gives an overview of the structural peculiarities of the Old Norse metres (§4.1) and an outline of their genesis and development over the centuries (§4.2-4; for a summary of the history of Old Norse metres, see Gade 2002a). The final paragraph (§4.5) offers a brief discussion of types of poems and other formal parts of Old Norse poetry.


  1. Bibliography
  2. Gade, Kari Ellen. 2002a. ‘History of Old Nordic Metrics’. In Bandle et al. 2002, I, 865-70.
  3. SkP = Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages. Turnhout: Brepols.

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