Old Norse poetry encompasses a range of verse forms written in Old Norse , during the period from the 8th century see Eggjum stone to as late as the far end of the 13th century. Most of the Old Norse poetry that survives was preserved in Iceland , but there are also preserved poems in Swedish rune inscriptions , 54 in Norwegian and 12 in Danish. Poetry played an important role in the social and religious world of the Vikings. Old Norse poetry is characterised by alliteration , a poetic vocabulary expanded by heiti , and use of kennings.
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Three metres are commonly distinguished in Eddaic poetry: the epic measure, the speech measure, and the song measure. Most narrative poems are in the first measure, which consists of short lines of two beats joined in pairs by alliteration. The number of weakly stressed syllables might vary, but the total number of syllables in the line is rarely fewer than four. In these respects it resembles the measure used by Anglo-Saxon and early Germanic poets.
The song measure is the most irregular of the Eddaic verse forms. It is chiefly in didactic poems and generally consists of strophes of six lines divided into half strophes of three lines. It was not composed in the free variable metres of the Poetic Edda but was strictly syllabic: every syllable had to be counted, and every line had to end in a given form.
Like Eddaic lines, the skaldic lines were joined in pairs by alliteration , often using internal rhyme or consonance , but this poetry differed in syntax and choice of expression. Word order is freer than in Eddaic poetry.
Little is known about skaldic verse forms, but they are thought to have been developed in Norway during the 9th century and could have been influenced by the forms and diction of Irish poets of the period.
The earliest known poet was Bragi the Old, who probably wrote in Norway in the latter half of the 9th century. Harald I died c. The distinction between Icelandic and Norwegian literature at this period can be difficult to make. Although the complexity of skaldic poetry has limited its modern readership, the orally transmitted poems of the 10th and 11th centuries became valuable sources for Icelandic historians in the following centuries.
Missionaries taught Icelanders the Latin alphabet , and they soon began to study in the great schools of Europe. Extant works of the period are few or anonymous. Larger collections of religious literature appeared in late 12th- and early 13th-century manuscripts. As elsewhere in Europe, the most popular books were often lives of the Apostles and saints. The word saga is used in Icelandic for any kind of story or history, whether written or oral.
In English it is typically used to refer more precisely to the biographies of a hero or group of heroes written in Iceland between the12th and the 15th century. These heroes were most often kings of Norway, early founders of Iceland, or legendary Germanic figures of the 4th to the 8th century.
In form it is a hagiographic narrative, laying emphasis on miracles worked through the agency of the saint. In the late 12th century several short histories of Norwegian kings were taken from Norway to Iceland, where they influenced Icelandic historians.
Morkinskinna , probably written earlier, covered the period from Magnus I Olafsson ruled —47 to the late 12th century. Snorri Sturluson wrote many kinds of works and played an important role in political wrangles in his time.
Among works ascribed to him are the Snorra Edda c. The value of these as historical sources has long been debated. Snorri was certainly well read in vernacular history and attempted to write faithful accounts of what he had read in earlier records. But he did not aim to write history in the modern sense of the term, as an analytical reconstruction of past events; his work was creative and therefore portrayed his heroes imaginatively.
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The Eddaic verse forms Three metres are commonly distinguished in Eddaic poetry: the epic measure, the speech measure, and the song measure. The sagas The word saga is used in Icelandic for any kind of story or history, whether written or oral. Load Next Page. More About.
Old Norse poetry
Poetic Edda is the modern attribution for an unnamed collection of Old Norse anonymous poems, which is different from the Edda written by Snorri Sturluson. Several versions exist, all primarily of text from the Icelandic medieval manuscript known as the Codex Regius , which contains 31 poems. From the earlyth century onwards it has had a powerful influence on later Scandinavian literatures - not only through its stories, but also through the visionary force and the dramatic quality of many of the poems. It has also become an inspiring model for many later innovations in poetic meter, particularly in Nordic languages , offering many varied examples of terse, stress-based metrical schemes that lack any final rhyme but instead use alliterative devices and strongly-concentrated imagery.
The Eddaic verse forms