Verse Style

Jean-Yves Tilliette

in The Oxford Handbook of Medieval Latin Literature

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780195394016
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 Verse Style

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  • Classical Studies
  • Classical Reception
  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)


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This tendency to dismantle verse is evidence of the decidedly artificial character of metrical versification in the Middle Ages, whose rules are then made even more rigid by theorists: thus, through a process of hypercorrection, purists do not hesitate to banish all use of elision, or to recommend a monotone system of breaks overwhelmingly dominated by the penthemimeral caesura. The overall effect of these rules is that word order becomes mechanical. Rigidification is due as well to the almost universal adoption of dactylic verse by medieval metrical poets. The poetic style of the Middle Ages is therefore the site of a subtle dialectic between self and other. Emblematic of this idea is the first example of the medieval revival of epic, a poem composed around 800 to celebrate Charlemagne, known as Paderborn epos or Karolus Magnus et Leo Papa. In the twelfth century, the renewal of poetic forms of expression is accompanied by an equally new ambition for poetry to announce itself as the unique bearer of the truth—in other words, as something other than an elegant and delightful repetition of content that could be expressed in prose.

Keywords: Verse; Middle Ages; medieval metrical poets; epic; Charlemagne; poetry

Article.  12765 words. 

Subjects: Classical Studies ; Classical Reception ; Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)

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