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Alliteration in the Poetic Edda


Tadao Shimomiya

This book presents a detailed analysis of the alliteration of the whole of the Poetic Edda (or Elder Edda) of the Codex Regius, using the Germanic alliterative framework established by Andreas Heusler. The considerable regularity of the alliterative scheme is demonstrated, with only a handful of the corpus of approximately 7,300 long-lines falling outside of the rules identified, and therefore the appropriacy of Heusler’s system for understanding the structure of the Poetic Edda is confirmed.
The needs of the student of Old Icelandic poetic style have been foremost in mind in the presentation of this book. It includes an overview of sources not readily available to scholars as well as those not available in English. Copious examples are presented in Old Icelandic with English translation and supported by a select glossary of key Old Icelandic words into English. A Japanese language précis contains a select list of 100 alliterations that appear in the Poetic Edda.


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Introduction 1


Introduction In this study, I have indicated alliterating sounds with a and nonalliterating sounds with x. There are three normal placements of an alliterating sound in a long line of two half-lines: aa/ax, ax/ax and xa/ax. The consonant groups sk, sp, st must alliterate with the same clusters. Vowels can alliterate with any other vowel on the ground that an initial vowel is preceded by a glottal stop in old Germanic languages (from today’s German ʔ auf ʔ einer ʔ alten ʔ Eiche). The principal stave (Hauptstab, hǫfuðstafr) is the stave in the first ictus of the line (Snorri Sturluson, c.1220, quoted from A. Heu- sler §35). Stave is a semantic narrowing of stafr (Buchstabe, Laut). The Latin alliteratio comes from the humanist Jovianus Pontanus (died 1503). Alliteration is a Germanic tradition known by name parallels Gunther, Gernot and Giselher in the Nibelungenlied, Hildebrand und Hadubrand (father and son in Hildebrandslied), Ingaevones, Istaevones, Erminones (trinity of Germanic protopeoples), the three Proto-Gods (V)Óðinn, Vili, Vé, or the Runic inscription ek HlewagastiR HoltijaR horna tawido (c.400, I, Hlewagastir of Holt, made the horn). Also outside Germanic the epitheton ornans in Kalevala (vaka vanha Väinämöinen ‘steadfast old Väinämöinen’, by W.F. Kirby 1907), Old Irish heroes Conchobar, Conall and Cu Chulainn. The type [aa/xa] (the stave in the second ictus of the second half- line) is not strictly excluded (A. Heusler §36), as in Vkv.15,1 Hlaðguðr ok Hervǫr / borin var Hloðvé (Hladgud and...

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