Journal of Germanic Linguistics


Early Middle English Evidence for Old English Meter: Resolution in Poema morale

Robert D. Fulk a1c1
a1 Indiana University


In the twelfth-century Middle English Poema morale, perhaps the earliest English composition in a septenary meter, the metrical position at the end of the first hemistich is distinguished from all other positions in admitting a short syllable plus another in a pattern that would disrupt the meter, creating an extra unstressed syllable, if the two were not resolved, as in the word dede in the verse Ic welde more thanne ic dede; | mi wit oh to bi more. Here resolution seems to have been carried over from Old English into a Middle English isometric meter based on Latin models. This constitutes significant evidence for resolution as a genuine property of Old English verse, which in turn lends strong support to Eduard Sievers's metrical analysis of early Germanic alliterative verse. 1

c1 Department of English, Indiana University, 442 Ballantine Hall, Bloomington, IN 47405,


1 I am grateful to Kari Gade, who read this paper in draft and made some important corrections, and to Geoffrey Russom, Donka Minkova, and Robert Stockwell, who offered valuable comments on the paper when it was presented at the seventh Germanic Linguistics Annual Conference, held in Banff in April, 2001. Tomas Riad generously provided copies of papers, both published and unpublished, and the two anonymous referees for JGL offered lengthy and challenging critiques, resulting in several alterations. To all of these scholars I owe sincere thanks, and of course deficiencies in the paper are in no way attributable to them.