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Poetry Guide: Anglo-Saxon

Eduard Sievers developed a theory of the meter of Anglo-Saxon Alliterative verse. This most likely would have been the theory of Anglo-Saxon prosody that Ezra Pound would have been familiar with.[1]

A line of Anglo-Saxon verse is made up to two half-lines. Each of these half-lines contains two main stresses (or 'lifts'). Sievers categorized three basic types of half-line that were used. Here a stressed syllable is represented by the symbol '/' and an unstressed syllable by the symbol 'x'.

Type Description Example 1 Example 2
Type A Falling / x / x / x x x / x
Type B Rising x / x / x x x / x x /
Type C Rising / Falling x / / x x x x / / x x

He also noted that three possible types of half-line were not used:

However the first two of these can be used if one of the 'dips' is changed into a half-stress (or 'half lift' ... notated here 'x́'):

Type D Two stresses at start / / x́ x / / x x́
Type E Falling / Rising / x x́ / / x́ x /


  1. ^ Brooke-Rose, Christine, A ZBC of Ezra Pound, Faber and Faber, 1971. ISBN 0-571-091350 (page 88)