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AUTHOR: Shimomiya, Tadao TITLE: Alliteration in the Poetic Edda SERIES: Studies in Historical Linguistics, Volume 8 PUBLISHER: Peter Lang YEAR: 2011
B. A. Thurber, Shimer College
SUMMARY This book, identified as an expansion of Shimomiya (2008), presents a line-by-line analysis of parts of the Poetic Edda, marking alliterating sounds in each analyzed line and giving detailed analyses of all forms. The bulk of the book is taken up by a list of lines and their analyses. An Old Norse-English glossary takes up most of the rest of the space. The basis of the analysis is Heusler's (1918-19) system.
The book begins with a forward, legend, and short (3.5-page) introduction explaining the notation and methods used. The introduction lists the three most common types of alliterating lines ([aa/ax], [ax/ax], and [xa/ax], where a is for alliterating and x for non-alliterating) and some rules for what sounds alliterate. Exceptional lines of the type [aa/xa] lines with twofold alliteration (either crossed or enclosing), and lines without alliteration are listed. Examples of lines in which initial <h> is ignored and lines in which pronouns alliterate are also given. There are also some lines without any alliteration listed. The introduction ends with a paragraph on the song form used for some of the poems.
As noted, most of the volume (102 pages) is devoted to examples of alliterating lines. A few pages are devoted to each poem of the Poetic Edda, in order in which the poems appear in Kuhn's (1962) edition. All of the poems included by Kuhn (1962) are given: the 29 poems from Codex Regius plus Balder's Dreams, The List of Rig, The Song of Hyndla, The Song of Grotti, The Lay of the Fight of the Huns, The Death-song of Hildibrand. Each analyzed poem receives a few introductory sentences, typically explaining the plot of the poem, followed by a number of examples of alliterating lines. In most poems, stanzas are treated as a whole, but in some poems, including the Seeress's Prophecy, lines are treated singly. Lines and stanzas are sometimes introduced by a sentence giving their context in the poem. In the analysis of The Seeress's Prophecy and Sayings of the High One, the lines are given in alphabetical order by alliterating sound. Examples from the other poems are given in the order in which they occur.
In each quoted line, the alliterating words are printed in bold face. This quotation is followed by a literal translation and detailed analysis of all quoted forms. For each form, all grammatical information and the word's meaning are given. For some words, notes from other sources, etymological information, or cognates in other languages are also provided. The analysis of ''Ifing'' is ''Ifing, f. name of river, wohl eig. 'ungestüme' (Jan de Vries)'' (that is, `the impetuous one'); later in the same stanza, the analysis of ''á á'' is given as '''on the river', prep. á, with normal North Germanic loss of 'n', Runic ana, Goth. ana, E. on, G. an, Gr. aná; á, f. 'river', Goth. ahwa, L. aqua, G. Aue'' (Shimomiya 2011: 21).
Following the analysis, there is an Old Icelandic-English glossary intended ''for beginning students'' (Shimomiya 2011: vii). Each word's entry includes its part of speech, gender for nouns, class for verbs, and any irregular forms, as well as its meaning. Some declined or conjugated forms are listed, such as ''hana'' (third person feminine singular accusative pronoun), which is listed separately from ''hon'' (the nominative singular form) (Shimomiya 2011: 128, 133). Occasional pointers to a word's occurrence in a a poem are included. Cognates and etymological information are included for some words. Entries for names include brief biographical information, as in the entry for Þórr, ''m. Thor, thunder god, son of Odin [Thursday, G. Donnerstag, L. tonare]'' (Shimomiya 2011: 170).
After the glossary, there is a short bibliography which includes major resources on the Old Norse language and the Poetic Edda. This is followed by a six-page précis in Japanese, which features a list of 100 alliterating phrases followed by examples of all the types of alliterating lines.
The book concludes with a single-page ''Index of Terms''. These refer to types of alliteration, grammatical features (such as the adverbial genitive), and interesting content (including a ''list of eight best things'', a reference to the list in Grimnir's Sayings which includes Sleipnir, Odin's eight-legged horse, as the best horse) (Shimomiya 2011: 187).
EVALUATION The alliteration analyzed here is an important part of the study of Germanic metrics, which has long been a subject of study (see, for example, Sievers 1893). Heusler's (1918-19, 1925-29) work was the beginning of a large discussion of Germanic verse in general, as summarized by Harris (1985: 85-87). This book's analysis of the Poetic Edda according to Heusler's (1918-19) system provides a large set of examples of these rules in practice. The examples are meticulously done, with plenty of detail given to aid a student reader's understanding.
The organization of the volume, with the poems in order and notes on what happens in each, makes it easy to study one poem at a time. Numerous examples from each poem are given, but not the complete poems. From Gripir's Prophecy, for example, Shimomiya has selected nine of the 53 stanzas to analyze (2011: 55-59). No explanation of why these particular stanzas were selected is provided.
The lack of explanation of the analysis and its overall conclusions is my main criticism of the book. The back cover of the book states, ''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 appropriateness of Heusler's system for understanding the structure of the Poetic Edda is confirmed,'' but this claim is not explicitly made in the text. However, it does seem like a reasonable conclusion to be drawn from the data presented.
Shimomiya does not mention two of Heusler's rules for Old Norse: that <j> alliterates with syllabic vowels [iörð : upp] and that <v> occasionally alliterates with a vowel [vættr : atta] (Heusler 1918-19: §27). Shimomiya gives examples of the first, such as ''iörð fannz æva / né upphiminn (Vsp. 3,3)'' (2011: 8). As for the second, Lehmann and Dillon give ''vætr : átta'' as an alliterating pair in stanzas 26 and 28 of Thrym's Poem (1954: 17). Shimomiya analyzes the relevant line in stanza 26, ''Át vætr Freyia / átta nóttom,'' as alliterating on the á in both half-lines (2011: 39). In the analysis of the equivalent line in stanza 28, Shimomiya writes that ''Svaf vætr Freyia / átta nóttom,'' does ''not have any alliteration available'' (2011: 3). Another example of this phenomenon occurs in another line that Shimomiya states is unalliterating: ''hana kvað hann óskmey / verða skyldo (Od.16,2)'' (2011: 3). Lehmann and Dillon list óskmey and verða as an alliterating pair in this line (1954: 113), in keeping with Heusler's rule. It is not clear why Shimomiya chose not to include this rule. This is one particular place in which a detailed explanation would be useful, because there seems to be a disagreement between the studies.
A second criticism is that there are some typographical errors in the book. One example is in the entry for “Ifing” quoted above: de Vries has “der ungestüme”, not just “ungestüme”.
Despite these two criticisms, this book ought to be helpful to both students and scholars. Students beginning to study the Poetic Edda, especially those who may not be completely comfortable with Old Norse morphology, will find the detailed grammatical explanations useful. The line-by-line marking and analysis will help them to understand the structure of alliterative verse. Scholars should find the details given for each line helpful, provided the lines they are interested in are included.
REFERENCES Harris, Joseph. 1985. Eddic Poetry. In Old Norse-Icelandic Literature: A Critical Guide, edited by Carol J. Clover and John Lindow. Islandica, vol. 45. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
Heusler, Andreas. 1918-1919. Stabreim. In Reallexikon der germanischen Altertumskunde, edited by Johannes Hoops. Volume 4. Strassburg: Karl J. Trübner.
Heusler, Andreas. 1925-1929. Deutsche Versgeschichte mit Einschluss des altenglischen und altnordischen Stabreimverses. 3 vols. Berlin: W. de Gruyter. Reprinted 1956.
Kuhn, Hans. 1962. Edda: Die Lieder des Codex Regius nebst verwandten Denkmälern. I. Text. Third edition. Heidelberg: Winter.
Lehmann, W. P. and J. L. Dillard. 1954. The Alliterations of the Edda. Austin: Department of Germanic Languages, University of Texas.
Shimomiya, Tadao. 2008. Alliteration in the Poetic Edda. The Development of the Anglo-Saxon Language and Linguistic Universals Series 3:87-115. Senshu: Senshu University.
Sievers, Eduard. 1893. Altgermanische Metrik. Halle: M. Niemeyer.
Vries, Jan de. 1962. Altnordisches etymologisches Wörterbuch. Second edition. Leiden: E. J. Brill.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
B. A. Thurber is Assistant Professor of Humanities and Natural Sciences at
Shimer College in Chicago, IL. She is interested in historical linguistics.