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The origins and early development of rhyme in English verse.

The origin of rhyme is not an issue with which modern scholarship is much concerned, though it attracted attention in the Golden Age of prosody, the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, not least from German scholars such as Schipper and Norden, prompting a wry comment from Saintsbury: 'The tabling of rhymes [...] provides a very large part of the monographs, which, in Germany and elsewhere, obtain for the monographers the title of Doctor.' (1) Saintsbury admitted defeat a little too readily: 'Rhyme appeared no one knows quite how, or why, or whence.' Yet it is puzzling that the question of rhyme's origins has not been resolved, given that it has been used in English verse for thirteen hundred years, and has dominated poetic form in the seven centuries leading up to the free verse movement. Aside from satisfying a natural curiosity about its origins, unravelling rhyme's early development should help to identify its uses and functions.

Rhyme appeared in English verse in the late seventh century, yet since it first emerged elsewhere around 1000 bc, we can safely assume an external source and point of transmission. (2) In the past, critics viewed rhyme as the invention of the Barbarians who conquered the Roman Empire. According to Campion: 'In those lack-learning times, and in barbarized Italy, began that vulgar and easie kind of Poesie which is now in vse throughout most parts of Christendome, which we abusively call Rime and Meeter.' (3) The notion of an Italian or Arabic source in the eighth century prevailed until the early nineteenth century, when Sharon Turner pointed to a much earlier use of rhyme in Church Latin of the fourth and fifth centuries. (4) The most detailed modern study of rhyme, by Henry Lanz, accepted an origin within early Latin hymnology, but indicated that such hymns, notably the De judicio domini, first appeared in the Roman province of North Africa about ad 200. (5) Lanz recorded that rhyme was used in classical Latin verse, and although most scholars have seen such uses as accidental or the result of grammatical parallelism, some have argued that they were sustained and deliberate. (6) Norden complicated matters by suggesting that rhyme had its roots not in classical verse but in classical art-prose.

The search for its earliest use poses the problem of what is accepted as rhyme. Clearly, accidental repetition and similar inflections should be excluded, but modern definitions of rhyme (for example, agreement in the terminal sounds of two or more words or lines so that the last stressed vowel and all following sounds are the same) would rule out much early rhyme, which is often merely a matter of sporadically repeating a single sound. (7) Sometimes, as in Old French, the adoption of rhyme was preceded by a prolonged use of assonance, and indeed, some scholars take assonance to be a form of rhyme. (8)

Suggested points of origin, from which a route to English verse might be traced, have included Persian, Ancient Chinese, Celtic, Arabic, Old Norse, and Vulgar Latin. However, there are two quite different approaches to the question of rhyme's origins. One method seeks to determine the earliest recorded use of rhyme and then to trace all subsequent uses back to that first appearance. The other argues that as languages possess only limited sounds, repetitions and jingles occur naturally; hence we should expect rhyme to appear quite independently in several cultures.

The most notable 'single point of origin' account was put forward by J. W. Draper, who located the earliest appearance of rhyme in the religious and folk poetry of the Chinese of around 1000 bc, recorded in the Shih Ching, and traced this route of transmission:

Chinese folk-poetry apparently gave it to the prehistoric Iranians, who in time passed it on to the Lydians, the Hindus and the Arabs; and the Persian cult of Mithras gave it to Latin Christianity and so to the vernaculars of Europe. Religious poetry was the vehicle for transmission; and the chief literary monuments marking this transmission are the Shih Ching, the Yashts and the Gathas in the Avesta, and the De Judicio Domini together with the Medieval hymnology that it influenced. (9)

Chinese verse does provide a very early written record of rhyme-use. Looking at the obvious alternatives, the earliest-known literatures, all dating from about 2500 bc, are Sumerian, Egyptian, and Sanskrit, and although all have metrical verse, there is little evidence of rhyme. (10) Hebraic verse, dating from about 1150 bc, had some rhyme, but it stemmed from grammatical parallelism and similarity of inflections, and was probably accidental. (However, Hebraic verse would have been widely disseminated, and authorities, such as Herder, have seen it as a source of rhyme.) (11)

The Shi Ching, cited by Draper, is from the fifth century bc and contains 305 poems dating back to the eleventh century. Legend has it that the poems were selected by Confucius. Each character was pronounced as one syllable, and the form is of four-syllable lines with end-rhyme. (12) These poems were composed for song, mainly secular. By the second century ad a new form arose, with a five-character line in which the couplet functioned as a metrical unit independent of musical rhythm; the second line of the couplet had end-rhyme. During the Tang dynasty (ad 618-907) a more regulated verse-form arose, with an eight-line structure in couplets with lines of five or seven syllables throughout. This couplet had obligatory end-rhyme in the second line and optional end-rhyme in the first line, with the same rhyme-sound throughout the eight lines.

Acknowledging that Chinese verse demonstrates the earliest sustained use of rhyme, the question then is whether Draper's proposed line of transmission can be accepted. Draper's scholarship does not inspire confidence: he gives the first example of rhyme in German as ad 1000, whereas it was used by Otfrid around ad 880, a chronology known in the early nineteenth century. In fact, his evidence suggests dual sources in Ancient Iran and China. Only his commitment to a sole origin leads him to conclude that the Chinese have 'the honor of inventing rhyme', and to suggest the carrying of rhyme from the Chinese to the Iranians by the Mongol hordes (a dramatic touch: plunder, pillage, and rhyme). Significantly, Draper's conclusions are misrepresented in The New Princeton Encyclopedia, no doubt, in part, because of the ambiguity of his evidence. (13)

Probably the best that can be said of the 'single point of origin' view is that it is implausible. At this distance in time much of the argument is pure conjecture. The closed nature of Chinese civilization affords many examples of Chinese advances (papermaking, block-printing, gunpowder, iron-casting) that were not transmitted to Western Europe. But the most telling objection lies in the skill and complexity of Chinese rhyme patterns. For if this example were known in Europe, why should it have taken almost a thousand years for rhyme to develop from vestigial sound-repetition in De judicio domini, at the close of the second century, to the flowering of stanzaic rhyme in the thirteenth century? (14) (It is significant that the time-scale of rhyme development in Chinese mirrors that of European verse.) Indeed, there are instances of much earlier European uses of rhyme than De judico domini: for example, Simmias of Rhodes is credited with creating rhyming verse at about 300 bc. (15) Earlier still, classical Greek and Latin prose were full of deliberate rhyming. In the fifth century bc the sophist Gorgias used such blatant rhyme effects that the audience, anticipating the rhymes, shouted them out in advance, yet it would be odd to claim transmission from Ancient Chinese to classical Greek.

It seems far more probable that rhyme emerged in several cultures at differing times. Hence, the actual transmission of rhyme into English verse, rather than any single point of origin, is the issue, and it will be useful to outline the early uses of rhyme within English verse that any such account must be able to explain.

Although Old English verse was marked by a patterned use of stress and alliteration, it also had a surprising degree of rhyme-use, particularly in its later period. In fact, what is often taken to be the first Old English poem, Caedmon's 'Hymn', dating from about 680, has one internal rhyme, 'tha middungeard moncynnaes uard', and an end-line repetition. (16) (This illustrates the difficulty in determining whether isolated instances of rhyme were merely accidental. Moreover, for a first use there can be no existing literary convention that justifies our act of labelling, and we must assume that such conventions lay within another culture with which the poet was familiar.) Cynewulf's Christ II, late eighth or ninth century, contains a passage in which the half-lines are rhymed. More significant is the aptly titled Rhyming Poem, which rhymes extensively, if crudely, at both mid-line and endline, with, for example, sixteen consecutive rhymes on -ade. This poem, variously dated from the eighth century to the tenth, has puzzled critics because its sustained use of rhyme is so untypical of Old English verse, and some have argued that the poem is the only surviving example of a school of such rhymed poetry. The tenth-century Judith, of which only 350 lines survive, demonstrates frequent use of endrhyme, whilst the twenty-line poem on Alfred's capture and death in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for 1036 is notable for the absence of alliteration and the frequency with which the half-lines are linked by rhyme and assonance--conclusive evidence of the growing interest in rhymed verse. At a transitional point between Old and Middle English verse lies 'The Proverbs of Alfred' (1150-80), which has alliterating lines without rhyme, lines without alliteration or rhyme, and some rhymed couplets, and its form demonstrates the final weakening of the conventions of Old English verse.

From the Conquest to the close of the eleventh century, there was little vernacular literature (apart from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle); and by the middle of the twelfth century Anglo-Norman narrative verse in rhyming octosyllabic couplets appeared. Anglo-Norman lyrics, which often mixed Latin, Anglo-Norman, and Middle English, and were usually rhymed, often internally, date from the twelfth century to the early fourteenth. Rhyme's capacity to cross language barriers is demonstrated by triple rhymes: for example, 'in tabulis | la vile de Paris | so wel me is.' (17) Early Middle English poems, such as the Brut (late twelfth century), represent a transition from the old alliterative to the new syllabic, rhymed verse, and combine alliteration with internal and end-rhyme. At over thirty thousand lines, it is probable that the period of composition was long enough to reflect the growing ascendancy of rhyme, as about one-sixth of the opening five hundred lines are rhymed, against about half of the last five hundred (though it should be noted that many of the rhymes are imperfect). (18)

Although the Normans had no poetry of their own, and Normandy was not linked to Paris, the linguistic changes brought about by the Norman invasion ultimately enforced the influence of Provencal verse and Parisian courtly poetry upon the English tradition. Unlike Old English verse, Anglo-Norman verse was based upon the prosodic principle of French and Latin verse of the period (that is, syllable counting), and both narrative verse in couplets and stanzaic lyrics were regularly rhymed. (19) (Anglo-Norman verse would have had an anglicized pronunciation: a key prosodic consideration.) Apart from the fourteenth-century alliterative revival, Middle English verse from the later thirteenth century onwards was regularly rhymed. With the exception of The Owl and The Nightingale, the rhyming was usually crude, and only by the time of Chaucer did rhyming approach the exactness of the early modern period. (20) Hence any account of the origins of rhyme in English verse has to explain the sporadic but slowly increasing use of rhyme in Old English verse over three centuries, with a single poem, around the middle of that period, that used far more rhyme than any other English poem of that time; the period of about a hundred and fifty years, from about 1050-1200, in which verse had both alliteration and rhyme; the transition, completed by the early fourteenth century, to a Romance syllabic prosody, at first in the couplet and subsequently in stanzaic verse, in which end-rhyme was obligatory.

This pattern of development reveals that it would be misleading to assume that the Conquest alone might explain the presence of rhyme. (21) Anglo-Saxon verse demonstrates the slow acceptance of a poetic device familiar from its use in a proximate culture. (The single example of the Rhyming Poem indicates the extent to which rhyme might have been used had they so chosen.) Rhyme was the product and not the cause of the decline of classical Anglo-Saxon verse. (22) On the other hand, neither strict syllable-count nor stanzaic patterning was an inevitable development within Anglo-Saxon verse, and rhyme's new role within syllabic and stanzaic verse clearly owed much to the linguistic changes brought about by the Conquest, just as the slow process of loss of inflections favoured end-rhyme over alliteration.

As the transmission of rhyme pre-dated the Conquest by several centuries, there were two possible sources for rhyme: Latin and Celtic. In assessing Celtic influences, it is necessary to distinguish between vernacular and Irish-Latin verse. Early Irish prosodists, though hardly impartial, showed no hesitation in denying a Latin source for rhyme, claiming its invention by a pagan Irish poet-king, Lugairlanfili. (23) The earliest written Celtic verse dates from the sixth century, at which time Old Irish verse demonstrated some degree of skill in rhyming. (24) However, the type of rhyme used by Celtic poets (that is, generic rhyme), in which rhyme is allowed between any one member of a phonetic group and itself or any other member of the same group (for example, 'b', 'g', or 'd') argues against transmission into Old English. (25) Generic rhyme was used in Irish verse from the eighth century to the tenth, yet there is no evidence of this type of rhyme having been employed in Old English verse.

Another important consideration is the Rhyming Poem, which is significant for its extraordinarily sustained use of rhyme, in comparison to sporadic use in other Old English verse of the period. It is important to locate the culture from which rhyme passed into English verse, since the verse-model for the Rhyming Poem probably belonged to that culture. At one time the poem was thought to be based upon Old Norse rhythmic rhyming verse. Opinion then shifted to an Old Irish poetic model, but more recently, as stress has been laid upon reading Old English verse in the context of Anglo-Latin poetry (Anglo-Saxon authors were bilingual), the poem has been seen as an Old English version of Latin verse produced by authors such as Aldhelm. (26)

Irish-Latin verse provides a more likely source of rhyme than vernacular Irish verse, and Raby, in his monumental study of Christian Latin poetry, paid tribute to the role of Irish poets at this time:

To the Irish poets must be given the credit of being the first important innovators in the use of rime, and it is possible to trace a progressive development from the rimeless hymns of the fifth century, through the middle period of incipient rimes in the sixth, to the richer and more exact rimes of the seventh and eighth centuries. (27)

But the numerous examples discussed by Raby ultimately lead one to incline away from a Celtic source. For time and again he piles up the evidence for a slow, gradual development of rhyme within the Ambrosian tradition of Latin hymns, which extended for centuries on either side of the flowering of Irish rhyme-use in the seventh and eighth centuries. (28) In fact, it is almost impossible to disentangle the contribution made to Latin verse by Irish from that of Anglo-Saxon poets. Often interchange was a matter of personal contact; for example, the Anglo-Saxon Aldhelm was taught by the Irish Maeldubh. (29) Clearly, Irish versifiers' familiarity with rhyme fed into Hiberno-Latin verse, but thereafter the process of cultural interchange within the Church makes it unwise to attempt to isolate any one strand of influence. However, it is worth noting that the more sustained use of rhyme in Anglo-Saxon verse was found much later, in the tenth and eleventh centuries, long after the most fertile period for Celtic influence upon Old English verse.

The arguments in favour of a Christian Latin (including Hiberno-Latin) source for rhyme's transmission into Old English are decisive. (30) As Michael Lapidge explains, most surviving Old English literature was composed by Christian churchmen, who would have been received into the Church at the age of seven to learn the rudiments of Latin grammar and metre, and then have proceeded to a ten-year course in the medieval curriculum, which included Christian Latin poems. (31) So for the Anglo-Saxon versifier, the language and liturgy of the Christian Church would have been an intrinsic part of his culture (for example, the Venerable Bede composed hymns in the iambic dimeter of Ambrosian hymns). Even after the Conquest, when native bishops and abbots were replaced by Normans and Anglo-Saxon Latin learning was repudiated, the new Norman curriculum continued to reflect the dominance of Latin verse-models, with the 'New School' of Latin poets from the Loire valley, such as Hildebert, Marbod, and Baudri, being in favour (see Lapidge, p. 32).

The use of rhyme within Church Latin from the fourth to the thirteenth centuries accounts for the appearance of rhyme not only in English verse but in other vernacular literatures of Europe. It is interesting to look at the factors that led to the emergence of rhyme within Latin verse, since this may in part explain the later more widespread adoption of rhyme throughout Europe.

The acceptance of rhyme in Latin verse was rooted in the weakening of the classical prosodic principle of the patterning of long and short syllables. This change was brought about by the extension of the Roman Empire, which allowed regional accents to influence spoken Latin. By the fourth century the distinction between long and short vowels was blurred, and stress-patterns always present in Latin (which was less suited to quantitative prosody than classical Greek) were resurrected. (32) Church Latin was born out of this change, with the Vulgate Bible, based upon St Jerome's early fifth-century translation, providing the foundation for Christian liturgy and the Latin of the medieval world.

The first step was the composition of Christian Latin hymns by Ambrose. In his Confessions Augustine says that when the Arians were besieging Milan in ad 386, Ambrose introduced the Eastern practice of antiphonal singing to comfort his people. (33) Ambrose openly acknowledged the seductive power of his hymns: 'They allege that the people are deceived with the magic spells of my hymns. I do not deny the fact. For what can be more powerful than a confession of the Trinity daily sung by the mouth of the whole people.' (34) Ambrose's quatrains, in iambic dimeter, became the bedrock of Western hymnody. From Augustine through to the ninth century, these hymns developed so that accent often coincided with quantity, at first allowing scanning as either accentual or quantitative feet, but finally becoming purely accentual, with stress replacing duration in determining the disposition of syllables. Augustine's 'Psalm against the Donatists' was one of the earliest examples of poetry based upon numbering syllables, fixed caesura, and embryonic rhyme (each line ending on vowel e or oe), and from then on Latin hymns increasingly depended upon accent and syllable-count. (35) Augustine was blunt in defending his 'Psalm': he wished 'to reach the knowledge of the lowest vulgar, and of the utterly unskilled and ignorant, and as far as possible to fasten upon their memory [and] therefore I would write it in no other manner lest metrical necessity should compel me to use any words not familiar to the vulgar' (cited by Turner, p. 189). Augustine's reference to 'metrical necessity' pointed to a real difficulty for Christians attempting to use classical metres, since many key-words such as 'ecclesia' could hardly appear within the constraints of quantitative metre (Clarke, p. 160).

The development of Latin hymns may be traced through the work of Prudentius in the fourth century, Fortunatus in the sixth, and Braulio in the seventh. Rhyme was increasingly deployed as accent, syllable-count, and the demands of performance took hold. But, as Raby acknowledged, rhyme was barely applied to the whole of a poem until the eleventh century. Indeed, monosyllabic rhyme was not widespread before the ninth century, and disyllabic rhyme was rare until the eleventh (Hiley, p. 284). Yet by the end of the twelfth century, rhyme was established in Latin verse and in the vernacular verse of Germany, France, and England. It is difficult to say whether this upsurge of rhyme across Europe was merely the culmination of a slow, steady progress in the use of rhyme, or whether it was a response to a sudden development in verse-forms. Of course, social factors should not be ignored. In particular, the Carolingian decree of 813 ordered sermons to be delivered in the vernacular as well as in Latin (in Anglo-Saxon England this had always been the case, one reason for the strength of Old English vernacular literature). Charlemagne's desire to restore Latin purity had the effect of pushing the language and hymns of the Church onto the streets, providing a strong impetus to secular song, which would have copied Latin verse-forms.

The significance, for rhyme, of prosodic changes in Latin verse was enormous. The enjoyment of quantitative metre was very much a matter of the intellect, as the reader appreciated the artful disposition of long and short syllables according to complex patterns. (36) But the appeal of a verse-form based upon stress and aural performance was altogether cruder, if more popular, and, of all rhetorical devices, it was rhyme that was destined to thrive in verse wedded to accent and performance in a musical setting. For, just as the union of words and music in Christian Latin hymns facilitated rhyme, so it seems probable that later changes in the relation of words to music within the liturgy gave a further impetus to rhyme. (37) In his account of rhyme's origins, whilst acknowledging the dependence of rhyme upon stress, Sedgwick emphasized the impetus given to rhyme by music: 'After the adoption of the sung accentual hymn, the advent of rhyme was only a matter of time, for if accent suggests rhyme, music compels it. [...] Rhyme was the outcome of the influence of music added to that of accent.' (38)

Such a change in the relation of words to music is found in the sequentia or 'sequence' (so called because it followed the official chant), which developed from the tenth century, and which by the twelfth century assumed regularity in both accentual metre and rhyme patterning. (39) Starting as a prose-form in which words were attached to the prolongation of the final -a of 'Alleluia' as a lengthy melody, the sequence developed as song in which parallel line-construction was readily demarcated by end-rhyme. (40) Significantly, in the light of later claims, starting with Sidney, for the memorability of rhyme, the sequence began as a mnemonic aid: it was far easier to remember a melody tied to a text than a wordless melisma, and a rhymed text was more memorable than an unrhymed one. (41) Ultimately, a new Romance syllabic prosody was united with a new metrically regular music, musica mensuralibis, in which each syllable corresponded to one musical note and syllable-count was observed. (42) Since in syllabic verse phrase and end-line stress, rather than word-accent, were important, rhyme performed the useful role of marking the termination of phrase or line. The growing importance of rhyme as demarcator rather than mere decoration can be seen in the development of the sequence, which rested upon the formal principles of repetition and parallelism emphasized by rhyme. By the mid-twelfth century, in the sequences of Adam of St Victor, rhyme was deployed with a complexity approaching that of the stanzaic verse of the fourteenth century. (43)

It is revealing to stand back and review the gradual development of rhyme within Latin over the thousand-year period following the second century De judicio domini, starting with a verse from that work:

Quis mihi ruricolas aptabit carmine Musas?

Et verni roseas titulabit floribus auras?

Eastivaeque graves maturas messis aristas?

Quis debit et tumidas autumni vistibus uvas?

Quisve hyemi placidas semper laudabit olivas?

(Quoted by Lanz, p. 110)

Although rhymes on -as are found at both mid-line and end-line position, the rhyme itself is simple and rests upon the repetition of a single syllable, elsewhere a single repeated vowel sound. Moving forward to the seventh century to a Latin verse by the Anglo-Saxon writer, Aldhelm, we find paired rhymes:

Christus passus patibulo

atque leti latibulo

virginem virgo virgini

commendabat tutamini.

(Quoted by Travis, p. 112)

By the twelfth century, in a sequence by Adam of St Victor, we see stanzaic rhymepatterns, here aabccb, which anticipated later vernacular uses of rhyme:

Salve, mater salvatoris,

vas electum, vas honoris,

vas caelestis gratiae;

ab aeterno vas provisum,

vas insigne, vas excisum

manu sapientiae! (44)

Finally, a couplet by the medieval poet Moreau illustrates the extent to which rhyme lent itself to pattern and design within Latin verse. (45) Here each word is rhymed with its partner in the following line, and clearly the poet's expertise was largely bound up with the disposition of rhyme--a far cry from the vestigial recurrences of De judicio domini:

Quos anguis dirus tristi mulcedine pavit,

Hos sanguis mirus Christi dulcedine lavit. (46)

The study of Latin verse and liturgy shows how rhyme slowly developed as stress, syllable-count, and the setting of words to music took hold. By the end of the twelfth century, Latin verse demonstrated syllable-count, mid-rhyme and end-rhyme, stanzaic rhyme, and a long-standing link with music. The evidence that the use of rhyme was transmitted from Latin to the vernacular verse of Europe, both Germanic and Romance, is overwhelming (it is a mark of rhyme's adaptability that it was found in English and German earlier than in the Romance languages of Provence, France, and Italy). Yet this account of rhyme's foundation takes us only to around the mid-thirteenth century, at which time rhymes were usually crude and stanzaic patterning relatively simple. The subsequent greater purity of rhyme-sounds and more complex rhyme-patterning can be explained only by the continuing influence of Romance verse-forms linked to music, in particular those of the troubadours of Provence and the trouve`res of Northern France. (47)

The earliest and hence most influential model was that of the troubadours, known in England from the end of the twelfth century, when Henry II (who, before his accession, had married Eleanor of Aquitaine, a patron of the troubadours) and his sons brought troubadour poets to England. (48) The troubadours seem to have adapted the rhymed stanzaic forms of the later sequences to vernacular poetry, and the invention of new and more intricate rhyme schemes was a primary concern. Indeed, the greater availability of rhymes in vernacular languages over Latin was part of the impetus to compose in the vernacular. Their verse was composed for song, although, for the first time, poetic form was more important than musical form, and sometimes melodies were composed after verbal composition. Of the extant poetry, only about a tenth has survived with its music. There were two schools, trobar clar, a clear style, and trobar clus, an obscure or subtle style, reflecting the debate as to whether the poet should appeal to a popular or an elite audience. The obscure style was marked by difficult rhymes and complex stanza schemes that deterred the common reader, and the troubadours used images of weaving or working in wood or metal to capture the intricacy of their verse-construction. The close link to music led rhyme to mark syllable-count and to aid cadence and soundpattern at the line-end. (49) The troubadours provided some of the earliest works on versification, from Las razos de trobar (c. 1200), by the Catalan Raimon Vidal de Besalu, to the most famous collaborative treatise, Las leys d'amours (1356). Containing detailed instructions in the use of rhyme, they provided a bridge from medieval Latin classification of rhyme to the later categorization of rhyme in French verse. (50)

The troubadours were merely the earliest example of the union of poetry and song that dominated the Middle Ages, and was advanced by rhetoricians of the time, most influentially Dante in De vulgari eloquentia. (51) All rhetorical studies laid great importance on matching music to verse by stanza-construction, counting of syllables, and disposition of stress, particularly terminal stress, which would be marked by rhyme. In the oral performance of the time, repetition of musical phrase and repetition of word-sounds in the form of rhyme were crucial. (52) The rhetoricians of the Middle Ages drew upon the distinction, recognized by Bede, between metra, quantitative verse, and rithmi, syllable-counting verse. Rhyme became an integral part of rhythmus verse. Indeed, so close was the association that the Latin term, rithmi, gave rise to the modern 'rhyme'. (53) Prosodists saw rhyme as an essential feature of 'number' or syllable-counting verse. In a study of song in the Middle Ages, John Stevens concludes that 'rhyme both confirms the importance of the line-endings as a determining structural feature and through its linking of sounds helps to build "sweet proportions"'. (54) With this comment we enter the typical Renaissance account of rhyme in terms of 'proportion', 'numerositie', and 'cadence', and this account of rhyme's origins and early development in English verse is complete.

In summary, the story has three acts, each of which is marked by the impact of another culture upon English verse. Initially, rhyme was imported from Church Latin by Anglo-Saxon versifiers steeped in the culture of the Church. Confident in their own highly developed vernacular tradition, they resisted the attractions of rhyme, using it for merely ornamental purposes. But as it became more pervasive in Church Latin, so increasingly rhyme began to invade Old English verse. Yet such use was occasional, and in no sense prosodic. In the second stage, under the pressure of linguistic changes brought about by the Conquest, narrative verse in rhymed couplets emerged. Although, like its French mode, chanson de geste, much of this verse was sung, music was not always a requirement. (55) In the final stage, poetry and music moved to a closer union, and the simplicity of couplet-rhyme was overtaken by the more highly prized complexity of stanzaic rhyme-patterning.

Although this account explains the early development of rhyme in English verse, any suggestion of a necessary evolution in rhyme should be resisted, for it would be as misleading as the 'single point of origin' view. There were factors that led rhyme to become a required feature in verse. In particular, oral performance and syllablestress facilitated rhyme, whilst syllable-count and stress at the end of a phrase (both found in Old French) encouraged rhyme at the line-end. In time, its essentially aural qualities led rhyme to flourish in both syllabic and stress-based metrics, and to play a role in spoken and musical performance. In particular, song encouraged the use of rhyme, at first in Latin hymn and sequence, then in troubadour chanson. This led to rhyme's dominance in the verse of the late Middle Ages, and provided the basis for its deployment from the Renaissance until the free verse movement.

This outcome emerged after a slow development lasting centuries, and any summary will tend to oversimplify that process. For example, whilst it seems clear that rhyme's role in Romance syllabic prosody was to mark the number of syllables in a line, it must be admitted that the reality, at least for many Middle English narrative romances, was only a loose approximation to theory. Often, such verse, composed upon a norm of six or eight syllables per line, might have less than half of its lines meeting the norm. (56) Again, rhyme would seem to have a clear role in meeting the dual demands of musical setting and stanzaic arrangement: it provided balanced structural accords at the line-end (Aurelian's rhythmica modulatio, Bacon's proportio suavis, Dante's armonia) (57) within a universal conception of music based upon number and proportion. Yet it is easy to overstate the links between music and poetry. Even in the work of the troubadours, there was often a lack of correspondence between poetic and musical form, and 'musicality' was as much a matter of deploying rhyme and pattern as of an accompanying melody. (58) Again, it would be unwise to claim any necessary role for music in forming stanzas, since, centuries earlier, rhymed Latin verse had provided simple stanzaic forms, as lines with both internal and end-rhyme were broken in half to form end-rhymed stanzas. (59) Finally, any discussion of sound-echo or cadence must be qualified by the acknowledgement that rhyme, in Middle English, was quite crude, and purity of sound was not achieved until the time of Chaucer. Thus rhyme's early use demonstrates not so much an unbroken line of development as a flexibility that facilitated its use in a variety of forms: Latin hymns and sequences, Old Irish, Old and Middle English verse, Anglo-Norman and Old French couplet, and Provencal song. Rhyme's adaptability was the basis of its survival and fecundity.

Indeed, the best summation of rhyme's role within Old and Middle English verse lies in differentiating at least three uses at different periods: ornamental, placed sporadically at the end of the half-line; demarcator of the couplet, where syllable-count was often inexact; provider of cadence and stanzaic pattern in verse-forms allied to song. The diversity of these uses should be remembered when rhyme is seen as part of the development of English verse. It was the last of these roles that flourished in the high Middle Ages, a period in which verse demonstrated a love of complex poetic form, marked most obviously by intricate stanzaic rhyme-schemes. Above all, such poetry was a matter of performance; and the aural qualities of rhyme came alive in declamation and song. (60)

Viewing the dissemination of rhyme, not just in England but throughout Western Europe, in the year of Chaucer's death, 1400, it is easy to forget the insignificance of rhyme's earliest uses, or its centuries-long development. It is worth concluding by indicating briefly some key factors in the story of rhyme's origins relevant to any attempt to construct a satisfactory historical account of rhyme's place in English verse.

First, because rhyme was transmitted from foreign verse-forms, one should be cautious in assuming that the reasons for its adoption in one culture hold true for its use in our poetic tradition. Secondly, in its early deployment in English verse, rhyme was not at all prosodic; this is a crucial point, given the prominence of later prosodic explanations of rhyme. Thirdly, rhyme was established because of its aural qualities, which allowed it to flourish in musical and oral performance, and it is necessary to ascertain to what degree these factors carried over into a print-based poetic culture. Finally, the reasons for rhyme's adoption by the Church (its popularity, ease of use, and emotive appeal) in part explain the recurring hostility to rhyme, from the Renaissance onwards, owing to its supposed 'vulgarity'. (61)

After the Middle Ages, rhyme was to face severe challenges, from quantitative and blank verse in the sixteenth century through to free verse in the twentieth. But in 1400, transformed over a period of twelve hundred years from the simplest and most vestigial of sound echoes, rhyme had become an essential and revered poetic device, providing cadence, line-demarcation, pattern, and structure. Emerging from remote sources, in Latin hymn and sequence, and Provencal song, rhyme had triumphed. Never again was it to dominate so absolutely in English verse. (62)

(1) See Jakob Schipper, A History of English Versification (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1910); E. Norden Die antike Kunstprosa (1898); George Saintsbury, A History of English Prosody from the Twelfth Century to the Present Day, 3 vols (London: Macmillan, 1906-10), II, 536.

(2) This is the earliest possible date if a use of rhyme in Caedmon's 'Hymn' is accepted (see below). The sustained use of rhyme in Old English verse dates from the ninth century. Of course, determining the origins of rhyme is not easy, and any conclusions must be tentative. A lesson in humility is provided by Harold Whitehall, who apologized for the limitations of his account of rhyme in the first edition of the Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, ed. by Alex Preminger (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1965), in his subsequent article 'Rhyme: Sources and Diffusion', Ibadan, 25 (1968), 21-26. Unfortunately, though interesting and wide-ranging, this later article does not resolve the problem of rhyme's origins.

(3) Thomas Campion, Observations in the Art of English Poesie (1602), in Elizabethan Critical Essays, ed. by G. Gregory Smith, 2 vols (London: Oxford University Press, 1904), II, 327-55 (p. 329).

(4) 'An Inquiry Respecting the Early Use of Rhyme', Archaeologia, 14 (1808), 168-86, and 'A Further Inquiry Respecting the Early Use of Rhime', Archaeologia, 14 (1808), 187-204.

(5) The Physical Basis of Rime: An Essay on the Aesthetics of Sound (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1931), p. 109. Christian liturgy first appeared in Latin at this time in North Africa (Richard M. Hoppin, Medieval Music (New York: Norton, 1978), p. 34). Hoppin provides a good introduction to the development of early Christian liturgy.

(6) Eva Guggenheim argues strongly for such deliberate use in Rhyme Effects and Rhyming Figures: A Comparative Study of Sound Repetitions in the Classics with Emphasis on Latin Poetry (The Hague: Mouton, 1972).

(7) William Harmon attempts such a prescriptive description of rhyme by taking it to be 'the relation between stressed syllables that begin differently and end alike' ('Rhymein EnglishVerse: History, Structures, Functions', Studies in Philology, 84 (1987), 365-93 (p. 369)). This leads him to exclude null-rhyme, where 'the syllables in question are merely one and the same word repeated, we have simple repetition and not rhyme at all', and homeoteleuton, which he defines as the 'same or similar minimally stressed syllables' and exemplifies as 'signing/ walking', 'country/envy' (p. 369). The problem with such definitions is that neatness is purchased at the price of excluding widespread poetic practice. Again, Harmon argues that rhyme cannot develop until a language evolves into having words that end with a stressed syllable or are monosyllabic, and 'it seems that no Indo- European language reached such a condition until about a.d. 1000' (p. 367). Harmon is incorrect in this assumption, since rhyme in Old English verse does end with a stressed syllable; this leads him to ignore the presence of rhyme within Old English verse.

(8) In his monumental study of plainchant, David Hiley writes of the period from the fifth century to the twelfth that rhyme 'should be understood in the broad sense, including assonance (similarity of vowels) as well as identity of whole syllables' (Western Plainchant: A Handbook (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993), p. 284). Lanz takes it as axiomatic that rhyme evolved from assonance (see p. 132). Rhyme supplanted assonance in Old French in the twelfth century.

(9) 'The Origins of Rhyme', Revue de Litterature Comparee, 31 (1957), 74-85 (p. 85).

(10) Presumably, all such literatures would have had a long oral history pre-dating written verse, and it is probable that recorded verse would have reflected that oral tradition, and hence it was unrhymed. Sumerian poetry had a limited use of assonantal rhyme. Egyptian poetry used acrostics, which are often associated with the development of rhyme.

(11) Turner gives examples of rhyme in Hebrew verse (pp. 200-01).

(12) For a discussion and examples, see James J. Y. Liu, The Art of Chinese Poetry (London: Routledge, 1962), pp. 22-29.

(13) T. V. F. Brogan's article records Draper as giving Ancient Iran as the source of rhyme (The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, ed. by Alex Preminger and T. V. F. Brogan (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993), pp. 1052-64 (p. 1061)).

(14) The significance of De judicio domini is that it is supposed to demonstrate (in terms of structural and metrical similarities) a point of contact with the Avesta, which contained the metrical Gathas that was part of the cult of the Persian sun-God Mithras; thus the Persians can be argued to provide a link between Chinese verse and Christian Latin hymns. This argument overlooks the more obvious source in classical literature.

(15) See Georges Jean, Writing: The Story of Alphabets and Scripts, trans. by Jenny Oates (London: Thames & Hudson, 1992), p. 164. Simmias constructed rhymed shape-poems.

(16) E. G. Stanley discusses the chronology of Caedmon's 'Hymn' in 'The Oldest English Poetry Now Extant', Poetica, 2 (1974), 1-24, collected in E. G. Stanley, A Collection of Papers With Emphasis on Old English Literature (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1987), pp. 115-38.

(17) There is a useful discussion of Anglo-Norman lyrics in the introduction to The Anglo-Norman Lyric: An Anthology, ed. by David L. Jeffrey and Brian J. Levy (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1990). The macaronic example cited is 'Dum ludis floribus' (p. 248); it has five quatrains with an aaaa rhyme scheme.

(18) See Angus McIntosh, 'Early Middle English Alliterative Verse', in Middle English Alliterative Poetry and its Literary Background, ed. by David A. Lawton (Cambridge: Brewer, 1982), pp. 20-33 (p. 131).

(19) French verse evolved from medieval Latin at the end of the ninth century. Although from the Renaissance onwards, French verse was largely unstressed, early French verse was accentual, with stress falling primarily upon the last syllable of a word, a tendency that facilitated the transition from assonance to end-rhyme and led to a preference for masculine over feminine rhyme in Old French and Provencal verse.

(20) For a detailed survey of rhyme in this period, see E. G. Stanley, 'Rhymes in English Medieval Verse: From Old English to Middle English', in Medieval English Studies Presented to George Kane, ed. by Edward David Kennedy, Ronald Waldron, and Joseph S. Wittig (Cambridge: Brewer, 1988), pp. 115-38. I am very grateful to Professor Stanley for taking the time to give me the benefit of his knowledge of rhyme in Old and Middle English verse.

(21) Of course, French cultural influence was strong before the Conquest. But by 1180 even the poorest English people were bilingual (M. Dominica Legge, Anglo-Norman Literature and its Background (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1963), p. 4).

(22) As Derek Pearsall points out, Anglo-Saxon verse dies 'choking on its own magnificence; its resistance to alien forms such as rhyme is remarkable' (Old English and Middle English Poetry (London: Routledge, 1977), p. 85).

(23) See James Travis, Early Celtic Wordcraft (New York: Cornell University Press, 1973), p. 95. Travis argues a strong case for Celtic influence upon both Latin and Old English verse.

(24) It is interesting to note the impact of oral Celtic culture, extending back to the fifth century bc and occupying much of Europe, upon the Roman Empire. Virgil was a Celt; Caesar's tutor was a Celt; Caesar observed first-hand the oral tradition of Celtic Gaulish literature, with its curriculum for literary study that took up to twenty years. But, of course, this time pre-dates the Old English period under consideration. The recent discovery of a Roman fort in Ireland may also lead to some revision of assumptions about the cultural interchange between Irish and Latin cultures in the early period, since such a discovery seems to indicate that the Irish were not unconquered by the Romans.

(25) See C. W. Dunn, 'Celtic', in Versification: Major Language Types, ed. by W. K. Wimsatt (New York: Modern Language Association, 1972), pp. 136-47.

(26) This argument is developed convincingly by James W. Earl in 'Hisperic Style and the Old English "Rhyming Poem"', PMLA (1987), 102, 187-96 (especially pp. 190-91). The most recent editor of the 'Rhyming Poem' confirms the view that it is derived from Latin hymnody (O. D. Macrae-Gibson, The Old English 'Rhyming Poem' (Cambridge: Brewer, 1983), p. 13).

(27) F. J. E. Raby, A History of Christian-Latin Poetry from the Beginnings to the Close of the Middle Ages (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1927) p. 138. Raby makes a similar point in his study of the secular Latin tradition: 'It is clear that the Irish poets did much to further the development of rimed and rhythmical verse. They took it in its rudimentary form from the continental poets and gave it a whole-hearted welcome. They were familiar with rime, not only in hymns, but in the rhetorical prose of ecclesiastical writers [...]. This love of rime passed from the Irish to the Anglo-Saxons, and thence back again to the continent' (A History of Secular Latin Poetry in the Middle Ages, 2nd edn, 2 vols (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1957), I, 163-64).

(28) Celtic liturgy would have had little influence on the development of rhyme, since it was suppressed by Pope Gregory I around the end of the sixth century (see Hoppin, p. 38).

(29) In noting the connection between Aldhelm and Maeldubh, Macrae-Gibson concludes that possibly such rhyming was carried from Ireland to England, and he points out that such rhyming did not develop until later in continental Europe (p. 23). For an example of the Aldhelm's Latin verse, see below.

(30) For a contrary view, see J. W. Rankin, 'Rhythm and Rhyme Before the Norman Conquest', PMLA, 36 (1921), 401-28 (pp. 426-27).

(31) See Michael Lapidge, 'The Anglo-Latin Background', in A New Critical History of Old English Literature, ed. by Stanley B. Greenfield and Daniel G. Calder (New York: New York University Press, 1986), pp. 4-37.

(32) See Arthur Melville Clark, 'The Rhyming Ancients', in Studies in Literary Modes (Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd, 1946); William Beare, Latin Verse: A Study in Accent and Rhythm (London: Methuen, 1957).

(33) See Augustine: Confessions and Enchiridion, trans. and ed. by Albert C. Outler (London: SCM Press, 1955), Book ix, Chapter 7 (p. 187).

(34) Cited by A. S.Walpole, Early Latin Hymns (Hildesheim: Olms, 1966), p. 17.

(35) Despite Augustine's part in the development of 'rhythmical' verse, he was suspicious of rhyme's 'sensuous' appeal and its effect in weakening the numerical principles of quantitative verse which reflected universal harmony; see Eugene Cunnar, 'Typological Rhyme in a Sequence by Adam of St. Victor', Studies in Philology, 84 (1987), 394-417 (pp. 396-97).

(36) In Well-Weighted Syllables: Elizabethan Verse in Classical Metres (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1974), Derek Attridge describes the reader of quantitative metre as appreciating 'the highly skilled execution of a challenging task, the shaping of the unordered particles of language into an intricate and carefully proportioned artefact. [...] His prosodical training led him far away from any conception of metre as a rhythmic succession of sounds, akin to the beat of the ballad-monger or the thumping of a drum, into a world pervaded by a sense of subtle intelligence and high civilization, where words are anatomised and charted with a precision and a certainty unknown in the crude vernacular' (pp. 76-77).

(37) Of course, song is music, with the voice acting as the musical 'instrument'. The matter of instrumental accompaniment, for both Latin hymns and Old English verse, is a disputed question; only with the Renaissance did music as instrumental accompaniment come to the fore.

(38) See W. B. Sedgwick, 'The Origin of Rhyme', Revue Benedictine, 36 (1924), 330-46 (p. 338).

(39) Patrick S. Diehl, in a wide-ranging study of medieval Christian lyrics, points to the rapid changes in rhyme from the twelfth century: 'The repertory of stanza forms in Latin expands enormously. Disyllabic rhyme, in which the rhyme always includes a stressed as well as an unstressed syllable, suddenly (in medieval terms) ousts monosyllabic rhyme in Latin; monosyllabic rhyme was analogous, in its effect at lest, to assonance in the modern languages and scarcely like what we mean by "rhyme" at all. Finally, in sequence and trope, irregular prose gives way to metrically regular verse, and the formal expectations that ruled European lyric until the twentieth century are born' (The Medieval European Religious Lyric: An Ars Poetica (Berkeley: University Press of California, 1985), p. 88). Diehl stresses the importance of the sequence in this transformation, suggesting that the shift from an iambic to a trochaic norm in the sequence may have followed from a desire to employ twosyllable rather one-syllable rhyme, as a trochaic line ends with a feminine rhyme.

(40) As John Stevens explains: 'Many sequences came into being as songs by the fitting of words syllable by syllable into the single notes of an often long and complex melody. The melodies (sequentie) were often systematically constructed with a succession of parallel units; this parallelism the authors observed and strengthened by verbal means. Precise syllabic counting was reinforced with rhyme, assonance, parallel syntax, etc.' (Words and Music in the Middle Ages: Song, Narrative, Dance and Drama, 1050-1350 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), p. 90). For a detailed discussion of the sequence, see Hoppin, who emphasizes areas of dispute concerning the genesis of the sequence (pp. 154-71).

(41) Notker Balbulus, a monk at St Gall in the ninth century, claimed to have adopted the sequence as a mnemonic device (Gustave Reese, Music in the Middle Ages (London: Dent, 1941), pp. 187-88).

(42) As O. B. Hardison observes: 'Romance verse probably derives its reliance on "number" [counting of syllables] from the fact that its verses were written to pre-existing melodies according to a formula that required one syllable for each musical note and that divided verses into measures ending with accented syllables, and, eventually, rhyme. Only after this development --and following the emergence of a new musical style--was there an outpouring of Latin lyrics that combined the rhymes of the sequence with regular accentual feet' (Prosody and Purpose in the English Renaissance (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989), pp. 53-54). William Beare, who deals extensively with the role of rhyme in relation to music and Latin verse, confirms the point: 'The swift development of the Sequence and the development of rhythmical music are closely connected' (Latin Verse and European Song: A Study in Accent and Rhythm (London: Methuen, 1957), p. 284). For examples of rhymed sequences, see Hiley, pp. 189-95. Hiley's account warns against assuming that at this late stage, rhyme is always associated with accentual verse. As he points out, the rhymed sequence Stola incunditatis has a nonaccentual verse. Again, Hiley notes that later sequences often have two or more notes per syllable (p. 190).

(43) For an ingenious reading of Adam of St Victor's use of rhyme, see Cunnar.

(44) Sequence for the Nativity of the Virgin Mary, in The Oxford Book of Medieval Latin Verse, ed. by F. J. E. Raby (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1959), p. 232.

(45) This love of manipulating rhyme spread from Latin to French verse and thence to Middle English verse. Paul Zumthor notes the 'marked increase in the number of rhythmic and strophic patterns found in combination, and a greater complexity of rhyme and an interplay of sound and sense frequently adapted from the Latin practice of the schools [...]; rhymes become rich and often polysyllabic; annominatio and figura etymologica, homonymic and polymorphic forms and puns so complicated the rhyme in some authors' work that techniques of this sort tended to replace all other markers' (Toward a Medieval Poetics, trans. by Philip Bennett (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1992), p. 70). Zumthor is unusual in taking a structuralist approach to medieval verse. For him, poets' innovations in form demonstrate a denial of representation, they are self-referential and inter-textual: 'Language reveals itself in the poem rather than being a mediator, and so medieval poetry is simply poetry' (p. 82).

(46) Quoted by Alexander Croke, An Essay on the Origin, Progress and Decline of Rhyming Latin Verse (Oxford, 1828), p. 23. Of course, these authors would have seen themselves as using the rhetorical figure of homeoteleuton (the repetition of words that end alike).

(47) As Gerard Rohlfs points out, Provencal, which derived from Vulgar Latin, provided the earliest manifestation of courtly poetry in France around 1100, and became the model for Northern French, Italian, and German verse. In fact, Northern French poetry first attained European importance in England, where Marie de France andWace composed their works. See From Vulgar Latin to Old French: An Introduction to the Study of the Old French Language, trans. by V. Almazan and L. McCarthy (Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press, 1970), p. 43.

(48) See H. J. Chaytor, who sums up his findings in these terms: 'We find Middle English poets displaying high technical skill in the use of stanza-forms which are surprisingly complex, when we consider the poverty of their language in rime. We find that the structure of the stanza and the disposition of the rimes are, in many cases, identical with forms used by Provencal poets. We further observe that the poetical genres in vogue are similar to those affected by the troubadours, and that the English treatment of them displays similarities of thought and expression which, if sometimes trivial in themselves, are too numerous in their totality to be explained as due to chance coincidence. We have noted the close commercial and political relations of England with southern France, the interest shown by the troubadours in English politics and the fact that at least two leading troubadours are known to have been in England. These points alone would entitle us to infer that the influence of troubadour poetry upon the English lyric was considerable' (The Troubadours and England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1923), p. 134).

(49) For a discussion of the relation of rhyme to melody, see Hoppin, pp. 277-80.

(50) For a detailed account of medieval Latin in relation to Provencal poetics, see W. F. Patterson, Three Centuries of French Poetic Theory: A Critical History of the Chief Arts of Poets in France 1328-1630 (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1935). The categorization of rhyme is discussed on pages 40-41.

(51) Contemporaneous criticism is of limited use in assessing the aims of English poets, since there were no such works in English until the sixteenth century.

(52) It should be noted that troubadour poetry was initially wholly oral in character, with written transmission dating only after the mid-thirteenth century.

(53) This close association between 'rhythm' and 'rime', based upon the presence of rhyme in rhythmic, that is, non-quantitative, verse, was to lead to some confusion in terminology in the Renaissance, which can be traced under the OED (2nd edn) entries for 'rhythm' and 'rime' (as a noun).

(54) Stevens, p. 420. Note that Stevens cites Dante, who was an exception to other prosodists in not seeing rhyme as an essential part of song (p. 419).

(55) For a detailed discussion of narrative verse and song, see Stevens, Chapter 6.

(56) See Marina Tarlinskaya, 'The Syllabic Structure and Meter of English Verse from the Thirteenth through the Nineteenth Century', Language and Style, 6.4 (1973), 249-72. Naturally, syllable-count was more strictly observed in verse-forms more closely linked to music.

(57) See Stevens, p. 420. As Stevens points out, this idea of music ultimately rested upon Augustine's De Musica: the immortal rhythm which was God's truth.

(58) See James Anderson Winn, Unsuspected Eloquence: A History of the Relations between Poetry and Music (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1981), pp. 80-87.

(59) See Schipper, pp. 128-30. The more recent study by Rohlfs makes much the same point; see p. 84. Note Schipper's assumption of a foot-based prosody for English verse, and a syllabic one for French verse. As Hardison's work shows, this is altogether too simplistic (Hardison also notes scholarly disagreement concerning the inter-relation of music and prosody in the Middle Ages; see pp. 46-47).

(60) On the place of rhyme within the oral traditions of medieval verse, see J. A. Burrow, Medieval Writers and Their Work: Middle English Literature and its Background 1100-1500 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982), pp. 47-48.

(61) Given the Church's early embrace of rhyme for its popular appeal, it is of interest that in the Middle Ages the Church decided to 'de-rhyme' many hymns in order to reduce their emotive, sensuous appeal (Diehl, pp. 268-69). Roger Ascham provides an example of Elizabethan hostility to rhyme: 'The worthie Poetes in Athens and Rome were more carefull to satisfie the iudgement of one learned than rashe in pleasing the humor of a rude multitude', but now 'euery ignorant person' who 'can easely recken vp fourten sillables, and easilie stumble on euery Ryme' could pass as a poet' (The Scholemaster (1570), in Smith, I, 1-45 (p. 31)).

(62) Since I wrote this article, Mikhail Leonovich Gasparov's study of European versification has appeared in translation (A History of European Versification, trans. by G. S. Smith and Marina Tarlinskaja (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996). This has a wealth of relevant material, but of particular interest is his emphasis on the early use of rhyme in the rhymed prose of folklore and in classical rhetorical prose (pp. 96-102).

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