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A rule of metrical uniformity in old Hungarian poetry

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Abstract

The <i>R&#233;pertoire de la po&#233;sie hongroise ancienne</i> (Paris, 1992; http://magyarirodalom.elte.hu/repertorium) lends itself to a number of overarching inductions. It can be shown by one such induction that, at least till the end of the 17th century, all high frequency strophic schemes in Hungarian poetry are isometric. A similar rule describes rhyming formulas: in this corpus all high frequency strophic schemes are monorhymed. Versification based on syllable count is not solely a Hungarian phenomenon but is regional in extent, being attested along the Danube (J. Lotz), and the same can probably be said for the rule of uniformity (Cs. Szigeti, V. Blokh). This rule probably has its historical origins in the influence of liturgical and lay <i>vagant</i> poetry in Latin on the mostly clerical and not so courtly literatures of the region (F. Zempl&#233;nyi). Analogues can be found in French medieval verse, e.g. quatrains composed of monorhymed alexandrines and other monorhymed but heterogonic strophic formulas (L. Sel&#225;f). Psychologically this kind of versification can be explained by analysing metrical patterns as <i>small worlds</i> (D.J. Watts, S.H. Strogatz) functioning in accordance with V.H. Yngve&#8217;s depth hypothesis (P. Bogn&#225;r). Uniformity, of course, did not lend itself to the creation of highly structured compositions. However, the 16th century saw the appearance in Hungarian verse of a new metrical principle for ordering phonetic material. Subsequently, during the 18th to 20th centuries, Hungarian metrics has been typified by the simultaneous use of both principles, with its musical counterpart in the <i>verbunkos</i> style.

References

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