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Old Norse Skaldic Meters, The Drottkvaet

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Explore the Craft of Writing Poetry

Nordic Poetry

The Drottkvaet or Old Court Skaldic meter is one of the earliest of the Skaldic stanzaic forms. The ancient poems in this stanzaic form were full of kenning to the point of sometimes being a riddle. The two word metaphoric descriptions which dominated the poems were often so loosely connected to the meaning that it obscured understanding.

The Drottkvaet is:

  1. stanzaic, written in any number of quatrains. The quatrains often appear as octaves because the lines are Germanic "long lines" which break in half, the half line will often be separated into a 2nd line.
  2. accentual, lines of 12 syllables each, broken into two halves of 6 syllables each. Each half line has 3 stressed and 3 unstressed syllables, the last two syllable of the half line must be a trochee (Su).
  3. rhymed, rhyme scheme aBaB a being near rhymed by assonance, B being true rhyme.
  4. linked as couplets by assonance.
  5. odd lines should have double alliteration.

    Mind Melt by Judi Van Gorder

    Wishing to write in sync with old Nordic climate,
    reeking a bigger line, into just two tortured
    halves. Hawking trochaic meter, mental, I’m at
    my wits end. Wiley words don’t dance in an orchard.

    Kenning clings to mind, making mystery with nonsense,
    sea birds fly overhead, smoke in the sky trailing.
    Most difficult to accomplish is assonance
    rhyme. My brain melts down and I find myself failing.

Links to other Skaldic meters

Old Norse Skaldic Meters




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