Um Háttatal Snorra Sturlusonar bragform og braglýsing

  • Kristján Árnason
Keywords: Grammar, Grammatical Literature


The article examines the two-sided testimony of the Háttatal regarding Old Icelandic metrical forms and metrical learning. It is shown that the methodology used differs fundamentally from many later approaches, e.g. Sievers’ analysis, which sees dróttkvætt as an outgrowth of eddic forms. The analysis presented in the prose sections of the Háttatal is on the one hand based on the (probably traditional Nordic) wisdom that alliteration forms the templatic supports for all poetic text, and on the other that the metres are defined in terms of the numbers (tala) of syllables (samstofur) and lines (vísuorð). The function of the hendings is also seen as constitutive to the metrical forms, and the difference between heavy and light syllables is clearly noted. Unlike the older Háttalykill, the Háttatal starts with the presentation of skaldic metres, which are seen as the most important poetic forms. Although Snorri’s approach has in many respects an advantage over the Sievers model, for describing the complex rhythmical parameters at work in dróttkvætt and the other skaldic metres, he is unable to communicate the function of metrical strength and prominence alternation between strong and weak syllables. But this structure is described indirectly by reference to the placement of alliteration and the hendings. There is little reason to assume foreign influence on the form or purpose of Háttatal, and compared to the other Old Icelandic grammatical literature, the subject matter and the methodology is basically indigenous to the Nordic culture. It is likely that the prose and poetry was for the most part composed by one and the same person.