The dating of beowulf chase
In 1896 the German scholar Max Kaluza (in 'Zur Betonungs- und Verslehre des Altenglischen') published his crucial discovery that, in some metrical positions, resolution is governed in part by etymological considerations. 'The Phonology of Resolution in Old English Word-Stress and Metre'. Specifically, that resolution is blocked in certain cases not only if the resolving syllable is heavy but also if it is historically heavy. in Evidence for Old English: material and theoretical bases for reconstruction. bat ); a light syllable is a syllable containing only a short vowel or short diphthong. 'Beowulf, the Danish Invasions, and Royal Genealogy'. There are some circumstances in which two such syllables do not resolve as described above, specifically: if the light stressed syllable is immediately preceded by another stressed syllable, and if the weak resolving syllable is heavy or--in the oldest OE poetry-- if the syllable was historically heavy, then resolution does not take place. a light resolving syllable which was historically heavy, is the crucial distinction which we shall exploit in the dating of Beowulf. One of the most common verse-forms in Beowulf is exemplified by wéox under wolcnum (8a) [ / x x / x ], in other words Type A with an 'extra' unstressed syllable in the first foot. In general one may observe that in all of the types we find four positions - in fact in the basic types, these four positions map perfectly onto four syllables. We represent resolution notationally as [ /-x ] (resolution of a primary stress) or [ \-x ] (resolution of a secondary stress). For example, in (222a), the word clifu which has two syllables, is treated by the metre as though it were a single syllable, thus the pattern of 222a is [ / \-x | / x ].
In Old English (and Old Germanic in general), a vowels alliterates with any other vowel (more correctly, any onsetless syllable alliterates with any other onsetless syllable) -- otherwise strict identity is maintained. The importance of dating such literature is not only historical, for, in interpreting literature, knowledge of the setting in which a work was composed is of great importance. As Amos puts it, '[it] is as if we knew that Sir Philip Sidney wrote in the late sixteenth century and Wallace Stevens in the mid-twentieth century, but could not assign even relative dates within that period to the work of Dickens and Shakespeare' (pg 1). Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1991.] Russom, Geoffrey. What follows attempts to present a straightforward synopsis of the relevant facts, largely based on R. Fulk's excellent work on the dating of Old English poems based on Kaluza's Law (see Fulk, A History of Old English Meter, §§ 170-183, §§406-421), which suggests that Beowulf was composed between 685 AD - 725 AD (though one should be aware that there are other valid arguments for a later date of composition, as well as some difficulties with the evidence provided by Kaluza's Law:-- see postscript below).