Full text: Iceland 1930

pretty closely. The tale selected for conversion into this metrical form, 
's almost without exception divided into several sections each of which 
is worked into a separate rima (or fytte). Almost every rima begins. 
with a certain number of introductory lines (a kind of exordium), 
called “man-séngur® or maid-song, as the theme is in most cases 
either love, a lady, or the poet's own private affairs. Kennings or 
circumlocutions are extensively used after the style of the old scaldic 
verse, but not always with as clear an understanding of their original 
meaning. In the evening the rimur were sung century after century 
in the homes of rich and poor alike, and have thus helped the people 
to understand the ancient lays. The rimur chants are among the most 
characteristic musical compositions produced in Iceland. 
The usual number of lines in a rimur-stanza is four, but some- 
limes only three or even two; they end in a rime of one syllable (or 
more’, internal rimes are not infrequent, and alliteration after the 
manner of the court-poetry. By varying the number and length of the 
lines, and by shifting the position of the riming syllables, a great 
variety was obtained, and the number of metres increased to an in- 
credible extent. Scholars have recorded as many as 2267 metres. To 
such a length was this artificial riming carried that the poets composed 
even whole sets of rimur in such a way that every stanza could be 
read, word for word, backward and forward without the least injury 
to either thought, diction, alliteration or rime-syliables, as the follow- 
ing quatrain will make clear: 
Grundar déma, hvergi hann 
hallar réttu méli, 
stundar séma, aldrei ann 
Srqu pretta tali. 
This metre is called sléttubénd (= palindrome). By changing the 
order of words and sentences we obtain four variations of this stanza, 
sach of which can be read backward and forward, so that in reality 
here are eight variations, all metrically correct and in natural style. 
Now, by placing the commas in the first and third lines after ‘hvergi 
ind ‘aldrei’ respectively, this verse is changed into a libellous ditty. 
There are even instances of palindromes that may be changed in nine- 
ty six different ways. Such playing upon words may seem useless and 
excessive, but it shows the importance attached to the form, the metre, 
by the Icelanders who have made of it an art for art’s sake, a pro- 
ylem on which to exercise their ingenuity. In this way the language 
has. in an ever increasing degree, been attuned to the most elaborate

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