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A Nonsynchronous Model for the Performance of the Middle English Tail-Rhyme Stanza with Vielle

Linda Marie Zaerr
Email: Linda Marie Zaerr

Copyright © Linda Marie Zaerr 1998
Received: 20 May 1997; Published: 29 May 1998

Abstract: Since historical performance of Middle English tail-rhyme romances with instrumental accompaniment is a theoretical possibility, then understanding of the parameters within which such a performance might have existed is fundamental to our understanding of the form. The binary character of a bowed stringed instrument facilitates a two-stroke performance of the three-stress line, in which the stronger down bow coincides with the third metrical stress and continues into the fourth, unrealized beat. Empirical performance of a passage from Lybeaus Desconus led to offsetting bow changes from stressed syllables in a rhythmic performance of Middle English tail-rhyme stanzas. Two pragmatic advantages result from this approach. First, since both musical and textual stresses require attention, separating them reduces the competition for cognitive resources in both performer and listener. Second, offsetting the musical beat can intensify the verbal emphasis. While a stressed syllable may be intensified by extending the duration with the voice, an instrument can function to rearticulate the stressed syllable by supplying a semantically empty stress in close proximity, thus intensifying the emotional effect. This approach extends current theory suggesting that rhythmic performance of poetry may operate simultaneously within different schemas: simultaneous performance on a musical instrument may enhance tension in the poetic line by incorporating rhythmic patterns different from metrical and prose patterns inherent in the text.

Keywords: vielle, Middle English romance, tail-rhyme stanza, historical performance, Lybeaus Desconus, medieval music


A Nonsynchronous Model for the Performance of the Middle English Tail-Rhyme Stanza with Vielle

The Advantages of Empirical Performance

The Middle English tail-rhyme stanza enjoyed considerable popularity in fourteenth- and fifteenth-century England, and, although the form has been linked with memorized public recitation, the implications of performance with a musical instrument have been largely ignored. Consideration of how instrumental accompaniment may have interacted with the tail-rhyme stanza may expand the range of possibilities in theoretical discussions of this form. The vielle, often associated with romance performance, is ideally suited to this purpose, since the instrument allows the musician continual control over duration, pitch, and intensity. The variable pitch range and its interaction with the performer's vocal range, the dynamic range and its interplay with vocal dynamics, and the modal tuning and its impact on instrumental improvisation present intriguing possibilities. Most prominently, however, pitch changes and bow changes, as the primary instrumental indicators of rhythm, interact powerfully with the rhythmic structure of the verse. The empirical application of theoretical possibilities to a stanza from the Middle English Lybeaus Desconus may enhance understanding of the widespread popularity of this verse form. 

The Tail-Rhyme Stanza

While widely recognized as an important Middle English verse form, the tail-rhyme stanza has eluded precise definition. In 1907 Caroline Strong discussed the history of the tail-rhyme stanza in connection with its Latin and French precursors. In 1910 Jakob Schipper, in A History of English Versification, described several poetic forms with caudae. But it was A. McI. Trounce in 1932-33 who codified the English tail-rhyme romances. He describes them at the outset of his discussion:

By tail-rhyme romances are meant romances composed in stanzas of twelve lines divided into four groups of three, each group containing, as a rule, a couplet with four accents to the line, and a concluding line, a 'tail,' with three accents. The four couplets, in most of the poems, have different rhymes, while the tail-lines rhyming with one another organize the stanza into a whole. (87)

Lybeaus Desconus is considered among the twenty-three poems Trounce approved as fitting the tail-rhyme pattern, although it consists entirely of three-stress lines.

More recent descriptions of the tail-rhyme meter have allowed more variation, as Susanna Greer Fein's 1997 discussion of twelve-line stanza forms in Middle English:

The earliest, most widespread type of twelve-line stanza is the tail-rhyme stanza of romance (a meter also known as rime couée). In its simplest form this stanza contains six lines rhyming aa4b3cc4b3, with four stresses in the couplet lines and three in the b-rhyming "tail lines," that is, the same distinctive rhythm parodied by Chaucer in Sir Thopas. Existing alongside the six-line form is a more challenging variant in twelve lines rhyming aa4b3cc4b3dd4b3ee4b3, an extension of the basic formula that requires the poet to produce four tail rhymes instead of two. (372)

She goes on to describe further permutations, and much of her essay serves to demonstrate the diversity of late medieval metrical forms. The tremendous variation of the form suggests a level of orality in the tail-rhyme romances. 

The Performance of Middle English Romances

Converging evidence from a number of directions increasingly supports some form of memorized representation of the Middle English popular verse romances. Internal evidence has been the most contentious aspect of the issue. Ruth Crosby in the 1930's and Albert C. Baugh in the 1950's and 1960's developed a theory of performance based on "minstrel tags," references to performance within the text. Janet Coleman was subsequently influential in discounting romanticized models of minstrel performance, substituting the late fourteenth-century literate poet for the performing minstrel. P.R. Coss, W.R.J. Barron, and Carol Fewster argued strongly against performance along similar lines. In the 1990's the internal references to performance are again thought to provide valuable information, but they are now considered largely in the light of literary theory and conjunctions of orality and textuality. In addition, questions of generic integrity developing from questions raised by Garbáty and others have complicated the issue.

Historical documents of performance and audience have strengthened the case, though the most useful historical evidence has come from the fields of musicology and theater history. John Southworth's documentation of payment for narrative performances in late medieval England, John Stevens' discussion of performance of English romances in terms of the French tradition, and Mary Remnant's documentary and iconographic evidence for the use of the vielle in England all substantiate the performance tradition. Study of physical evidence from manuscripts by such scholars as Karl Brunner, Derek Pearsall, John Thompson, and Maria Dobozy has further clarified the issue.

Cognitive theory has been important in understanding the role and function of memory in the production and transmission of the romances. Studies of memory by Mary Carruthers and Michael Riffaterre have provided a foundation for analysis of textual variants by S.T. Knight and Murray McGillivray.

Theory of orality and "mouvance" has deepened the complexity of the performance issue. William A. Quinn and Audley S. Hall have built on the work of Parry and Lord in considering oral dimensions of Middle English romances. Paul Zumthor gave impetus to a recognition of text as a written manifestation of a speech act ("Intertextualité et mouvance"), and he subsequently established the vital significance of physical presence ("Les traditions poétiques") and of gesture ("Body and Performance"). Ward Parks codified the oral-formulaic theory in Middle English studies. Books by Doane and Pasternack and by W.F.H. Nicolaisen contribute significant treatments of the topic in this decade. Of related importance are Karl Reichl's discussion of romance and Bruce Rosenberg's formalization of interdisciplinary links. Finally, Andrew Taylor has challenged structural assumptions, using oral theory to present a theory of simultaneous oral and textual representation.

All of these approaches justify performance-based analysis of romance versification. But questions of performance immediately underline one of the chief diffulties in discussing Middle English prosody: sifting through the complex relationship between verse and music. The terminology connected with prosody has historically been linked with music, and both prosody and music concern patterns of relative prominence of sound events in a time continuum. O.B. Hardison, Jr. suggests that the French number-dependent verse "probably derives its reliance on 'number' from the fact that its verses were written to pre-existing melodies according to a formula that required one syllable for each musical note and that divided verses into measures ending with accented syllables and, eventually, rhyme" (53). It is easy to see how this approach may have transferred to English, in which, since it is more heavily stressed, ictus would be more important.

But not all medieval music was syllabic; some was melismatic, assigning several notes to certain syllables, thus extending those syllables' duration in time. Furthermore, some syllabic music (usually unmetered) maintained a set pitch to a certain point in the line, no matter how many syllables might be contained in that section, thus allowing considerable variation in the number of syllables per line. Both musical models suggest more flexibility in the expression of ictus. These widespread musical phenomena may help explain some of what we perceive as deviations from patterns in the Middle English romances, and, in fact, considerable diversity of metrical approach is evident in late medieval poetry and music.

Hardison (1989) points out the converging influence of accentual-alliterative, accentual foot meter and syllabic verse in the late Middle Ages. He suggests that our concepts of meter distort the original perspective, that "if they [writers of Middle English verse] had been asked to explain their prosody, they would have spoken of syllable count and line types rather than metrical feet, and their terminology would have echoed that of the French poets who influenced them. Neither accentual nor syllabic terminology quite works" (8).

A consideration of how ictus is expressed is crucial to an understanding of how these various influences might work together in the tail-rhyme stanzas and couplets of Middle English romances. Seymour Chatman observes that we can readily determine which syllables are or might be prominent, but it is difficult to explain how we know. He suggests that we hear ictus in terms of what we would do to create it, and he indicates that in this matter both length and pitch seem to take priority over intensity. One of the consequences of his theory is a divergence between scansion and meter in which scansion is connected with performance and meter with text. Regarding scansion he states, "it seems clear that scansions can only derive from recitations -- whether actually vocalized or 'silent', that is, the scanner cannot but proceed by actually reading the words and coming to some decision about their metrical status" (102). He thus argues that scansion is just one version of meter:

The meter of a poem is not some fixed and unequivocal characteristic, but rather a structure or matrix of possibilities which may emerge in different ways as different vocal renditions. Obviously, these will not be of equal merit; but value judgments should not obscure the range of linguistic possibility even before inquiry begins. It is a mistake in method to confuse the metrical abstraction (in the sense of 'derivation of common features') with any of its actualizations. (104)

An intriguing corollary of this theory is the association of text-based meter with regularity in pattern and the association of performative actualizations with variation and flexibility. This distinction takes on vital importance in consideration of the tail-rhyme stanza.

Reuven Tsur pursues a similar approach in different terms when he suggests that the "rhythmic performance" of a poem involves both the rhythm dictated by meter and also natural prose rhythm. When they conflict, he argues, and become mutually exclusive, the performer nevertheless finds a way to indicate both rhythms simultaneously, possibly by different means. He argues that "a discriminating understanding of the tensions, the counterpoint between prose rhythm and metre, is largely dependent on a better understanding of the nature of the superinduced patterns of performance" (A Perception-Oriented Theory of Metre 21). Like Chatman, he connects regularity with text and multiple dimensions with performance. 

Reconstructing Performance of the Tail-Rhyme Stanza

If performance of Middle English tail-rhyme romances is a theoretical possibility, then understanding of the nature of that performance is fundamental to our understanding of the form. Naturally, modern performance cannot reproduce medieval performance; the cultural context of both performer and audience is utterly different from any late medieval English context. What informed reconstructions of medieval performance can offer, however, is an embodiment of theoretical possibilities. Physical impossibilities can thus be revealed (for example, an individual cannot turn a page while playing vielle), or approaches thought to be impossible can be demonstrated to be feasible (for example, an individual can effectively play vielle while reciting memorized narrative verse). In terms of textual analysis, options and connections within a text become evident in performance which are more difficult to perceive in the written text alone. Finally, in terms of versification, a performer's impulses regarding how to maintain an audience's involvement can expand the theoretical parameters to include options that had not been considered. This last aspect can be explored effectively in terms of multiple performances of a single stanza.

Lybeaus Desconus is well suited to analysis of this type. It is typical of the tail-rhyme romances, though the couplets, instead of containing four stresses in each line, contain three. The line lengths thus remain approximately constant, providing a simpler rhythmic pattern for initial discussion of the issue. Further, the short lines invite musical interpolations. Line ends are natural loci for instrumental improvisation, and shorter lines thus invite a higher proportion of musical involvement.

The poem, probably dating from the last quarter of the fourteenth century (Mills 67), survives in six manuscripts. Significantly different from its analogues, it yet stands in relation to a tradition in which a number of cognates exist. The poem is thus solidly placed in a poetic context and a narrative context, and it is particularly suited to instrumental accompaniment.

On a quest to rescue the Lady of Synadowne, the hero, the "Fair Unknown," faces a number of physical and emotional challenges on his journey west from King Arthur's court. When he reaches Synadowne, he fights two mighty magicians in an enchanted palace and rescues the lady, who has been transformed into a dragon. They marry and live happily together.

One of the adventures Lybeaus faces on his journey occurs just after he has defeated the giant Mangys at Ile Dolour. He is brought into town in a procession, and the lady of the town, La Dame Amour, greets him and thanks him for rescuing her. She leads him to her chamber, undresses him, clothes him richly, and then offers for him to "be hir lorde." He readily agrees to this and remains with her for twelve months, while she holds him enchanted with her beauty and her music. At the end of a year, he meets his guide Ellen, and she chastises him for delaying his quest. Ashamed, he steals out a back gate and thus escapes from the sorceress. His meeting with the lady is described in the following stanza: 

Alady bright as floure
That men calleth la dame Amoure
Resseyued him wele and fayre
And thanked hym with honour
That he was hir socoure
A gayne that giaunte file
To chambyr she him ledys
And did of all his wedis
And clothed hym in palle
And profirde him with worde
For to be hir lorde
Off cite and castell
(Lambeth Palace Library MS. 306, f. 95v - transcribed directly from the manuscript)

 [A lady, bright as a flower, who was called "Lady Love," received him well and courteously and thanked him, with honor, that he had defended her against that foul giant. She led him to a bedroom and took off all his clothes and dressed him in rich cloth and offered for him to be her lover and lord of her city and castle. (My translation)]

The typical stanza structure of the poem is aabccbddbeeb3. The erotic tension of this stanza is conveyed in the departure from the regular rhyme scheme. Here the tail lines linked by structural precedent are fayre / file / palle / castell, words which rhyme only in the loosest sense. By contrast, the tail lines in the more regular preceding stanza rhyme mayne / twayne / fayne / agayne, and those of the subsequent stanza rhyme shene / tene / Elyne / qwene.

The stanza is relatively easy to scan, and it is more regular than many stanzas in the poem in this respect.

Alády bríght as floúre
That men cálleth la dáme Amoúre
Resseýued him wéle and faýre
And thánked hym wíth honoúr
That hé was hír socoúre
A gaýne that gíaunte fíle
To chámbyr shé him lédys
And díd of áll his wédis
And clóthed hým in pálle
And pfirde hím with wórde
Fór to bé hir lórde
Off cíte ánd castéll

One of the performance options for the passage would be to recite it with the stresses occurring at measurably metronomic intervals. While it is possible to do this without any pauses, the results are manifestly absurd, and a performer could not maintain such a breathless pace.


Sound Sample 1


As Richard Cureton points out, it is generally accepted that in metrical structures alternating between four and three metrical beats to a line, a fourth silent beat is incorporated at the end of the lines with three stressed syllables, thus "squaring up the rhythmic form." What is peculiar of a stanza form in which every line contains three voiced beats is that, instead of moving to the metrical equivalent of musical 3/4 time, the stanza invites a pause at the end of each line, thus maintaining a four-beat line structure. A more comfortable performance of the stanza would thus be:


Sound Sample 2


This approach is intriguing in its inherent concept of periodically recurring vocal silence, since this silence invites the possibility of musical improvisation. The system of performance, however, is not satisfactory, since considerable energy is required to "stay on the beat," far more than is ever necessary in singing verse or in playing an instrument. Reuven Tsur's theory of perceptual meter explains this cognitive dissonance, and, in a chapter on "Timing, Structure, Musical Key," he delineates further the drawbacks of "equal timing." He demonstrates that equal timing "is based on an illusion refuted by all available measurements." He goes on to contrast poetic performance with musical performance: "In music, when pauses are inserted, they occur at the expense of sounds; whereas in poetry reading, the reciter may insert pauses without qualifying the duration of syllables, provided that the line ending and the caesura are effectively articulated. What is more, if they are effectively articulated, the verse line tends to reassert itself in perception, rather than disintegrate in face of such an intrusion."

Thus, following Tsur's theory of rhythmic performance, a comfortable performance of the passage without cognitive dissonance might run as follows:


Sound Sample 3


This establishes a pragmatic approach to the tail-rhyme stanza which is in keeping with current theory. It remains to be seen how instrumental music might interact with this approach to performance. 

Playing Vielle with the Tail-Rhyme Stanza

 Notated music survives for musical interpolations in some medieval French romances, and melodies survive for some of the earlier chansons de geste, but no notated music survives in manuscripts of Middle English romances and none is associated with the narrative core of the French romances. Based on this lack of music notation, scholars such as P.R. Coss have seen internal references to performance as "a literary convention designed to create an atmosphere of lively recitation" (39). Yet, as Southworth observes, "references to harping, playing, singing and 'telling' mingle indiscriminately in both records and texts" (91). Increasingly, a strong weight of evidence suggests a tradition of narrative verse performance with instrumental accompaniment.

If Middle English romances were performed with music, but no record of that music survives, then a model for performance must be established for which notated music would be unnecessary. I have elsewhere postulated a model by which modal improvisations could be readily incorporated into the verse romances. Medieval music was constructed within eight "modes," patterns of whole steps and half steps analogous to our modern "major" and "minor." By following patterns of notes from contemporary manuscripts and remaining within a given mode, it is possible to recite verse while creating variations of several set motifs, or brief melodic patterns. This principle helps explain why notated music does not survive for the romances, though there is evidence they were performed with music: it would have been entirely unnecessary to transcribe these musical passages, since the music would be different with every performance and readily reconstructed or reinvented as needed ("Fiddling with the Middle English Romance").

The vielle is a bowed instrument played throughout Europe from the twelfth through the fifteenth centuries. It is usually slightly shorter than arm length, with three to six gut strings. Sound is produced by drawing a bow made of horsehair held taut by a curved dowel across the strings. Strings may be held away from the body of the instrument by a curved bridge, which allows the musician to play on one string at a time; or strings may be held up by a flat bridge, which allows the musician to play several strings at once, creating drones, or pitches that do not change. This second system usually requires concordant tuning, that is, the strings must be set to pitches that "concord" with one another. The strings relate to one another within the modal framework of pitches, and they sound appropriate as continuous drones with whatever modal melody the musican chooses.

The vielle is particularly appropriate for accompanying spoken text because the bow makes it possible to maintain a continual texture of sound and because the modal tuning delineated by Jerome of Moravia (qtd. Page 90) minimizes cognitive resources demanded by improvisation. Internal and external evidence suggests the likelihood that Middle English romances were at least sometimes accompanied by vielle. The French tradition implies this connection, as well. Albert C. Baugh states, "In the chansons de geste the instrument most frequently mentioned is the vielle, and the jongleur is said to 'chanter et vieler ensemble'" (Baugh 1959, 418). Urban Tigner Holmes, Jr. verifies this view in his description of performance (217). In the thirteenth-century Aucassin et Nicolette, the eponymous heroine accompanies herself with vielle as she narrates her story -- what amounts to a romance.

Operating, then, on the assumption that a historical reconstruction of a tail-rhyme romance might incorporate vielle; using a flat-bridged, concordantly tuned vielle; and following the system of motivic modal improvisation advocated by Benjamin Bagby of Sequentia, I considered various options for how the vielle might interact with the tail-rhyme stanza. Leaving aside issues of pitch and dynamics for future consideration, I focused on rhythmic options.

As a member of Psallite, The Quill Consort, and Crying Shawm, I have played rebec and two types of vielle extensively in a number of contexts: as a solo instrumentalist, in polyphonic music, accompanying my own singing, accompanying other instrumentalists and vocalists. One of the most intriguing contexts, however, has been accompanying myself in memorized verse performance. For a number of years now, I have experimented with memorizing entire verse romances, and for the last three years I have performed these at the International Congress on Medieval Studies at Kalamazoo. At times, I have accompanied myself with vielle, and some surprising results have emerged in the process.

In contrast with plucked stringed instruments, such as lute or harp, bowed stringed instruments produce music which is structurally binary in nature. That is to say, all sounds are produced by a down bow, in which the bow arm moves away from the instrument, or by an up bow, in which the bow arm moves toward the instrument. The mechanics of the motion is such that a down bow is markedly stronger than an up bow whether the instrument is held up against the shoulder or down resting on the lap. Gravity works with the bow and arm on the down stroke and against them on the up stroke.

Modern violin bows, which are recurved like modern archery bows for greater elasticity, and modern Galamian technique which aims for an absolutely even tone, diminish this binary effect. A listener may not be able to distinguish between the two motions on a modern violin, though down beats, the metrically stressed notes, are almost always played with a down bow, and up beats, the metrically unstressed notes, with an up bow.

The medieval bow, however, tends to emphasize this distinction between the two motions. The simple curve of the bow does not encourage smoothe bow changes or even tone, and it seems reasonable that medieval musicians may have just as easily used the natural character of the instrument for effect rather than trying to equalize the sound. Several notes can be produced in one bow stroke, and the duration of the bow strokes may vary considerable, but it is reasonable to expect alternating strong and weak strokes.

Theoretically, stressed syllables within a line could receive more or less emphasis based on the direction of the bow, but in practice, this is very difficult to control. The musician would have to know well in advance which syllables to stress, and she would have to devise an elaborate plan for bowing in advance. Final stressed syllables, however, consistently receive a natural emphasis because of the subsequent pause. Since, as I demonstrated above, three-stress lines tend to incorporate a fourth, unrealized "beat," an accompanying instrumentalist can approach a verse line in terms of four beats.

If the instrumentalist is accompanying herself, then these beats need not occur at mathematically even intervals, but it is easier to concentrate on remembering and expressing the text if it is not necessary to make decisions about bowing within each line. Thus a general binary pattern of some sort needs to be established at the outset (though this can certainly be broken for effect). The musician could thus include one, two, or four stressed syllables in each bow stroke.

I find two strokes to a line comfortable, and this division has a further benefit for lines with only three stresses. If I begin with an up bow, then the strong down bow occurs in conjunction with the final stressed syllable in the line, a syllable already emphasized within the verse structure. My initial approach to self-accompaniment was to coordinate pitch changes and bow changes to occur simultaneously with stressed syllables. Brief musical embellishments fill out the "unrealized stress" in the verse, and instrumental elaboration creates a fourth, unrealized line after each tail line. Here is an illustration of this approach, using a simple phrygian motivic pattern in use contemporaneously with the text.


Sound Sample 4


As I became more confident and comfortable playing vielle with memorized verse, and as I interacted with various audiences, I found myself moving away from simultaneous musical and textual stresses. Consistently, the pitch changes and bow changes occurred slightly after or before the textual stress, and this was more marked with words I intended to emphasize. Here is an illustration of these offset stresses.


Sound Sample 5


When I realized what I was doing, I considered whether I were moving toward incompetence or toward a more effective approach. Since I have no difficulty coordinating stressed syllables with bow and pitch changes when I sing Middle English verse, it struck me as significant that I should treat spoken verse so differently.

Reuven Tsur's model of rhythmic performance predicts that stresses will not occur at mathematically even intervals and that several dimensions of stress may be simultaneously indicated. Extending this model to include instrumental accompaniment, it is possible to express the same sort of tension between poetic stress and musical stress that arises when stress pattern and meter conflict within the verse. Multiple stress patterns can be simultaneously represented in performance. Since a single performer is realizing both poetic and musical stress patterns, it is possible to create a counterpoint of converging and diverging rhythmic effects to enhance narrative elements.

Two advantages arise from offsetting instrumental stresses from verse stresses. First, since both events require attention, separating them spreads out the competition for cognitive resources in both performer and listener, so that the performance does not seem overly cluttered or difficult to follow. Second, offsetting musical stress can intensify the verbal stress by extending it. While a stressed syllable may be emphasized by extending the duration with the voice, the voice cannot rearticulate the stress, but an instrument can achieve that effect by supplying a semantically empty stress in close proximity.

In the first six lines of the recording above, for example, the vielle bow change follows the final stressed syllable, and this reinforces the impression of some significance beyond the surface hospitality. The unexpected lack of reasonable rhyme between "fayre" and "file" compounds the unsettling effect. In the last six lines, by contrast, all the rhyming couplets ledys / wedis and worde / lorde coordinate with the instrumental bow changes, but the tail lines, expected to rhyme by anticipation from the previous stanza and backstructuring from the subsequent stanza, not only rhyme awkwardly (palle / castell), but stretch the instrumental pattern that has been established. The bow change comes slightly after "palle," but the final instrumental beat in the last line comes just before the stress in "castell." The stanza is emphasized by this quirk in connection with the last word. The instrumental stress preceding the final word underlines what has come before, as does the melodic elaboration which follows the line.

There is considerable possibility for variation by a single performer using a relatively constant approach. When a second instrumentalist is added, new elements become significant. Following is a performance of the stanza from the Psallite CD The Grafted Tree, in which harp is the primary instrumental accompaniment, though the vielle is still present and follows the same basic motif.


Sound Sample 6


In this performance, the pace is slower. This is partly because the stanza stands alone in the midst of a Modern English translation, and thus it underlines the emotional tone of the episode. But another reasons for the more relaxed pace is that the harp elaborations occur during the vocal performance, pushing the vielle elaborations to a post-textual position. Though the harp accompaniment is complex, it is soft enough not to compete with the voice, and it is even in character: each note does not call attention to itself the way a bow change or any pitch change does on a bowed instrument, since the decay time is so quick with gothic harp. Many quick notes are necessary for the harp to create a background texture and maintain an aural presence. 


Reuven Tsur has demonstrated that it is possible to convey multiple dimensions with the voice; Paul Zumthor has indicated that a performer may convey multiple dimensions with gesture and physical presence. Further potential for complex simultaneous rhythmic patterns is available to a performer who simultaneously recites verse and plays an instrument. In this essay, rhythmic aspects have been explored, but there is room to consider relative pitch, relative dynamic, and potential for physical gesture while holding an instrument. Furthermore, the addition of other performers complicates the issue, and the nature of any musical instrument involved will strongly affect the nature of the accompaniment.

These dimensions could powerfully affect the focus of the theoretical construction of the tail-rhyme stanza in its many manifestations. If these narrative poems were originally recited with instruments, then study of the effects those instruments are capable of achieving becomes vital to any consideration of the verse. Musical dimensions may intensify or dampen poetic effects, and new emotional tones may be evoked by the music. Rhythmic structures, pacing, and non-verbal elements of meaning become more prominent when possibilities raised by empirical performance are incorporated into theoretical discussion. 


Technical Notes

In his article on "Poetic Rhythm," Reuven Tsur developed a mode of discourse which I follow here for incorporating sound clips into written academic discussion.

Marc Smith developed the assembly of software and hardware that made possible recording and compression of sound clips.


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