On Metrics of the “Lamentations of Northern Russia”

Publication type Article
Status Published
Occupation: Head of the Department of Ethnolinguistics and Folklore
Affiliation: Institute of Slavic Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences
Address: 32а Leninsky Prosp., Moscow, 119334, Russia
Journal nameIzvestiia Rossiiskoi akademii nauk. Seriia literatury i iazyka
EditionVolume 79 Issue 6

The article deals with the metric of Northern Russian lamentations collected and published by E.V. Barsov 150 years ago (more than 26,000 verses). The first part of the article analyzes the syllable count (length) of lamentations. “Long&8j1; 14-and 13-syllable lines are typical for recruitment and wedding lamentations (80% and 85%, respectively), and 13-and 12-syllable ones – for funeral lamentations (more than 82%). “Short&8j1; lines (8-, 9-, 10-, 11-syllable) are used in all types of lamentations; as a rule, they are not mixed with “long&8j1; ones and usually form separate blocks. The choice of a long or short model depends, to a large extent, on the performer and the features of the local lamentation tradition. The second part contains an analysis of the lamentation rhythmic patterns (the distribution of stressed and unstressed syllables in a line). The most consistent pattern of the large-line lamentations (14-, 13- and 12-syllables) is a three-stressed structure with an interval of three syllables between them; for the small-line lamentations (8-, 9-, 10-syllables), respectively, a two-stressed structure with the same interval prevails; in general, the last rhythmic pattern is less consistent. The above data does not support the interpretation of the lamentations as a iambus or trochee (6 - or 4-syllable) and support their definition as a folk recitative verse with 3 rhythmic accents. 

Keywordsfolklore, lamentations, Northern Russia, poetic meter, syllable count of a verse, rhythmics, rhythmic pattern of a verse
AcknowledgmentThis study was funded by the RFBR, project no 20-012-00205А.
Publication date25.12.2020
Number of characters38095
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