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Bardic Arts

Feeling Norse
Torvald Torgarson
January 30, 2002 (AS XXXVII)

The speech of Mjolnir soars
and sweeps, the heavens weep
with fright and terror. Fast
the flash of light and wind,
when red the wrath of Thor
is raised. No Joten sleeps
in halls that shake as heard
the herald's voice of doom.

As the title implies, I was just feeling very Norse that day.

One of the most valuable and respected skills of the skalds of Scandinavia was the ability to extemporize verses on short notice. One skald, Sigvat Thordarson was noted for being able to compose poetry as fast as normal people could talk. Imagine, holding a conversation entirely in skaldic verse! The Occasional Verse was used whenever the skald was inspired, wished to make a point, or to draw attention to a situation.

Most of the examples of Occasional Verse I have been able to find have been in Dravkaet form, and in my work I follow that example. The structure of drakvaet consists of a pair of six syllable lines each with three stresses. There will be three alliterations in each pair of lines. In the first line there will be two alliterations that can fall on any stressed syllable. In the second line there will be one alliteration that must fall on the first stressed syllable. Then four pairs of lines will make a stanza. In traditional drakvaet there will also be two internal rhymes in each pair of lines. If these internal rhymes are imperfect rhymes such as ham and back, or pill and well, this would be known as a skothending, or glancing hit. If it was a perfect rhyme it is called adalhending, or a full hit. In addition the glancing hit must be in the odd numbered line, and the full hit in the even line. Moreover, the rhyme must fall on the second and last syllables of the line.

In my work I do not make use of the internal rhyming for the same reasons that Prof. Lee M. Hollander states in his book, The Skalds, A Selection of Their Poems, on the first page of the preface. I did not, frankly, because I found myself unequal to the task, but also because experience has shown that internal rhyme now falls on deaf ears. With all of the other strict parameters of the drakvaet this one area has proven to be beyond me, and with rest of the structure intact I believe I have still kept within the spirit of the form. -- Torvald

(This is from Torvald's collection of verse: Occasional Verses, and used with his permission.)

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