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There are six metres that were used in Old Norse Poetry:

Fornyrðislag or “metre of ancient words”

This metre composed both with and without a fixed number of syllables per line, usually 4 syllables.

See example

Malahattr or “metre of speeches”

This is like fornyrðislag, but has a regular number of syllables per line, usually five syllables in each line.

See example

Kviðuháttr or “metre of discourse”

This is a variant of fornyrðislag in which syllables are closely counted and the lines alternate, starting with one line with three syllables, the next line with four.

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Ljoðaháttr or “metre of chants”

This form may have been developed as a special form for magical or cult poetry. It uses repetition and parallelism of expression. The metre is made up of pairs of lines, each with two stressed syllables and bound by alliteration, followed by a third line called “the full line” which has its own alliteration and either 2 or 3 stressed syllables. Normally two segments of three lines make up a stanza.

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Galdralag or “magic spell metre”

This is a variant of Ljoðaháttr which uses a fourth line which echoes and varies the third line of the stanza.

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Dróttkvætt or “noble warrior’s metre”

This complex metre uses a three-stress line, normally of six syllables, always ending in a long stressed syllable followed by an unstressed one. The lines are linked in pairs by alliteration, two initial sounds in the first line matched by the start of the first stressed syllable in the second line.

There is also a system of internal rhyme: in each line the last stressed syllable must contain vowel and consonant that chime with those in an earlier syllable. In the first line a half-rhyme should be found (called skothending or “glancing hit”) and in the second line the rhyme should be full (called aðalhending or “full hit”). Each stanza contains eight lines, and there is usually a marked syntactic division at the end of line four to make the whole into two balancing halves.

See example


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