This book argues that the formal art of the Old English epic Beowulf is shaped and determined by the poetic language which the poet inherited from the traditional, oral culture of Anglo-Saxon England. The patterns of metre and alliteration exhibited in the poem were not imposed by the poet on his language, but were part of the language which he spoke, the rules of which constituted his metrical grammar. Professor Kendall investigates the constraints of syntax, metre and alliteration which govern the formal art of Beowulf. He shows how the half-lines of the poem, which are the basic units of composition, are marked by the metrical grammar for placement in the verse clause; he also establishes conditions for the presence or absence of alliteration, which enable him to say whether in any given instance the alliterative device is a mandatory function of the rules of the metrical grammar or an option exercised by the poet. Professor Kendall alters traditional views of metre; he concludes the book with a complete index of scansion according to the rules he has established.
Preface; List of abbreviations; List of changes from Klaeber's text; 1. The Beowulf-poet and his metrical grammar; 2. The alliterative and metrical principles of Beowulf: Kuhn's 'laws' and the transformational rule; 3. The three kinds of half-lines: extra-metrical alliteration and type A3; 4. Displacement; 5. Stressed proclitic adjectives: X-positions and the insertion rule; 6. Problems with the identification of clause-non-initial half-lines: the proclitic onset; 7. Half-lines with internal clause divisions: the transformational rule (revised); 8. The alliterative requirement of unstressed prefixes and the copulative conjunctions; 9. The alliterative requirement of prepositions and the proclitic adverbs and instrumentals; 10. The alliterative requirement of proclitic adjectives and pronouns: the alliterative rule of proclitics; 11. Displaced and detached proclitics; 12. The three classes of compounds: the alliterative requirement of class I compounds; 13. The alliterative behaviour of class II compounds; 14. The alliterative behaviour of class III compounds and simplexes; 15. Metrical typology and the metrical grammar; 16. Conclusions; Appendix; Glossary of technical terms; Bibliography; Index of alliteration, scansion and metrical clause structure; Index of verses specially discussed.