Sunday, August 24, 2008

Language Panic

I have sometimes wondered about the metrics of Tolkien's elven languages. How are you supposed to scan the poetry? Is it sprung, syllabic, quantitative? Well, someone decided that it was quantitative:
Kirya veasse lirin, Vaiyannar hildion erya
or Valinor marton wilien mí tarmenel auta
Ilmarin, erya ande et Mardellon hortina ráner
tar tuonen, sí vor marien Falmando ter orme,
Silmaril or lumbor kalman, san tultane hildi
an Númendor elen hirien, kala yánen Elenna
tol vingisse ve lóte estáron, tinwe Earendil.

Yes, that is dactylic hexameter complete with elisions and everything. And it's an account of the voyage of Earendil modeled on the Aeneid. (I don't know Quenya, but I recognize enough of the roots to know that the first three words are "A ship [something] I sing.") I started reading it, and my brain went into hexameter autopilot. It was a surprising sensation, closing a linguistic circuit that was never meant to be. Quenya actually goes quite smoothly into dac-hex, but I've never seen it done before. I guess there aren't that many Quenyist/Latinists in the world, sad to say. Sheila is among their happy number, though! Here are her Quenya poems:

Nainie nilden
Linde Noldova

And her Sindarin translation of Tennyson: Lend a dinen

Added: Ask and you shall receive! Two attested forms of elvish metrical verse: the linnod, which is like the second line of an elegiac couplet; and a heptameter line. Still no idea what Galadriel's song is supposed to sound like.


Anonymous said...

I have long desired to attempt writing a real computer program (or a portion) which would rhyme.

(Rhythm? Alas, I seem to be foot-blind, I never can seem to make out how the longs and the shorts work. Maybe I need to study Morse code. Hee hee)

But that may be a bit much. However, I do know there are some other fields which are not poetically deprived, like chemistry, with its "Irish Jig" chemical,
para dimethyl amino benzaldehyde. I will dig up the specs after Mass and get them onto my blogg. Poets and Chemists need a stronger bond... hee hee

--Dr. Thursday

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