Rhyme in European Verse: A Case for Quantitative Historical Poetics
Building on the statistical approach to verse previously applied to the analysis of syllabo-accentual versification, this article puts forward a new quantitative method for interpreting metered verse that takes into account several formal properties, including rhythm, rhyming and stanzaic architecture. Against the background of a broad typology of European verse, we argue that a basic compensatory mechanism balancing different levels of organization of verse is complicated by factors of literary history, particularly the interaction between different national traditions of versification. As a particularly challenging case study we investigate the moment of the introduction of syllabo-accentual verse into Russia in the 1730s, which witnessed an encounter of several practices of versification historically tied to Polish, German and French literatures. In addition to effects of borrowing and to typological tendencies rooted in human cognition, the article uncovers a previously unexplored kind of formal complexity in verse that arises within an evolving tradition of versification. Thus, certain non-trivial correlations between rhythm and rhyme are observed in Pushkin’s verse, but not in the works of Lomonosov who stands at the origin of syllabo-accentual verse in Russia. The article concludes with a discussion of the theoretical implications of these conclusions for the evolving methodology of Historical Poetics.