A computer analysis of the Latin poetry of the fourth century
Clow, William Hammond
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The author of this dissertation has written a computer program which scans Latin poetry and which prints out three things: the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables for each line; the number of syllables in each line; and, at the end of each poem entered, a chart showing how many and what percentage of stressed accents occur at each syllable position in the line. In chapter I the author shows how this program works with several stress accent poems of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The poems which are analyzed in this chapter are the "Confession of Golias" of the Archpoet, the "Phyllis and Flora," "The Council of Remiremont," the "Dies Irae," "Lauda Sion Salvatorem," "Pange lingua gloriosi," and the "Stabat Mater." The computer printouts show great regularity in the stress accent patterns and in the numbers of syllables in each line. In chapters II through VII the author analyzes all of the poetry of Commodian, the hymns of Hilary of Poitiers, the hymns of Ambrose, the "Hymn against the Donatists" of Augustine, all of the poetry of Prudentius, and the 164 lines of the poem of Auspicius of Toul. The computer printouts for these fourth-century Christian poets do not show much regularity in stress accent patterns. Only Auspicius of Toul seems to have written stress accent poetry. Perhaps Hilary also was attempting to impose stress accent patterns on classical quantitative, but too little of his poetry remains to draw any definite conclusions from it. Augustine's poem seems to rely on stress accents only in the last few syllables of each line. In general, then, the author concludes that stress accents were only, at best, a poetic ornamentation. The poetry of this period is still largely based on classical, quantitative norms. There also seems to be a tendency during this period to reduce the quantitative lines to a fixed number of syllables. The author suggests that this syllabic period may represent an intermediate stage between quantitative and stress poetry.