At 07:21 AM 8/10/2004 +1200, Simon Cauchi wrote:
>I haven't got a copy of Puttenham handy, but I'd be very surprised if he
>didn't use the word "heroic" or "heroical" in connection with some such
>noun as "verse", "metre", "poesy", or perhaps even "couplet".

Leofranc H-F is (of course) correct: the notion of a heroical meter is old
indeed. For the Elizabethans that Simon Cauchi mentions, the heroic meter
is always a stanza of some kind (ababbcc for Puttenham and Gascoigne,
aabaabbab for James VI of Scotland -- before he was James I of England,
abababcc for Harington). Rhyming couplets, such as Chaucer used in the
Canterbury Tales, are disparaged as "riding rhyme." This much is fairly
well known.

My goal is to date the switch: when did "heroic verse" or "heroic meter"
become a synonym for "rhyming couplet"? I have some ideas about why it
happened, but when it happened is still something that eludes me (though
I'm guessing it's not later than 1640). Had been hoping that the full text
of the OED quotation database would contain the answer, and when I got news
last week that my university had finally purchased a subscription, this was
my first query. But I think 1693 is too late. One might hope to find an
answer in places like Saintsbury's 3-volume history of English prosody,
Suzanne Woods' Natural Emphasis, William Piper's Heroic Couplet, or the
articles that he cites in his footnotes. But no.

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David Wilson-Okamura        http://virgil.org          [EMAIL PROTECTED]
East Carolina University    Virgil reception, discussion, documents, &c
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