Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Balto Finnic Folk Poetry and Trochaic Meter

The older folksongs, referred runic songs, are in the poetic metre regivärss the tradition shared by all Baltic-Finnic peoples.
"The runo song form probably dates from the last millennium BCE when the Balto-Finnic tribes had not separated, and spoke the same Balto-Finnic protolanguage" (Ruutel, 2001:343).
A Karelian Rune Singer 
Baltic Finnic (e.g. Estonian, Finnish, Karelian) folk poetry uses a form of trochaic tetrameter that has been called the Kalevala meter or Regivärss, normally consisting of four trohheilisest värsijalast, so eight syllables where for each foot the first syllable is long and one short: . The Finnish and Estonian national epics, Kalevala and Kalevipoeg, are both written in this meter. The meter is thought to have originated during the Proto-Finnic period. Wiki
The metrical reading below is probably imperfect and may not be formally Kalevala meter, but there are a lot of trochees, which is not the meter of preference for, say, English verse, where iambic pentameter rules.
One thing that has mystified researchers of the Voynich manuscript is the profound lack of punctuation throughout its pages. There seem to be no sentence breaks or paragraph breaks. There doesn't even seem to be any coherent capitalization. This probably adds to the general perception that the work is simply gibberish.

I've talked about rune songs in places like Estonia and Karelia, I've explored how they are made up of trochees, the proverbial witches' meter, and also spoken about how old they are.

Here is one below, set to its musical score.
This is the quintessential ancient Baltic-Finnic poetic metre, regivärss. It's pretty highly focused on getting in essentially trochees, eight syllables per line. It's more complex than that, but let's at least look for these fundamentals in the Voynich.
I picked a page that was a pretty good candidate for a rune song. How do I know? It says, "Jelksa, jelksa, jelom" over and over again. That's a Voynich hallelujah!--or some such celebratory phrase found on the depictions of processions and rites.
By now, I know most of the letters and quite a few of the words and can make out a vague cadence enough to make a guess within reason at the number of syllables per line on this page. The average? 16.8.

Of course I think each line on this page is two lines of a Baltic-Finnic rune song and that the rest of the Voynich, though not all of it, may be organized similarly. I would bet you that whoever wrote this was counting syllables or was so inured in this particular prosaic tradition that it just came naturally to write this way.

This stands to reason. The Voynich is of an oral tradition--a masterpiece of the folk.

1 comment:

  1. How interesting! The snippet of the Stockholm manuscript of 1705 is in old Estonian. I can read it easily as it is very similar to today's Estonian, just in a different font with some archaic words, w-s replacing v-s etc. Though I don't understand the texts in the Voynich Manuscript. At first glance, it actually looked like modern Estonian handwritimg, but trying to read it, sadly none of the words mean anything in Estonian. To my knowledge, the first known book that contains Estonian text is the Wanradt and Koell catechism of 1535. I can read the texts in this book as well, the Estonian language hasn't really changed that much in 500 years. You can see pages from it here: . The fact that I can read a book that was written in 1535, but don't understand a word of the one that was carbon-dated to be written in 1404–1438, makes me doubt if the Voynich Manuscript is linked to Estonian language.