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The metrical equivalency between a pair of syllables of a limited dimension and a single long syllable is a fundamental, ubiquitous, and strictly regulated feature of Old English alliterative verse. Since Eduard Sievers's analysis of the verse forms, the use of two syllables instead of one has been called resolution: a stressed short-stemmed disyllable (or an equivalent pair of syllables in a longer word), if in a position more commonly filled by an accented long syllable, is a resolved stress.(1) Either a full stress or a halfstress may be resolved. Sometimes both are, as in Bwf 1065 gomen-wudu greted or Chr 589 maere meotudes sunu.(2) But short-stemmed syllable pairs also occur where long syllables are not acceptable alternatives, as in types A2k (like Bwf 120 won-sceaft wera), C3 (like Bwf 37 offeor-wegum), and D2 (like Bwf 31 leof land-fruma). These pairs are not to be regarded as resolutions, inasmuch as in Sievers's conception of the verse system such pairs constitute two members, instead of one, in minimum sets of four members to the halfline. Resolutions that open words or constitute whole disyllabic words are usually, but not always, fully stressed. The resolved halfstresses are mostly in the second parts of compounds such as feorh-bealu or wteter-egesan or in formative endings of words such as freoondscipe or freolicu or fundode, in which the so-called halfstress may be no more than nominal. Only at the end of type D4 do resolved halfstresses often take the form of free-standing words--as in Chr 118 deorc deathes sceadu.
A class of ostensibly long disyllables (which may be called halflong disyllables) ending in resonant consonants, of which wundor, wuldor, mappum, and waepen are among the more familiar instances, also may in their uninflected forms substitute metrically for single long syllables in positions of strong stress. In those positions such disyllabic forms can appropriately be called resolutions. They do not occur often, however, as resolved halfstresses, on which this paper is principally focused, but they will be cropping up frequently below because of the poets' penchant for coupling them, particularly in compounds, with following short-stemmed resolutions. This propinquity must be due in large part to the convenience of the disyllables in supplying unaccented syllables that are often needed before resolutions.
Sievers describes a resolution as a short syllable and a following unstressed one of any length. It is true, and easily verified, that in resolved full stresses the length of the second syllable is freely variable, often short, often long. In resolved halfstresses, on the other hand, there certainly are constraints on the length of the second syllables. The principal object of this paper is to indicate where and why these constraints apply. They will be shown to have remarkably broad …