Oral court poetry originating in Norway but developed chiefly by Icelandic poets (skalds) from the 9th to the 13th century. Skaldic poetry was contemporary with Eddic poetry (see Edda) but differed from it in metre, diction, and style. Eddic poetry is anonymous, simple, and terse, often taking the form of an objective dramatic dialogue. Skalds were identified by name. Their poems were descriptive, occasional, and subjective, their metres strictly syllabic instead of free and variable, and their language ornamented with similes and metaphors. Formal subjects were the mythical stories engraved on shields, praise of kings, epitaphs, and genealogies.
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Poetry played an important role in the social and religious world of the Vikings. In Norse mythology, Skáldskaparmál (1) tells the story of how Odin brought the mead of poetry to Asgard, which is an indicator of the significance of poetry within the contemporary Scandinavian culture.
Old Norse poetry is characterised by alliteration, a poetic vocabulary expanded by heiti, and use of kennings. An important source of information about poetic forms in Old Norse is the Prose Edda of Snorri Sturluson.
Old Norse poetry is conventionally, and somewhat arbitrarily, split into two types; Eddaic poetry (also sometimes known as Eddic poetry) and skaldic poetry. Eddaic poetry includes the poems of the Codex Regius and a few other similar ones. Skaldic poetry is usually defined as everything else not already mentioned.
In Eddic poetry, the metric structures are generally simple, and are almost invariably ljóðaháttr or fornyrðislag. Ljóðaháttr, (known also as the "metre of chants"), because of its structure, which comprises broken stanzas, lends itself to dialogue and discourse. Fornyrðislag, "the metre of ancient words", is the more commonly used of the two, and is generally used where the poem is largely narrative. It is composed with four or more syllables per line. Other metrical forms include
Main article: Poetic Edda
The Eddaic poems have the following characteristics.
The skaldic poems have the following characteristics.