Elf Meter Common?


New Member
Just finished the Shaping of Middle Earth series on the podcast feed. A thought struck me in the "Horns of Ylmir" discussion. (Love that poem!)

Corey said something about "Elf meter" (iambic heptameter) being obscure or unusual or something to that effect. But the feel of it was very familiar to me. As I was trying to place it, I remembered the metrical index in church hymnals, which lists hymns based on how many syllables they have in each line, so you can mix and match the texts with tunes that fit them. And that's when it hit me that Amazing Grace has the same pattern as "Elf meter."

So I looked it up to verify, and yes, Amazing Grace is listed under Common Meter or It has four lines in each strophe: 8 syllables, 6 syllables, 8 syllables, 6 syllables. Which matches up perfectly with iambic heptameter. And there are a lot of hymns in Common Meter, which I suppose it why it's called common.

You'll have to forgive my ignorance if this is common knowledge that I'm just now having an epiphany about. A quick Wikipedia search says that common meter is the same as ballad meter. So now I'm wondering what makes Tolkien's use of this meter special. @Corey Olsen, can you comment? I don't really have a highly developed poetical sense, but I love listening when you do metrical analyses.