This book frames and tests a theory of the nature and role of accent and rhythm in French verse, and of their relationship with meaning. A clear and continuing tradition emerges, spanning a thousand years in the writing of poetry in French. Far from accent being irrelevant to metre, as is widely assumed, patterns of alternating accent prove indispensable for the perception of metricality. A detailed exploration of the relation between accent and syllable-count creates the basis for close readings of French verse-texts from the thirteenth to the twentieth centuries, readings which reveal the productive interdependency of rhythm and meaning.
Roger Pensom (1939-2018), a distinguished scholar of medieval French literature and of the historical development of rhythm in French, was a Fellow of Hertford College, Oxford, and University Lecturer in Old French Literature and Language at the University of Oxford.