Drottkvæðr, which literally means ‘recited before the retinue’, is an Old Norse verse form resented by Snorri Sturluson in the Edda, composed ca. 1178-1241, in it’s section Hattatal (‘Enumeration of Meters’). For more information on the Edda, click here (link pending).


  • 8 lines per stanza
  • 6 syllables per line
  • line-internal rhyme, but no cross line rhyme
  • cross-line alliteration
  • each line ends in a metrical trochee (stressed syllable followed by an unstressed syllable)
  • alliterating sounds are called ‘staves’, so…
    • 12 total staves per stanza
    • 2 in odd lines, 1 in even lines
    • lines work in pairs
    • even line staves are called ‘head staves’ and they control the alliteration
    • odd line staves are called props, and they follow the head staves
    • for every pair of lines, the props in line (1) follow the head stave in line (2)
    • in terms of position, the alliteration is specific:
      • 1st or 3rd syllable of 1st line
      • 5th syllable of 1st line
      • 1st syllable of 2nd line
  • Rhyme-wise:
    • half rhymes in off rhymes
      • consonant sound is same, but vowel is different (fish/wash)
    • full rhymes in even lines
      • norse rhyming-using the same vowel in the appropriate syllable; doesn’t have to come at the end of the word
    • the first rhyme in the line can be anywhere, but the 2nd rhyme has to be in the 5th syllable
  • Finally, content wise. Kennings, a concept which in a way is essentially a metaphor, is central to Norse poetry and especially this one.
    • Kennings are substituting one noun with another term which is ‘made known’ by another noun
    • so, example; ‘battle=spear din’, ‘sword=fire of battle’
    • However, it’s continued by combining Kennings.
      • ‘sword=fire of spear din’
    • Theme-wise, this poetry form is a brag. Skalds (norse poets) would stand up in a party and brag a Drottkvæðr about someone either dead or alive, sometimes themselves.


Greene, Roland, and Stephen Cushman. The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics. Princeton University Press, 2012.