Unless you live it, you can never judge it.

I had a really interesting experience this week.

I was reading a journal article about verse in the Icelandic sagas and came across the assertion that the use of verse as dialogue in GĂ­slasaga had to be a contrivance of the original author (there is an argument that GĂ­slasaga actually has two authors, but we won't go there right now). It was argued to be a contrivance because no one really speaks in impromptu verse.

I read that part twice and thought, 'Hang on, that's not right.' I wrote 'Really?' in the margin and moved on. Then I spoke to my mother later in the week to see if I was remembering correctly... You see, I remember that both my Icelandic grandparents spoke in impromptu verse. On spec, they would create verse in response to things people said. Mum confirmed this, and also told me that many of my grandmother's siblings did the same. In Iceland - at least in previous generations - people in, did fact, speak in verse as a matter of everyday dialogue. It may well be that that tradition, or skill, has been lost in the past two or three generations, but it certainly happened in previous generations.

This is the problem with judging something from the outside. People always apply their own limitations. If they can't do it, or don't like it, they struggle to comprehend that others can.



Comments