Tom Walsh wrote:
> These often resemble kennings, to my mind.
How so? Kennings can certainly be hackneyed -- and some kennings
may also be used as chevilles -- but in origin a kenning is a kind
of riddle, so it's actual content is something to focus the mind
on. When Cú Chulainn tells Emer that he spent the night "i tig
fir adgair búar maige Tethrai" (in the house of a man who tends
the cattle of the plain of Tethra), "mag Tethrai" is a kenning for
the sea, and "búar Tethrai" is one for fish. But Melia says that
the function of chevilles is "musical and metrical" as they are
"carrying little information":
"Classical Irish poetry seems to be connotative and designed
for hearing for the most part, rather than denotative and
designed for seeing. In such a context, in which the listener
does not, indeed, cannot, go back to re-examine a line, but
must cope with and understand (in all senses of the word)
a performance of a poem, the musical and metrical effects
provided by chevilles, which by definition are carrying little
information, may be primary; the chevilles may be more than
a set of "empty figures" used by necessity to fill out lines
of a verse form too complex for its practitioners, but rather
one of the essential means by which that poetry achieved its
effects in its listeners."
> Daniel F. Melia. "Empty Figures" in Irish Sylllabic Poetry."
> Philological Quarterly 56 (1977) 285-300.
Thanks very much for that! I hadn't read it before.