Bylina Verse

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Bylina Verse


the oldest verse form of the epic creative art of the Russian people.

It has been conjectured that the bylina verse developed on Russian soil from the Common Slavic syllabic ten-syllable verse. The bylina verse belongs to a system of purely tonic versification. Most frequently it occurs as a verse with three strong beats (ictus) and intervals between stresses whose length varies from one to three syllables; it also has an anacrusis (unstressed beginning) of one or two syllables and an ending of from two to three syllables. Among certain skaziteli (bylina narrators)—for example, P. L. Kalinin and T. G. Riabinin—the bylina verse acquires a greater degree of rigidity and sounds like a multifoot, trochaic line; among others—V. P. Shchegolenok, for example—a greater degree of freedom is allowed, and it sounds like accented verse. Hence the rhythm of the bylina verse is extremely varied, and to this day there is no generally accepted opinion as to its structure. Rare examples are encountered of a two-ictus bylina verse (Shchelkan) and a four-ictus bylina verse (Stepan Razin). The skaziteli perform in a recitative-like manner, and the rhythm of the melody changes in accordance with the text.


Shtokmar, M. P. Issledovaniia v oblasti russkogo narodnogo stikhoslozheniia. Moscow, 1952.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.