Keywords:Russian verse, shadow meter, rhythmic disruption, paeon
In most instances the meter of a Russian poem becomes clear virtually from the start, after a single line or perhaps just a few lines. However, there are also poems for which a simple metrical classification remains problematic even upon consideration of the entire work. In some cases, an abundance of internal rhyme leads to the appearance of a “shadow meter” that creates an alternative way to describe the meter over at least a portion of the poem. In others, it turns out to be possible to interpret an entire poem as belonging to any of two or more meters, often because the work does not precisely match the norms for any one type while bearing reasonably close resemblances to more than one metrical category. In this paper I examine several instances of metrical ambiguity in Russian verse and conclude that for such poems it is best not to employ a single metrical label but to offer a more detailed characterization that does justice to the work’s complexity.