Only if his mind were well stocked with phrases of metrical shape – if, in short, he had learned his poetic language well – could an oral poet fluently tell his tale in the form of traditional verse.: ‘How shall we account for the not infrequent cases of carelessness and imprecision in Homer, set as they are against others where he demonstrates mastery of detail, conceptual penetration and architectural design?
The ruling theory of the day (oral poetry) explains only half.
Quotations from Vuk, with the exception of examples cited directly from the manuscripts, are taken from the edition of Vladan Nedić (Belgrade, 1969).
‘Djakon Stefan i dva andjela’ is preserved in part (lines 1–19) as br.
8552/257, xxii, 5 of the Archive of the Srpska Akademija Nauka i Umetnosti in Belgrade., in the ‘Beleške i objašnjena’, p.
734, we find the following remark: ‘This song is not truly heroic, but more “midway between heroic and lyric [women's] songs” (according to Vuk's distinction), like those in volume one.
In the process of literary interpretation no critic can afford to overlook the rôle of the poetic narrator.
While poetic and narrative statements (as it is commonly argued) designate their meaning largely in accordance with the conventions of language and literary discourse, linguistic criteria alone cannot determine the attitude of the speaker towards what he says; and this attitude constitutes a crucial element in the meaning of the statement as a speech act or utterance. Is he trying to achieve some aim in relation to the hearer other than that which his act of communication ostensibly purports?
Indeed, as users of language, all of us habitually include considerations of speaker intentions in our standard operations of interpreting as well as producing discourse. Entailed in any act of communication, this dimension of interplay between speaker and statement is inevitably involved in literary discourse as well, since obviously we do not always take literary statements at face value.
One of the primary tasks confronting the literary critic, then, in Old English poetry or any other body of work, lies in determining the character of the narrator and the parameters of his functioning.