Home Page    First Topic

One: Scansion and Related Matters    Two: Description of the Metres

a: Vatta    b: Tuññhubha    c: Measure Metres    d: Bar Metres    e: Fixed Metres

Three: The Mixing of Metres    Four: Glossary & Index

Five: The Evolution of Vatta & Tuññhubha    Six: Guide to Further Study

    

Two: The Description of the Metres

Introduction & Vatta

    

Table of Contents

 

2.1 The types of metre

2.2 The syllabic metres, akkharacchandas type 1

2.3 Vatta

2.4 Vatta Variations

2.5 Vatta periods

 

2.1 The types of metre

Pàëi metres can be divided into four main types according to their method of construction, in outline they are:

ŽŽŽŽ1) Syllabic metres, e.g Vatta, Tuññhubha, Jagatã

ŽŽŽŽ2) Measure metres, e.g. Vetàlãya, Opacchandasaka, Vegavatã

ŽŽŽŽ3) Bar metres, e.g. Gãti, Ariyà, Gubbinã

ŽŽŽŽ4) Fixed metres, e.g. Upajàti, Rathoddhatà, Uggatà

In most metres a verse (gàthà) is made up of 4 lines (pàda), though sometimes we find verses with 6 lines, or more rarely 5.

The metres are constructed according to the amount of syllables or measures there are in the line, and the patterns that are made through the alternation of the short and long syllables.

In the syllabic metres it is the number of syllables that make up a line that is the organizing principle, e.g. Vatta has 8 syllables to the line, Tuññhubha 11, & Jagatã 12 (the various patterns that occur in these metres are discussed in the descriptions that follow).

In the measure metres the syllables may vary, but the total amount of measures should remain fixed (1 = 1 measure, 2 = 2 measures), e.g. Vetàlãya has a mattà count of 14 in the 1st & 3rd lines, and 16 in the 2nd & 4th; Opacchandasaka 16 in the 1st & 3rd, 18 in the 2nd & 4th; Vegavatã has the same mattà count as Vetàlãya, but the syllabic pattern is different.

In the bar metres a secondary organising principle is employed over and above that of counting the measures, which is to organize the syllables into bars, normally of 4 measures to the bar.

In the fixed metres virtually all of the syllables in the lines are of fixed quantity, with normally only the end syllable being variable.

After this brief outline of the different structural principles involved we can examine the metres in more depth.

 

2.2 The syllabic metres, akkharacchandas type 1 (akùaracchandas)

In these the line length is determined by the number of syllables there are in a line, e.g. Vatta normally has 8; Tuññhubha 11; Jagatã 12. These metres have more or less a fixed cadence (i.e. the closing rhythm of a line), but allow a greater freedom in the rest of the line. In this respect they differ from akkharacchandas type 2 which have virtually the whole line fixed. The syllabic metres are the most common type found in the canon.

 

2.3 Vatta (Vaktra, aka øloka (=Siloka))

The most important and prevalent metre in canonical Pàëi is the Vatta, which has a great deal of flexibility, and seems to be equally well adapted to aphorism, question & answer, narrative, and epic.

A Vatta verse normally consists of 4 lines with 8 syllables to the line, organised in dissimilar pairs which are repeated to make up a verse (note that owing to resolution sometimes a Vatta line may contain 9 syllables).

Here is an analysis of the pathyà (normal) structure of the Vatta:

 

 

1

2

3

4

 

5

6

7

8

 

Odd line:

 

5

3

3

3

|

1

2

2

3

 

 

 

1

2

3

4

 

5

6

7

8

 

Even line:

 

5

3

3

3

|

1

2

1

3

 

x2

In the 2nd & 3rd positions two successive shorts 11 are normally avoided, as we can see through occasional changes of syllabic length in words that occur in these positions.

 

2.4 Vatta Variations

The cadence at the end of the even lines 1213 is very well established and normally adhered to, but occasionally other patterns show up in this position, and we should perhaps take them as acceptable, even if extraordinary, variations, they are: 2213 and 1223, others are doubtful.

In the odd lines 7 variations (vipulà) occur, besides the normal structure, they are:

 

 

1

2

3

4

 

5

6

7

8

 

Indian names:

Anuññhubha

 

5

3

3

3

|

1

2

1

3

 

ja-vipulà

1st vipulà

 

5

2

3

2

|

1

1

1

3

 

na-vipulà

2nd vipulà

 

5

2

3

2

|

2

1

1

3

 

bha-vipulà

3rd vipulà

 

5

2

3

2

|

2

2

2

3

 

ma-vipulà

4th vipulà

 

5

3

3

3

|

2

1

2

3

 

ra-vipulà

5th vipulà

 

5

3

3

3

|

1

1

2

3

 

sa-vipulà

6th vipulà

 

5

2

1

2

|

2

2

1

3

 

ta-vipulà -

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(very sporadic)

 

There is normally a caesura (word break) after the fifth syllable in the 3rd vipulà, and after the fourth syllable in the 4th vipulà.

Occasionally other patterns show up in the opening of the first two vipulàs such as 3122, but only rarely. As can be seen in the descriptions above resolution of the first syllable is quite common and acceptable. The 6th & 4th are occasionally resolved, and apparently the 3rd, 5th, & 7th can be also, but it appears not the 2nd or the 8th. By applying the rule of resolution described in 1.15 above, it is possible to help identify the underlying structure of a vipulà, take the case of an odd line showing the following structure:

321211123

if the caesura (word break) occurs after the fourth syllable, the vipulà is the 4th:

3212, 11123

if the caesura occurs after the 5th syllable, it is pathyà:

32121, 1123

 

2.5 Vatta periods

The Vatta metre in the canon can be divided roughly into two periods, the early and the late, according to whether the Anuññhubha variation occurs in the prior lines, or whether it is normally avoided. In the early period the pathyà accounts for about 60% or more of the prior lines, and the Anuññhubha at that time is the most important variation accounting for about 15%. As the metre comes closer to its classical form in the later part of the canon the Anuññhubha occurs only sporadically, and the pathyà greatly predominates, sometimes accounting for as much as 85% of all the lines (for more on the development of the Vatta, see Five: The Evolution of Vatta and Tuññhubha).

An interesting comparison is afforded between the early Vatta of the questions and answers in Pàràyanavagga of Suttanipàta, and the late Vatta of the Introductory Verses (Vatthugàthà). We may note here that in Hemakamàõavàpucchà (Sn V:8) (vs 1084 ff) we may have a case of the Anuññhubha being used as an independent metre in the canon, but as it is only 4 vs long it is too short to be sure.

Early Vatta from Jatukaõõãmàõavapucchà (Sn V: 12) (vs 1098-99):

xxxxxxxxxxxx2211|1122||2222|1212 ŽŽŽŽŽŽŽŽVip 5
ŽŽŽŽ
Kàmesu vinaya gedhaü, ~ nekkhammaü daññhu khemato,

xxxxxxxxxxxx2122|1222||2222|1212 ŽŽŽŽŽŽŽŽPathyà
ŽŽŽŽ
uggahãtaü nirattaü và ~ mà te vijjittha ki¤canaü.

xxxxxxxxxxxx2222|1221||2222|1212 ŽŽŽŽŽŽŽŽPathyà
ŽŽŽŽ
Yaü pubbe taü visosehi, ~ pacchà te mà 'hu ki¤canaü.

xxxxxxxxxxxx2222|1211||1122|1211 ŽŽŽŽŽŽŽŽAnuññhubha
ŽŽŽŽ
Majjhe ce no gahessasi ~ upasanto carissasi.

 

Late Vatta (Sn V vs 1-3) (vs 976-978), narrative style:

xxxxxxxxxxxx2122|1222||1122|1212 ŽŽŽŽŽŽŽŽPathyà
ŽŽŽŽ
Kosalànaü purà rammà ~ agamà Dakkhiõàpathaü

xxxxxxxxxxxx2222|2122||2122|1212 ŽŽŽŽŽŽŽŽVip 4
ŽŽŽŽ
àki¤ca¤¤aü patthayàno, ~ bràhmaõo mantapàragå.

xxxxxxxxxxxx2212|1112||1121|1212 ŽŽŽŽŽŽŽŽVip 1
ŽŽŽŽ
So Assakassa visaye, ~ Aëakassa samàsane,

xxxxxxxxxxxx1222|1222||2211|1211 ŽŽŽŽŽŽŽŽPathyà
ŽŽŽŽ
vasã Godhàvarãkåle ~ u¤chena ca phalena ca.

xxxxxxxxxxxx2211|1221||2211|1212ŽŽŽŽŽŽŽŽPathyà
ŽŽŽŽ
Tass' eva upanissàya ~ gàmo ca vipulo ahå,

xxxxxxxxxxxx1222|1221||1221|1211ŽŽŽŽŽŽŽŽ Pathyà
ŽŽŽŽ
tato jàtena àyena ~ mahàya¤¤am-akappayi.

    

Home Page    First Topic

One: Scansion and Related Matters    Two: Description of the Metres

a: Vatta    b: Tuññhubha    c: Measure Metres    d: Bar Metres    e: Fixed Metres

Three: The Mixing of Metres    Four: Glossary & Index

Five: The Evolution of Vatta & Tuññhubha    Six: Guide to Further Study