Three: The Mixing of Metres
As we have seen from the description of the metres presented above, one of the main features of Pàëi verse composition in the canon is its flexibility. Even the fixed classical metres which were just beginning to emerge towards the end of this period were somewhat fluid in structure, and there was still some room within which composition could take place.
Another way in which this shows itself is in the flexibility allowed to move between metres as and when required. This is evident both in the freedom with which different metres may be employed within a composition, and even the allowance to change metres within the verse itself, if that proved to be convenient for expression.
In what follows we will be concerned with what may be considered the more extreme case of metre mixing within the limits of a verse, but this will also serve to provide examples of the ability to move between metres in the composition as a whole.
3.2 Tuññhubha, Jagatã and their derivatives
We saw in2.6 above that although both Tuññhubha and Jagatã exist as independent metres in their own right, and are used as such frequently, nevertheless the metres are commonly mixed, as a line in Jagatã metre was always considered acceptable in what is otherwise a Tuññhubha verse (and visa versa). For a good example of this see Ratanasutta Sn II:1 (see 2.7 above).
This characteristic continues even when the metres have achieved their fixed forms as Upajàti and Vaüsaññhà, as can be seen e.g. in Tàlaputta's gàthas Th 1091-1145, where the metres are used both independently and in combination.
Example from Agàriyavimànaü (Vv 65, vs 1-2):
3.3 Vetàlãya, Opacchandasaka, & Vegavatã
These metres, being built around the same structural principle, are quite frequently mixed, though with the first two it seems that the rule is that Vetàlãya should appear in the odd lines, and Opacchandasaka in the even (though there may be one or two counter-examples to this cf. Dhp 344 & Sn 527). With Vetàlãya and Vegavatã there appears to be no particular rule about line order, perhaps because their mattà count is the same.
Examples: Vetàlãya & Opacchandasaka - Dhaniyasutta Sn I:2; Sabhiyasutta Sn III:6 (pt: 510-540); Vetàlãya & Vegavatã from Vangãsa's gàthàs Th 1214-1222.
3.4 Vatta and other metres
So far we have mainly been considering the mixing of metres that employ similar structural principles, and that may account for the ease with which it was felt to be possible to move between the metres. However, when we come to Vatta, we have a syllabic metre with an aóóhasamavutta structure. None of the other metres have this particular combination of characteristics of course, but still we frequently find Vatta lines appearing alongside other metres, perhaps because it was by far the most common and familiar of the metres employed.
Normally the situation appears to be that account has been taken of the structure of the Vatta in mixing, and we usually find Vatta odd and even lines appearing in their expected positions in the verse. Below we will see that various combinations can be illustrated:
Vatta & Tuññhubha
Sn 1061 = T, ab - V, cd
Dhp 330 = V, ab - T, cd
Sn 995 = T, abd - V, ef (Jagatã, c)
Sn 1055 = V, a - T, bcd
Sn 423 = V, abd - T, c
Sn 482 = T, abc - V, d
Th 1253 = T, a - V, bcd etc.
Vatta & Jagatã
Th 306 = V, ab - J, cd
Th 1089 = V, abc - J, def
Vatta & Mattàchandas
Th 1 = Op, acd - V, b
Th 551 = V, a - Vet, bcd
Th 1004 = Veg, ab - Vet, c - V, d!
Vatta & Gaõacchandas
Vatta lines appear in gaõacchandas verses a surprising number of times. It seems to be the rule that when the two metres share a pàdayuga, Vatta takes the odd line. Gotama's gàthàs Th 587-596 provide a good example of the mixing of Vatta lines in what are otherwise gaõacchandas verses.
This then concludes our outline of the metres in the Pàëi canon and their usage, but that is far from the end of the work that remains to be done in this field. We still do not have comprehensive analyses of all the metrical texts, particularly in regard to the later compositions like Vv, Pv, Ap, Bv, & Cp. And upto now we know very little about Pàëi verse composition in post-canonical times, where we can find a whole library of works composed in verse according to classical norms. These include the various Chronicles pertaining to the history of the Sàsana; the verse Summaries of the Vinaya, Dhamma, & Abhidhamma composed by Ven. Buddhadatta and others; and the late medieval lives of the Buddha, composed in a mixture of ornate metres.
The student who is interested in the Pàëi language and its development can be assured therefore that there is still much yet to discover and contribute in this area, and there is still much room for original research to be carried out in the area of Pàëi metrical composition.
25 For the recitor's remarks, which are hypermetrical, see 1.13 above.
26 The line has an extra syllable in the cadence; we could think of reading maraõaü va to correct the metre.
27 It would also be possible to interpret this pair of lines as Old Gãti, with 6 syllables in the break, in which case we would have the following schema: