ars dictaminis, rhymed prose, rythmic prose

Representation of a writer
Carmen miserabile
Ars dictaminis

A middle-Latin expression, which originates from the Latin verb dictare = 'to dictate, compose, write, write poetry', and it means 'the art or profession of composing'. It is a study-book on how to compose Latin letters and charters, and it was compiled according to the rules of antique rhetorics (concerning the structure of letters and the composition of it using the means of poetical style). From the 12th century it is followed by the rhetorics taught within the boundaries of the septem artes liberales. The middle-Latin dictamen contains artistically formed written or spoken compositions based on the alternation of long and short units (metricum dictamen) and those composed in rhythmic style (rhytmicum dictamen) or prose. The schoolbooks were spread between the 11-16th centuries under different titles (such as Brevarium de dictamine, Rationales dictandi, Summa dictaminum, Flores rhetorici, praecepta dictaminum) and they usually consist of two parts: a theoretical introduction and a collection of letter-samples or formulae (epistulariums, formulariums). From the beginnning of the 12th century these schoolbooks were limited to prose (e.g.: that of Hugo Bonoiensis), so from the beginning of the 13th century the meaning of dictamen became simply 'artificial prose'. According to our present knowlwdge the first ars dictaminis was brought to Hungary at the very end of the 13th or at the beginning of the 14th century. It was Petrus de Vinea's book of letters, entitled Summa dictaminis, but around 1100 Alberic refers to the usage of such a handbook, and in Anonymus's work certain facts suggest that the author must have known Hugo Bonoiensis's schoolbook from the 12th century.


rhymed prose

The characteristic feature of artistic style till the end of the 12th century. It had to contain sentences and clauses of similar length (colons) and structure (parallelism). Within the sentences the proportional arrangement of words guaranteed the rhythm of the sentence and its conceptual fluctuation. Words which belonged together (e.g.: in case of adjectival constructions, the adjective and the word qualified by the adjective) were separated by inserting other parts of the sentence. The ends of the clauses - with regard to the medieval or church pronounciation - were rhyming according to certain rules. Within the clauses puns, alliterations, etymological rhymes (figura etymologica) made performances more colourful.


rythmic prose

A theory of style worked out in the Papal court at the end of the 12th century. It started to change the trend of rhymed prose at the turn of the 12-13th centuries. Rhythm is obtained by the stress on the last words of clauses. It had three, or sometimes four main forms (cursus velox, planus, tardus, trispondaicus). In the 13th century in Papal charters the rhythm of the prose played a very important role, moreover it became a special feature of them, the means of proving their authenticity. This new style originating from the practice of the Papal chancellery spread throughout the countries of Latin Christianity during the 13th century.