In the matter of the rhythms, caesuras and elisions which it allows, the metrical treatment is much more severe than that of Catullus, whose elegiacs are comparatively rude and barbarous; but it is not bound hand and foot, like the Ovidian distich, in a formal and conventional system.
Full closes and repeated sentences no longer confuse the issue, but in their absence we begin to notice the incessant squareness of the ostensibly free rhythms. The immense amount of pageantry, though (as in Tannhauser) good in dramatic motive and executed with splendid stage-craft, goes far to stultify Wagner's already vigorous attitude of protest against grand-opera methods; by way of preparation for the ethereally poetic end he gives us a disinfected present from Meyerbeer at the beginning of the last scene, where mounted trumpeters career round the stage in full blast for three long minutes; and the prelude to the third act is an outburst of sheer gratuitous vulgarity.
His restlessness leads us at times to a comparison with Skelton, not in respect of any parallelism of idea or literary craftsmanship, but in his experimental zeal in turning the diction and tuning the rhythms of the chaotic English which only Chaucer's genius had reduced to order.
In these compositions, remarkable for their lacile handling of medieval Latin rhymes and rhythms, the allegorizing mysticism which envelops chivalrous poetry is discarded.
Attempts to Latinize ancestral rhythms, similar to those which had failed in Italy and France, were made.