Date of Award
Languages & Literature
The sequence is the liturgical hymn of the mass occuring on festivals between the Gradual and the Gospel. IT is a Trope, i.e. a verbal amplification of a passage in authorized liturgy, whose embellishment is so lengthy as to dwarf the liturgy to which it is attached. A sequence usually begins with an independent introductory sentence or an alleluia; then follow several pairs of strophes, each pair with its own melody ending with an independent sentence of longer or shorter form. Each pair of strophes is composed of stophe and antistophe agreeing in the length and number of syllables, later also in rhyme and rhythm. It was usually executed by an alternating choir of men and boys. F. J. E. Raby outlines the characteristics in their full development as follows:
1. Rhythm is regular and is based wholly on the word accent, with occasional transpositions of stress, especially in the short line which ends on the strophe.
2. The caesura is regular and should occur at the end of a word.
3. The rhyme is regular and at least two syllabled.
4. The sequence measure, par excellence is the trochaic line of eight syllables, repeated one or more times, and followed by a trochaic line of seven syllables. The initial independent strophe is rare, and the recognizable parallelism hardly distinguishes the composition from a hymn.
That the sequence started from the Alleluia is certain, but the manner of origin and various phases of development before the versus ad sequentias (which are the immediate predecessors of the sequence) are obscure.
Shea, Daniel, "The Dies Irae: A Historical, Textual, Topical And Metrical Analysis" (1965). Languages and Literature Undergraduate Theses. 90.