Title Background

<i>Aicill</i> in <i>Piers Plowman</i>?

Aicill in Piers Plowman?

This essay calls into question A.V.C. Schmidt’s apparent equation of pararhyme (as used by L) with what Gerard Manley Hopkins calls ‘vowelling off’ (see Schmidt, The Clerkly Maker [1987], pp. 67-75). Pararhyme is the occurrence close to one another of syllables that begin with identical consonants, contain different vowels, and end with consonants that are also identical (deide, fordide), though not necessarily with the initial ones (reden, riden). For Hopkins, ‘vowelling off’ seems to refer not only to pararhyme as thus defined but also to difference of vowels in syllables occurring close to one another, irrespective of their initial or final consonants, a difference to which attention is drawn by their juxtaposition with such devices as alliteration, rhyme, or assonance. Among Schmidt’s examples of pararhyme in PPl are three in which the placing of the relevant syllables is comparable to the placing of those showing rhyme or consonance according to the principle of aicill (‘anticipation’) in Irish syllabic poetry (which flourished c.1200-1600), i.e. at the end of a line of verse and initially and/or internally (though not terminally) in the following line. The essay lists examples from PPl B (in each case shared by one or other of the Z, A, and C texts) of rhyme and consonance conforming to the aicill pattern. The examples listed, considered in relation to PPl‘s early popularity in Ireland and L’s possible association with Little Malvern Priory, which itself had connections with Ireland in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, raise the question of whether L could have been acquainted with Irish versecraft of that period.


'Truthe is the beste': A Festschrift in Honour of A.V.C. Schmidt, ed. by Nicolas Jacobs and Gerald Morgan (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2014), pp. 127-36.


McTurk, Rory