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Alliterative Style.

Alliterative Style.

Notes the absence of notional predictability of alliterative rhythms as a qualification of the conventional definition of meter as an abstract sound-pattern played on and against the rhythms of the language. Distinguishes falling rhythm, rising rhythm, and most common in PPI, rising-falling rhythm. Across two verses WL’s most common alliterative pattern is aa/ax. Alliteration and stress, hence meter and rhythm, are often at odds in PPl. Both rhythmical and metrical patterning affect word order; PPl is stichic, rather than strophic, in that the sense flows freely in paragraphs rather than in stanzas of regular length. Notes that the lines are predominantly endstopped and that the aa/ax line gives unusual prominence to grammatical alliteration over alliteration of paired words and consecutive words. WL modulates the expected overweighting of the a-verse in aa/ax poetry in a variety of ways, and his overall syntactic structure lends itself to types of repetition and balance that are susceptible to rhetorical analysis. WL’s use of synonyms, often driven by alliteration, serves the purposes of amplificatio, i.e., repetition and variation. Finds that some words are semantically stretched by the diverse alliterative collocations in which they appear in the course of the poem. Adopts McIntosh’s description of alliterative poetry as heteromorphic (i.e., rhythmical units of the line are varied). Although heteromorphic forms more easily achieve an effect of colloquial informality, the poetry of PPl is neither exactly natural speech’ nor prose rhythm. Sees the heteromorphic quality of fourteenth-century alliterative poetry as open to a variety of influences that called into being what we refer to as an alliterative revival, as opposed to a survival from CIE verse. Notes that while alliteration is prominent in verse and prose through the early ME period and becomes commonplace not long after 1300, the standard use of aa/ax after about 1350 is unexpected.


Alford, Companion to PPl 223-49.

Cross Reference



Lawton, David A.