Title Background

An Alliterative Pattern in <i>Piers Plowman</i> B

An Alliterative Pattern in Piers Plowman B

This note surveys the treatments of lines in the B archetype whose first half-lines’ alliterative pattern is not the ‘normative’ aa (i.e., in a line scanning aa/ax), but instead xa, such as ‘And god amende þe pope • þat pileth holykirke’. Burrow has recorded 143 lines of this type, prima facie instances of xa, in his and Turville-Petre’s forthcoming edition of the B archetype for the Piers Plowman Electronic Archive. Burrow first takes the sixty-three lines where both Kane-Donaldson and Schmidt emend xa away. Some of their emendations can be justified on non-metrical grounds, but others introduce new readings into lines that are entirely acceptable in everything save their xa pattern. He then turns to the eighty lines in which what he considers to be xa alliterations were allowed to stand in one edition or in both. His conclusion is that L did on occasion allow the linkage of his half-lines to depend on minimum alliteration in the second stave, so that occurrences of the xa alliterative pattern do not in themselves give editors any reason to emend.