Title Background

Hiatus and Elision in the Poems of the Alliterative Revival: –ly and –<i>liche</i> Suffixes

Hiatus and Elision in the Poems of the Alliterative Revival: –ly and –liche Suffixes

This article investigates the nature of hiatus and elision in fourteenth-century alliterative verse by using a series of case studies from within and beyond the alliterative tradition. In particular the article considers whether elision between the –ly suffix and a following word beginning with a vowel (or h + vowel) was a possibility in alliterative poetry. Inoue examines nine alliterative poems (Alexander B, A Pistel of Susan, Wynnere and Wastoure, The Parlement of the Thre Ages, The Siege of Jerusalem, The Wars of Alexander, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Cleanness, and Patience) and one syllable-counted poem (Confessio amantis). Based on the evidence from these poems the author demonstrates that the degree to which poets and their scribes exploited the –ly and –liche suffixes as doublets for metrical purposes to avoid hiatus was variable from poem to poem, and offers several explanations for the observable differences in usage. Inoue concludes that the alliterative poets probably did not use elision between –ly and a following vowel because they had little need for it to produce good, metrical alliterative lines. But elision of this type may still have been an option available (and acceptable) to some poets, scribes, and reciters/readers, and the different licit metrical options that present themselves to the reading or listening mind may have been appreciated and enjoyed by the reciters and readers in fourteenth-century England.


Yearbook of Langland Studies, 30 (2016), 75–105.


Inoue, Noriko