Redundancy in Alliterative Verse: St. Erkenwald
Though all alliterative poetry involves redundancy, or variation, to some degree, the economy of style in St. Erkenwald is such that cases of variation are foregrounded, giving the device a strong emphasizing function. The poet uses the device at the precise midpoint of the poem, to mark the beginning of the critical dialogue between the bishop and the body. The bishop’s weeping occasions another calculated redundancy, which stresses the positive and deliberate character of the bishop’s beneficial actions. The image of Erkenwald’s tears as a bright and flowing river recalls the patristic identification of the Jordan river as a type for baptism. The pagan judge can be seen as a modern antitype of the pagan Naaman, saved by baptism in the “mysticum flumen” of Erkenwald’s tears.
Pickering, Individuality and Achievement in Middle English Poetry. 119-28.