Definition of Alliterative Verse Essay

1163 Words Dec 27th, 2012 5 Pages
Definition of Alliterative Verse
Old English literature encompasses writings in Anglo-Saxon England during its conversion to Christianity in the 7th century up until the Norman Conquest in 1066. The roots of Anglo-Saxon poetry were based on Germanic tradition that was mainly in the form of alliterative verse (Greenblatt). When comparing to other forms of poetry, there are 6 key characteristics that define alliterative verse: four-beat lines, medial caesuras, enjambments, half-line alliteration, kennings and litotes. In addition to Beowulf and “Caedmon’s Hymn”, examples will also be taken from my alliterative verse translation of the nursery rhyme “Little Jack Horner”.
Jack the Horner
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Jack the Horner, not gigantic was he.
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Without enjambment, a poem could turn out to be monotonous or choppy. Enjambments allows for better flow when desired and therefore, better story-telling. “Grendel was the name of this grim demon haunting the marches, marauding round the heath and the desolate fens” (102-4). Enjambment allows for a more story-like description of Grendel in that it seems as if his demonic features are never ending. Without enjambment, each line would be end-stopped which would compromises the integrity of Grendel’s true nature because it would sound like a listing of Grendel’s characteristics. In “Caedmon’s Hymn” enjambment only presents itself once, in lines 1-2, “and sound praises of Eternity’s protector”.
Alliteration is the “the repetition of usually initial consonant sounds in two or more neighboring words or syllables” (“alliteration”) A simple example is the name of the character Bilbo Baggins from The Hobbit, because of the repetition of b-sounds. Alliteration could be thought of as a quasi-substitute for rhyming, which does not occur in alliterative verse poetry. Similar examples of alliteration occur in Beowulf and “Caedmon’s Hymn”. In Beowulf, the name “Shield Sheafson” appears in line 4, the alliteration is in the s-sounds of his name. In “Caedmon’s Hymn”, line 5 mentions “The Guardian of Glory, again, alliteration is in the g-sounds.
When a medial caesura separates a line, there will be two or three syllables of alliteration in each half-line

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