In prosody, alliterative verse is a form of verse that uses alliteration as the principal structuring device to unify lines of poetry, as opposed to other devices such as rhyme. In Poetry, the meter or metre is the basic rhythmic structure of a verse. Alliteration is the repetition of the first Consonant sound in a phrase This article is about the poetic technique For the form of ice see Rime ice.
The most intensively studied traditions of alliterative verse are those found in the oldest literature of many Germanic languages. The Germanic languages are a group of related languages that constitute a branch of the Indo-European (IE Language family. Alliterative verse, in various forms, is found widely in the literary traditions of the early Germanic languages. The Old English epic Beowulf, as well as most other Old English poetry, the Old High German Muspilli, the Old Saxon Heliand, and the Old Norse Poetic Edda all use alliterative verse. An epic is a lengthy Narrative poem, ordinarily concerning a serious subject containing details of heroic deeds and events significant to a culture or nation Beowulf is an Old English Heroic epic poem of anonymous authorship dating as recorded in the Nowell Codex manuscript from between Anglo-Saxon literature (or Old English literature) encompasses Literature written in Anglo-Saxon (Old English during the 600-year Anglo-Saxon Muspilli is one of but two surviving pieces of Old High German Epic poetry (the other being Hildebrandslied) dating to around Old Saxon, also known as Old Low German ( ISO 639 -3 code osx) is the earliest recorded form of Low German, documented from the 9th century The Heliand (ˈhɛliənd or at the time ˈheliand is an epic poem in Old Saxon, written about 825 Old Norse is the North Germanic language that was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia and inhabitants of their overseas settlements during the Viking Age The Poetic Edda is a collection of Old Norse poems primarily preserved in the Icelandic mediaeval Manuscript Codex Regius.
Alliterative verse can be found in many other languages as well, although rarely with the systematic rigor of Germanic forms. The Finnish Kalevala and the Estonian Kalevipoeg both use alliterative forms derived from folk tradition. Finland, officially the Republic of Finland ( is a Nordic country situated in the Fennoscandian region of northern Europe. The Kalevala is a book and epic poem which the Finn Elias Lönnrot compiled from Finnish and Karelian Folklore in the nineteenth Estonia, officially the Republic of Estonia ( Eesti or Eesti Vabariik) is a Country in Northern Europe in the Baltic region Kalevipoeg is an epic poem by Friedrich Reinhold Kreutzwald held to be the Estonian National epic. Traditional Turkic verse, for example that of the Uyghur, is also alliterative. The Turkic languages constitute a Language family of some thirty languages spoken by Turkic peoples across a vast area from Eastern Europe and the Uyghur (/ ug-Latn Uyƣurqə/ug-Cyrl Уйғурчә, or / ug-Latn Uyƣur tili/ug-Cyrl Уйғур
The poetic forms found in the various Germanic languages are not identical, but there is sufficient similarity to make it clear that they are closely related traditions, stemming from a common Germanic source. Our knowledge about that common tradition, however, is based almost entirely on inference from surviving poetry.
One statement we have about the nature of alliterative verse from a practicing alliterative poet is that of Snorri Sturluson in the Prose Edda. Snorri Sturluson (1178 – September 23, 1241) was an Icelandic historian poet and politician The Prose Edda, also known as the Younger Edda, Snorri's Edda ( Snorra Edda) or simply Edda, is an He describes metrical patterns and poetic devices used by skaldic poets around the year 1200. The skald was a member of a group of Poets whose courtly poetry (Icelandic dróttkvæði) is associated with the courts of Scandinavian and Icelandic Snorri's description has served as the starting point for scholars to reconstruct alliterative meters beyond those of Old Norse. There have been many different metrical theories proposed, all of them attended with controversy. Looked at broadly, however, certain basic features are common from the earliest to the latest poetry.
Alliterative verse has been found in some of the earliest monuments of Germanic literature. The Golden horns of Gallehus, discovered in Denmark and likely dating to the fourth century, bears this Runic inscription in Proto-Norse:
x / x / x / x x / x / x xek hlewagastir holtijar || horna tawidô(I, Hlewagastir [son?] of Holt, made the horn. The Golden Horns of Gallehus ( DR 12 †U) were two horns made of Gold, one shorter than the other discovered in Gallehus north of Tønder in South The Kingdom of Denmark ( ˈd̥ænmɑɡ̊ (archaic ˈd̥anmɑːɡ̊ commonly known as Denmark, is a country in the Scandinavian region of northern Europe As a means of recording the passage of Time, the 4th century (per the Julian calendar and Anno Domini / Common era) was that Century Proto-Norse (also Proto-Scandinavian, Primitive Norse, Proto-Nordic, Ancient Nordic, Old Scandinavian and Proto-North Germanic )
This inscription contains five strongly stressed syllables, the first three of which alliterate on <h> /x/, essentially the same pattern found in much latter verse.
Originally all alliterative poetry was composed and transmitted orally, and much has been lost through time since it went unrecorded. The degree to which writing may have altered this oral artform remains much in dispute. Nevertheless, there is a broad consensus among scholars that the written verse retains many (and some would argue almost all) of the features of the spoken language.
Alliteration fits naturally with the prosodic patterns of Germanic languages. In Linguistics, prosody (from Greek προσωδία) is the Rhythm, stress, and intonation of speech Alliteration essentially involves matching the left edges of stressed syllables. Early Germanic languages share a left-prominent prosodic pattern. In other words, stress falls on the root syllable of a word. This is normally the initial syllable, except where the root is preceded by an unstressed prefix (as in past participles, for example).
The core metrical features of traditional Germanic alliterative verse are as follows:
The patterns of unstressed syllables vary significantly in the alliterative traditions of different Germanic languages. The rules for these patterns remain controversial and imperfectly understood.
The need to find an appropriate alliterating word gave certain other distinctive features to alliterative verse as well. Alliterative poets drew on a specialized vocabulary of poetic synonyms rarely used in prose texts and used standard images and metaphors called kennings. Metaphor (from the Greek: μεταφορά - metaphora, meaning "transfer" is language that directly compares seemingly unrelated subjects A kenning ( Old Norse kenning, Modern Icelandic pronunciation) is a Circumlocution used instead of an ordinary Noun in Old Norse
Old English poetry appears to be based upon one system of verse construction, a system which remained remarkably consistent for centuries, although some patterns of classical Old English verse begin to break down at the end of the Old English period. Anglo-Saxon literature (or Old English literature) encompasses Literature written in Anglo-Saxon (Old English during the 600-year Anglo-Saxon
The most widely used system of classification is based on that developed by Eduard Sievers. Eduard Sievers ( 25 November 1850, Lippoldsberg - 30 March 1932, Leipzig) was a Philologist of the classical It should be emphasized that Sievers' system is fundamentally a method of categorization rather than a full theory of meter. Eduard Sievers developed a theory of the meter of Anglo-Saxon Alliterative verse. It does not, in other words, purport to describe the system the scops actually used to compose their verse, nor does it explain why certain patterns are favored or avoided. A ags scop was an Old English poet the Anglo-Saxon counterpart of the Old Norse non [[skald]]. Sievers divided verses into five basic types, labeled A-E. The system is founded upon accent, alliteration, the quantity of vowels, and patterns of syllabic accentuation.
A line of poetry in Old English consists of two half-lines or verses, distichs, with a pause or caesura in the middle of the line. Each half-line has two accented syllables. The following example from the poem Battle of Maldon, spoken by the warrior Beorhtwold, shows this:
Hige sceal þe heardra, || heorte þe cenre,
mod sceal þe mare, || þe ure mægen lytlað
("Will must be the harder, courage the bolder,
spirit must be the more, as our might lessens. The Battle of Maldon took place on 10 August 991 near Maldon beside the River Blackwater in Essex England, during the reign of ")
Alliteration is the principal binding agent of Old English poetry. Two syllables alliterate when they begin with the same sound; all vowels alliterate together, but the consonant clusters st-, sp- and sc- are treated as separate sounds (so st- does not alliterate with s- or sp-). On the other hand, in Old English unpalatized c (pronounced <k>, /k/) alliterated with palatized c (pronounced <ch>, /tʃ/), and unpalatized g (pronounced <g>, /g/) likewise alliterated with palatized g (pronounced <y>, /j/). (This is because the poetic form was inherited from a time before /k/ and /g/ had split into palatized and unpalatized variants. ) (English transliteration is in <angle brackets>, the IPA in /slashes/. The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA is a system of phonetic notation based on the Latin alphabet, devised by the International Phonetic )
The first stressed syllable of the off-verse, or second half-line, usually alliterates with one or both of the stressed syllables of the on-verse, or first half-line. The second stressed syllable of the off-verse does not usually alliterate with the others.
Just as rhyme was seen in some Anglo-Saxon poems (e. g. The Rhyming Poem, and, to some degree, The Proverbs of Alfred), the use of alliterative verse continued into Middle English. The Rhyming Poem is one of the Poems found in the Exeter Book, a tenth century book of Anglo-Saxon poetry The Proverbs of Alfred is a collection of the putative sayings of Alfred the Great of England in late Anglo-Saxon or early Middle English Middle English is the name given by Historical linguistics to the diverse forms of the English language spoken between the Norman invasion of Layamon's Brut, written in about 1215, uses a loose alliterative scheme. The Pearl Poet uses one of the most sophisticated alliterative schemes extant in Pearl, Cleanness, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The " Pearl Poet " or the " Gawain Poet " is the name given to the author of Pearl, an alliterative poem written in Middle Pearl is a Middle English alliterative Poem written in the late 14th century. Cleanness is a Middle English alliterative Poem written in the late 14th century. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a late 14th-century Even later, William Langland's Piers Plowman is a major work in English that is written in alliterative verse; it was written between 1360 and 1399. William Langland (ca 1332 - ca 1386 is the conjectured Author of the 14th-century English Dream-vision Piers Plowman. Piers Plowman (written ca 1360 &ndash 1399) or Visio Willelmi de Petro Ploughman ( William's Vision of Piers Plowman) is the title English is a West Germanic language originating in England and is the First language for most people in the United Kingdom, the United States Though a thousand years have passed between this work and the Golden Horn of Gallehus, the poetic form remains much the same:
A feir feld full of folk || fond I þer bitwene,
Of alle maner of men, || þe mene and þe riche,
Worchinge and wandringe || as þe world askeþ.
Among them I found a fair field full of people
All manner of men, the poor and the rich
Working and wandering as the world requires.
Alliteration was sometimes used together with rhyme in Middle English work, as in Pearl. In general, Middle English poets were somewhat loose about the number of stresses; in Sir Gawain, for instance, there are many lines with additional alliterating stresses (e. g. l. 2, "the borgh brittened and brent to brondez and askez"), and the medial pause is not always strictly maintained.
After the fifteenth century, alliterative verse became fairly uncommon, although some alliterative poems, such as Pierce the Ploughman's Crede (ca. Pierce the Ploughman's Crede is a medieval Alliterative poem of 855 lines savagely lampooning the four orders of Friars. 1400) and William Dunbar's superb Tretis of the Tua Marriit Wemen and the Wedo (ca. This article is about the Scottish poet for other people of this name see William Dunbar (disambiguation. 1500) were written in the form in the 15th century. However, by 1600, the four-beat alliterative line had completely vanished, at least from the written tradition.
One modern author who studied alliterative verse and used it extensively in his fictional writings and poetry, was J. R. R. Tolkien (1892–1973). He wrote alliterative verse in modern English, in the style of Old English alliterative verse (he was one of the major Beowulf scholars of his time - see Beowulf: the monsters and the critics). Beowulf is an Old English Heroic epic poem of anonymous authorship dating as recorded in the Nowell Codex manuscript from between " Beowulf The Monsters and the Critics " was a 1936 lecture given by J Examples of Tolkien's alliterative verses include those written by him for the Rohirrim, a culture in The Lord of the Rings that borrowed many aspects from Anglo-Saxon culture. In J R R Tolkien 's Middle-earth, the Rohirrim were a Horse people, settling in the land of Rohan, named after them The Lord of the Rings is an epic For their language see Anglo-Saxon language. Anglo-Saxon is the term usually used to describe the invading Tribes in the south There are also many examples of alliterative verse in Tolkien's posthumously-published works in The History of Middle-earth series. The History of Middle-earth is a 12-volume series of books published from 1983 through 1996 that collect and analyse material relating to the fiction of J Of these, the unfinished 'The Lay of the Children of Húrin', published in The Lays of Beleriand, is the longest. The Lay of the Children of Húrin is a long Epic poem by J R R The Lays of Beleriand, published in 1985 is the third volume of Christopher Tolkien 's 12-volume book series The History of Middle-earth, in which he analyzes Another example of Tolkien's alliterative verse refers to Mirkwood (see the introduction to that article). Mirkwood is a name used for two distinct fictional forests in J Outside of his Middle-earth works, Tolkien also worked on alliterative modern English translations of several Middle English poems by the Pearl Poet: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl, and Sir Orfeo. Middle English is the name given by Historical linguistics to the diverse forms of the English language spoken between the Norman invasion of The " Pearl Poet " or the " Gawain Poet " is the name given to the author of Pearl, an alliterative poem written in Middle Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a late 14th-century Pearl is a Middle English alliterative Poem written in the late 14th century. Sir Orfeo is an anonymous Middle English narrative poem. It retells the story of Orpheus as a king rescuing his wife from the These were published posthumously in 1975. In his lifetime, as well as the alliterative verse in The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien published The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm's Son in 1953, an alliterative verse dialogue recounting a historical fictional account of The Battle of Maldon. The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm's Son is the title of a work by J The Battle of Maldon took place on 10 August 991 near Maldon beside the River Blackwater in Essex England, during the reign of
Alliterative verse is occasionally written by other modern authors. W. H. Auden (1907-1973) also wrote a number of poems, including The Age of Anxiety, in alliterative verse, modified only slightly to fit the phonetic patterns of modern English. Wystan Hugh Auden (21 February 1907 – 29 September 1973 ˈwɪstən ˈhjuː ˈɔːdən who signed his works W The Age of Anxiety A Baroque Eclogue (1947 first UK edition 1948 is a long Poem in six parts by W The noun-laden style of the headlines makes the style of alliterative verse particularly apt for Auden's poem:
Now the news. Night raids on
Five cities. Fires started.
Pressure applied by pincer movement
In threatening thrust. Third Division
Enlarges beachhead. Lucky charm
Saves sniper. Sabotage hinted
In steel-mill stoppage. . . .
An axe angles
It is hell's handiwork,
The flow of the grain
The shivered shaft
Of plastic playthings,
Many translations of Beowulf use alliterative techniques. Among recent ones that of Seamus Heaney loosely follows the rules of modern alliterative verse while the translation of Alan Sullivan and Timothy Murphy follows those rules more closely. Edward Alan Sullivan ( November 29, 1868 — August 6, 1947) was a Canadian Poet and Author of short stories
The inherited form of alliterative verse was modified somewhat in Old Norse poetry. Old Norse poetry encompasses a range of verse forms written in Old Norse, during the period from the 8th century (see Eggjum stone) to as late as the far In Old Norse, as a result of phonetic changes from the original common Germanic language, many unstressed syllables were lost. A syllable ( Greek:) is a unit of organization for a sequence of speech sounds This lent Old Norse verse a characteristic terseness; the lifts tended to be crowded together at the expense of the weak syllables. In some lines, the weak syllables have been entirely suppressed. From the Hávamál:
The various names of the Old Norse verse forms are given in the Prose Edda by Snorri Sturluson. The Prose Edda, also known as the Younger Edda, Snorri's Edda ( Snorra Edda) or simply Edda, is an Snorri Sturluson (1178 – September 23, 1241) was an Icelandic historian poet and politician The Háttatal, or "list of verse forms", contains the names and characteristics of each of the fixed forms of Norse poetry. The Háttatal (c 20000 words is the last section of the Prose Edda composed by the Icelandic Poet, politician and historian Snorri Sturluson
A verse form close to that of Beowulf existed in runestones and in the Old Norse Eddas; in Norse, it was called fornyrðislag, which means "past-words-made" or "way of ancient words". A runestone is typically a raised stone with a runic inscription but the term can also be applied to inscriptions on boulders and on bedrock This page refers to the Eddur poems and tales of Norse Mythology The Norse poets tended to break up their verses into stanzas of from two to eight lines (or more), rather than writing continuous verse after the Old English model. In Poetry, a stanza is a unit within a larger Poem. In modern poetry the term is often equivalent with Strophe; in popular vocal music a stanza is The loss of unstressed syllables made these verses seem denser and more emphatic. The Norse poets, unlike the Old English poets, tended to make each line a complete syntactic unit, avoiding enjambment where a thought begun on one line continues through the following lines; only seldom do they begin a new sentence in the second half-line. Enjambment (also spelled enjambement) is the breaking of a syntactic unit (a Phrase, Clause, or sentence) by the end of a line or between two This example is from the Waking of Angantyr:
Fornyrðislag has two lifts per half line, with two or three (sometimes one) unstressed syllables. At least two lifts, usually three, alliterate, always including the main stave (the first lift of the second half-line).
Fornyrðislag had a variant form called málaháttr ("speech meter"), which adds an unstressed syllable to each half-line, making six to eight (sometimes up to ten) unstressed syllables per line.
Change in form came with the development of ljóðaháttr, which means "song" or "ballad metre", a stanzaic verse form that created four line stanzas. A ballad is a Poem usually set to Music; thus it often is a story told in a Song. In Poetry, a stanza is a unit within a larger Poem. In modern poetry the term is often equivalent with Strophe; in popular vocal music a stanza is The odd numbered lines were almost standard lines of alliterative verse with four lifts and two or three alliterations, with cæsura; the even numbered lines had three lifts and two alliterations, and no cæsura. This example is from Freyr's lament in Skírnismál:
A number of variants occurred in ljóðaháttr, including galdraháttr or kviðuháttr ("incantation meter"), which adds a fifth short (three-lift) line to the end of the stanza; in this form, usually the fifth line echoes the fourth one.
These verse forms were elaborated even more into the skaldic poetic form called the dróttkvætt, meaning "lordly verse", which added internal rhymes and other forms of assonance that go well beyond the requirements of Germanic alliterative verse. Sigtuna is a city in the Uppland part of Stockholm County, central Sweden. The skald was a member of a group of Poets whose courtly poetry (Icelandic dróttkvæði) is associated with the courts of Scandinavian and Icelandic Assonance is repetition of vowel sounds to create internal rhyming within Phrases or Sentences, and together with Alliteration The dróttkvætt stanza had eight lines, each having three lifts. In addition to two or three alliterations, the odd numbered lines had partial rhyme of consonants (which was called skothending) with dissimilar vowels, not necessarily at the beginning of the word; the even lines contained internal rhyme (aðalhending) in the syllables, not necessarily at the end of the word. This article is about the poetic technique For the form of ice see Rime ice. The form was subject to further restrictions: each half-line must have exactly six syllables, and each line must always end in a trochee. A trochee or choree, choreus, is a Metrical foot used in formal Poetry.
The requirements of this verse form were so demanding that occasionally the text of the poems had to run parallel, with one thread of syntax running through the on-side of the half-lines, and another running through the off-side. In Linguistics, syntax (from Ancient Greek grc συν- syn-, "together" and grc τάξις táxis, "arrangement" is the According to the Fagrskinna collection of sagas, King Harald III of Norway uttered these lines of dróttkvætt at the Battle of Stamford Bridge; the internal assonances and the alliteration are bolded:
The bracketed words in the poem ("so said the goddess of hawk-land, true of words") are syntactically separate, but interspersed within the text of the rest of the verse. The elaborate kennings manifested here are also practically necessary in this complex and demanding form, as much to solve metrical difficulties as for the sake of vivid imagery. Intriguingly, the saga claims that Harald improvised these lines after he gave a lesser performance (in fornyrðislag); Harald judged that verse bad, and then offered this one in the more demanding form. While the exchange may be fictionalized, the scene illustrates the regard in which the form was held.
Most dróttkvætt poems that survive appear in one or another of the Norse Sagas; several of the sagas are biographies of skaldic poets. The sagas (from Icelandic saga, plural sögur) are stories about ancient Scandinavian and Germanic history about early Viking voyages A biography (from the Greek words bíos (βίος meaning "life" and gráphein (γράφειν meaning "to write" is an account
Hrynhenda is a later development of dróttkvætt with eight syllables per line instead of six, but with the same rules for rhyme and alliteration. It is first attested around 985 in the so-called Hafgerðingadrápa of which four lines survive (alliterants and rhymes bolded):
The author was said to be a Christian from the Hebrides, who composed the poem asking God to keep him safe at sea. A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, a monotheistic Religion centered on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth See also Hebrides (disambiguation The Hebrides (ˈhɛbrɨˌdiːz "HEB-ri-deez" Gaelic: Innse Gall) comprise a widespread and diverse (Note: The third line is, in fact, over-alliterated. There should be exactly two alliterants in the odd-numbered lines. ) The metre gained some popularity in courtly poetry, as the rhythm may sound more majestic than dróttkvætt.
Alliterative poetry is still practiced in Iceland in an unbroken tradition since the settlement. Iceland, officially the Republic of Iceland ( ( Ísland or Lýðveldið Ísland (
The Old High German and Old Saxon corpus of alliterative verse is tiny. Old Saxon, also known as Old Low German ( ISO 639 -3 code osx) is the earliest recorded form of Low German, documented from the 9th century Less than 200 Old High German lines survive, in four works: the Hildebrandslied, Muspilli, the Merseburg Charms and the Wessobrunn Prayer. The Lay of Hildebrand ( Das Hildebrandslied) is a Heroic Lay, written in Old High German Alliterative verse. Muspilli is one of but two surviving pieces of Old High German Epic poetry (the other being Hildebrandslied) dating to around The Merseburg Incantations (die Merseburger Zaubersprüche are two medieval magic spells charms or Incantations written in Old High German. The Wessobrunn Prayer (or Wessobrunner Gebet in German) sometimes called the Wessobrunn Creation Poem ( "Wessobrunner Schöpfungsgedicht" All four are preserved in forms that are clearly to some extent corrupt, suggesting that the scribes may themselves not have been entirely familiar with the poetic tradition. The two Old Saxon alliterative poems, the fragmentary Heliand and the even more fragmentary Genesis are both Christian poems, created as written works of Biblical content based on Latin sources, and not derived from oral tradition. The Heliand (ˈhɛliənd or at the time ˈheliand is an epic poem in Old Saxon, written about 825
However, both German traditions show one common feature which are much less common elsewhere: a proliferation of unaccented syllables. Generally these are parts of speech which would naturally be unstressed - pronouns, prepositions, articles, modal auxiliaries - but in the Old Saxon works there are also adjectives and lexical verbs. In Grammar, a lexical category (also word class, lexical class, or in traditional grammar part of speech) is a linguistic category of words (or In Linguistics and Grammar, a pronoun is a Pro-form that substitutes for a (including a noun phrase consisting of a single Noun) with or In Grammar, a preposition is a Part of speech that introduces a prepositional phrase. A modal verb (also modal, modal auxiliary verb, modal auxiliary) is a type of Auxiliary verb that is used to indicate modality. In Grammar, an adjective is a word whose main syntactic role is to modify a Noun or Pronoun, giving more information about the In English lexical verbs form an open class of Verbs that include all verbs except Auxiliary verbs The two differ in their syntax in a number of ways including the The unaccented syllables typically occur before the first stress in the half-line, and most often in the b-verse.
The Hildbrandslied, lines 4–5:
The Heliand, line 3062:
This leads to a less dense style, no doubt closer to everyday language, which has been interpreted both as a sign of decadent technique from ill-tutored poets and as an artistic innovation giving scope for additional poetic effects. Either way, it signifies a break with the strict Sievers typology.