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
Jack the Horner,
not gigantic was he.
Sitting in the corner,
on Santa’s big day
Using his hand,
his built-in fork,
a purple plum.
A four-beat line describes each line of verse where there are exactly 4 stressed syllables interspersed with unstressed syllables. A stressed syllable is where there is more of an emphasis on that syllable as apposed to others in the same word or phrase. In Beowulf, a four-beat line is immediately seen, “So. The Spear-Danes in days gone by” (ln 1). This characteristic is also in “Caedmon’s Hymn”, “Sing prayers, and sound praises of” (1). In my alliterative verse poem I also represented this in the first line, “Jack the Horner, not gigantic was he” (1). A medial caesura is a break “in-between the second and third stressed syllables.” This break can be indicated with a punctuation mark or a noticeable space separating the two half-lines. The following examples illustrate evident medial caesuras indicated by a comma. “There was Shield Sheafson, scourge of many tribes” from the fourth line in Beowulf. “Sing prayers, and sound praises of” (1) from “Caedmon’s Hymn”, and “Jack the Horner, not gigantic was he” (1) from my alliterative verse poem. Instead of having...
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