alliteration

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alliteration

(əlĭt'ərā`shən), the repetition of the same starting sound in several words of a sentence. Probably the most powerful rhythmic and thematic uses of alliteration are contained in Beowulf, written in Anglo-Saxon and one of the earliest English poems extant. For example:
Ða com of more under mist-hleopum
Grendel gongan; Godes yrre baer …
(Then came from the moor, under the misty hills,
Grendel stalking; the God's anger bare).
Beowulf, Book XI
The poet was drawing here on an even older Germanic tradition, just as he was setting a high standard for other poets in Anglo-Saxon, who produced such alliterative works as Widsith, Deor's Lament, The Wanderer, The Seafarer, and The Ruin. Although the tradition lay dormant for centuries, an alliterative revival occurred in England in the mid-1400s, as evidenced by such masterworks as Piers Plowman and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (see Langland, WilliamLangland, William,
c.1332–c.1400, putative author of Piers Plowman. He was born probably at Ledbury near the Welsh marshes and may have gone to school at Great Malvern Priory. Although he took minor orders he never became a priest.
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; Pearl, ThePearl, The,
one of four Middle English alliterative poems, all contained in a manuscript of c.1400, composed in the West Midland dialect, almost certainly by the same anonymous author, who flourished c.1370–1390.
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). Shakespeare parodies alliteration in Peter Quince's Prologue in A Midsummer Night's Dream:
Whereat, with blade, with bloody blameful blade,
He bravely breach'd his boiling bloody breast.
Modern poets have continually renewed the possibilities of alliteration, e.g., Gerard Manley Hopkins's "Pied Beauty":
Glory be to God for dappled things …
Landscapes plotted and pieced—fold, fallow and plough;
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

alliteration

the use of the same consonant (consonantal alliteration) or of a vowel, not necessarily the same vowel (vocalic alliteration), at the beginning of each word or each stressed syllable in a line of verse, as in around the rock the ragged rascal ran