Elements of Literature

Elements of Literature

Elements of Literature p.49 Alliteration and Kennings Anglo-Saxon oral poets or scops were assisted by two poetic devices: alliteration and the kenning Alliteration

Alliteration is the repetition of sounds in words close to one another. Anglo-Saxon poetry is often called alliterative poetry. Instead of rhyme unifying the poem, the verse line is divided into two halves separated by a rhythmical pause, or caesura. Alliteration

In the first half of the line before the caesura, two words alliterate; in the second half, one word alliterates with the two from the first half. Many lines, however, have only two alliterative words, one in each half of the poetic line.

Alliteration Notice the alliterative g and the four primary stresses in this Old English line from Beowulf: God mid Geatum Grendles daeda great among Geats, of Grendels doings. http://poetry.about.com/od/poems/l/blbeowulf 4.htm

Kennings The kenning, a specialized metaphor made of compound words, is a staple of Anglo-Saxon literature that still finds a place in our literature today. Gas guzzler and headhunter are two modern-day kennings you are likely to have heard.

Kennings The earliest and simplest kennings are compound words formed of two common nouns: sky-candle for sun, battle-dew for blood, and whale-road for sea. Later, kennings grew more elaborate, and compound adjectives joined the compound nouns. A ship became a foamy-throated ship, then a

foamy-throated sea-stallion, and finally a foamythroated stallion of the whale-road. Kennings Once a kenning was coined, it was used by the singer-poets over and over again. In their original languages, kennings are almost always written as simple compounds, with no hyphens or spaces between the words.

In translation however, kennings are often written as hyphenated compounds (sky-candle, foamythroated), as prepositional phrases (wolf of wounds), or as possessives (the swords tree). The Work of Kennings Scholars believed that kennings filled three needs: 1. Old Norse and Anglo-Saxon poetry depended

heavily on alliteration, but neither language had a large vocabulary. Poets created the alliterative words they needed by combining existing words. The Work of Kennings 2. Because the poetry was oral and had to be memorized, bards valued ready made phrases. Such phrases made finished poetry easier to

remember, and they gave bards time to think ahead when they were free-styling during a feast or ceremony. 3. The increasingly complex structure of the kennings probably satisfied the early Norse and Anglo-Saxon peoples taste for elaboration.

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