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How does the alliteration of words begining with w,r, and s affect the sound and...

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rainbow2411 | eNotes Newbie

Posted September 17, 2013 at 8:24 AM via web

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How does the alliteration of words begining with w,r, and s affect the sound and meaning of lines 59-62 of "The Seafarer?"

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literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted September 18, 2013 at 2:01 AM (Answer #1)

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Alliteration is the repetition of a consonant sound within a line of poetry. Alliteration, when used in Anglo-Saxon poetry, was used to insure the musical quality of the lyrical and elegiac poems. The poetry and epics of the Anglo-Saxon period were historically sung (by scops) given the lack of a universal written language. The alliteration helped to insure the musical quality of the poems. 

The alliteration of the w, r, and s in lines 59-62 of "The Seafarer" insured the liquid sound of the lines. Since the lines in question contain specific images of water (waterways, whale path, widely, and world), the w and r illustrate the realistic and fluid movement of water. The repetition of the letters also insures the reader's fluid movement through the lines (which, again, mirrors the movement of water). 

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