Beowulf eText - Reading Pointers for Sharper Insight

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Reading Pointers for Sharper Insight

  1. Beowulf, like almost all Anglo-Saxon poetry, is written with a great deal of alliteration. Alliteration occurs when two or more words in close proximity to one another begin with the same consonant sound. As an example of alliteration, examine the following phrase from our prose rendition:

    “A foundling was he when he first lay friendless; fate later brought
    him solace as he waxed in power and flourished in wealth, until folk
    who lodge on the whale-paths near and far heeded his decree and
    gave him tribute—that was a good king!”

    The consonant f sound is repeated numerous times [foundling,firstfriendlessfate, flourished, folk, and far]. The w sound ofwas, when, waxed, wealth, and whale is another example of the poem's alliteration.

    The alliterative verse structure in the original Anglo-Saxon follows several rules dealing with which words could and should alliterate. A pause, or cæsura, was inserted in the middle of each line of poetry, dividing the line into two parts. The words that were most strongly pronounced or given emphasis in the line were usually the alliterated words. The Prestwick House Literary Touchstone ClassicTM rendition of Beowulf is in prose and does not follow this specific Anglo-Saxon structure. In all other aspects, however, we have remained faithful to commonly accepted translations.