In the Old English poem “The Seafarer,” the speaker recounts their travels across the waters, where their primary company is whales rather than other people. The wide-ranging travels abroad are contrasted to the desire for home and security. Both alliteration and consonance are used with the W, R, and S sounds. Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds at the beginning of words, while consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in any other position. The repetition in varied spots through lines 59–62 creates continuity of sound and ideas. In some cases, this repetition enforces obvious similarities, while in others, it establishes commonalities between different concepts:
My soul roams with the sea, the whales'
Home, wandering to the widest corners
Of the world, returning ravenous with desire,
Flying solitary, screaming, exciting me.
Instances of alliteration using S are: “soul,” “sea,” “solitary,” and “screaming”—four words in all. The idea of the seafarer’s lonely existence is emphasized in connecting “soul” and “solitary” in the first and last line of the group. The power of sound is greatly expanded through the combination with consonance, which includes the final S in numerous plurals: “roams,” “whales,” “widest,” “corners,” “ravenous,” “desire,” and “exciting.”
The examples of alliteration that use R are “roams,” “returning,” and “ravenous.” An instance in the first line is matched with two in a lower line, and the traveling of “roams” is contrasted with “returning.” Again, consonance expands the unity of sound, with R appearing in “wandering,” “corners,” “world,” “desire,” “solitary,” and screaming.” Notably, both S and R appear in many words.
The W sound initiates “whales,” “wandering,” “widest,” and “world.” As most of the words indicate expanse, including the whales with them creates a sense of togetherness between human and animal. For the W, consonance is not used, but again the alliterative W is often combined with consonance in the other two sounds.