"To An Athlete Dying Young" is a poem written in 1896 by A. E. (Alfred Edward) Housman. It's well known because of its subject matter. The poem deals with the death of a person in their physical prime, which is something we don't expect to happen. But it doesn't just deal with death, it also deals with the value we place on fame, and that makes it still relevant one hundred and twenty-one years after it was written!
As you may know, alliteration is a literary technique in which the author uses the repetition of initial consonant sounds. In alliteration, the first letter of each word is the same, as in this example: Gilbert eats goofy gum. The "g" sound is repeated in this example. It's still considered alliteration if there are a few words between the words which have repeated sounds, like the word "eat" in the example above.
Alliteration should not be confused with assonance, which is the repetition of vowel sounds and is much trickier to write and to identify. Further, it should not be confused with consonance. Consonance is the repetition of a consonant sound anywhere in the word, as in this example: Linda is alive until later. In this example, the "l" sound is repeated, but it occurs at the beginning, middle and end of words. It's also important to note that alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds so that if there are consonant blends next to words with a single consonant, one would not consider that alliteration. Here is an example of that: Someone slipped is not alliteration because the second word contains a consonant blend.
In Housman's poem, I've identified the following examples of alliteration:
- In the first stanza, the words you and your
- In the second stanza, the words road and runners
- In the fourth stanza, the words silence and sounds
- In the fifth stanza, the words runners and reknown
- In the sixth stanza, the words so and set as well as the words low and lintel
- In the last stanza, the words garland and girl's