"Buried Rhythms: The Alliterative Tradition in 19th and 20th Century Poetry"

Author: Shapiro, Michael

Dissertation, UMI, 1998

The dissertation is available on microform through UMI; UMI microform number: 9829842.



An entire chapter of this dissertation is dedicated to Ted Hughes's work. Other poets examined are Gerard Manley Hopkins, W.H. Auden, Richard Wilbur, Robert Penn Warren, Tony Harrison and Geoffrey Hill:

"Following the Norman Conquest, alliterative/ accentual verse faded. The new accentual/syllabic tradition rose to prominence in the 12th century and, except for occasional appearances by other meters, remained dominant until the 19th. Poets of the 19th and 20th centuries have revived, both consciously and unconsciously, the alliterative/ accentual prosody of Old and Middle English poetry.

This 'recovery' is both prosodic and political, participating in and reflecting upon both the metrical revolutions beginning in the 19th century and the cultural, social and economic changes of the recent past. Although the form has become associated with 'unorthodox' or alternative traditions of western thought and is often used as a meter with which to defy the epistemes associated with the pentameter tradition, alliterative meters also encode a radical ethnic, national and prosodic conservatism.

The roundabout way in which this older tradition was received by poets like Coleridge and Hopkins seemed to lend credence to the theory that accentual meters were the native and natural verse rhythm of English speech and poetry, and this reception justified the nationalism with which 19th c. philologists constructed a model of English language origins.

Ted Hughes's poetry comments directly on the dual reception of alliterative/ accentual rhythms and makes use of its contingencies to negotiate a reconciliation between the worlds of inner and outer experience."