Reference > Cambridge History > From the Beginnings to the Cycles of Romance > The Prosody of Old and Middle English > The Alliterative Revival
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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume I. From the Beginnings to the Cycles of Romance.

XVIII. The Prosody of Old and Middle English.

§ 4. The Alliterative Revival.


One curious postscript has to be made to these few general remarks. During the period just referred to—from Layamon, that is to say, to the appearance of William of Palerne and other things, at a time probably nearer to the middle of the fourteenth century than to its beginning—attempts at the old alliterative metre are absolutely wanting. It is not unusual to meet with assumptions that, though wanting, they must have existed, at any rate in popular literature; and to these assumptions, as to all such, no reasonable answer can be made, except that it may have been so. So far, however, no trace of any such verse in the period referred to has been discovered; nor any reference to such; nor any evidence, direct or indirect, that it existed. About the end of the period it reappears: sometimes simple of itself, with a cadence altered, indeed, but not out of all likeness, after the fashion that was to produce its capital example in The Vision of Piers Plowman; sometimes in a very remarkable blend with rime, and with metrical and stanza arrangement, after the fashion of which the most notable instances, in less and more regular kind, are Gawayne and the Grene Knight and Pearl. But this revival or reappearance has no effect on the main current of English verse; which continues to be distinctly metrical, to be, in effect universally, rimed and to use alliteration only for a separable and casual ornament, not as a constituent and property.   10

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  Foreign Influence  
 
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