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alliteration

Alliteration is a figure of speech involving the repetition of a sound (usually a consonant) at the beginning of two or more words placed next to (or close to) one another. This line from Byron’s famous poem “The Destruction of Sennacherib” uses alliteration by repeating the sound s:

  • “And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea”

Alliteration is pleasing to the ear and is therefore a very effective device in both poetry and literary prose. Here are a few examples from Canadian literature.

Poems

  • “And the woods hung hushed in their long white dream / By the ghostly, glimmering, ice-blue stream” (Sir Charles G. D. Roberts, “The Skater”)
  • “Like sadness sweet of synagogal hum” (A. M. Klein, “Autobiographical”)
  • “Then up he bobs, as easily / As any blown balloon / To greet the bosky, brooding sky / And hunger for the sun.” (Dorothy Livesay, “Fantasia”)

Prose

  • “And on the mountain crest the Chief’s daughters can be seen wrapped in the suns, the snows, the stars of all seasons…” (E. Pauline Johnson, “The Two Sisters”)
  • “The film momentarily cleared from his eyes and he saw bubbles of blood breaking and forming and breaking again.” (Hugh MacLennan, “The Halifax Explosion, 1917”)
  • “Expertly, she…bound on a headscarf of green and glossy artificial silk” (Margaret Laurence, “A Gourdful of Glory”)
  • “In the dim night-light of the ward their eyes focussed fearfully, drifted, then refocussed.” (Rohinton Mistry, Such a Long Journey)
  • “At the bottom of the stairs, there’s a hat and umbrella stand, the bentwood kind, long rounded rungs of wood curving gently up to hooks shaped like the opening fronds of a fern.” (Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale)