An Anglo-Saxon Alba


April 1, 2014 by KWills

The letter A

Anglo-Saxon alliterative poetry is unrhymed, and doesn’t follow a syllable-count, or a strict meter. The only rules are as follows:

  • There must be four major stresses in a line,
  • Three of those stressed syllables must alliterate (start with the same sound) and the fourth not.
  • The line usually has a natural break in the middle, although the end of one line may wrap around to join the beginning of the next.

The three alliterative stresses, followed by an unmatched fourth stress is sometimes called the “bang – bang – bang – crash” form.  See here and here for more information, or Google “Anglo-Saxon Alliterative Verse”.

Meanwhile, an alba, or aubade, is a poem about the sunrise; it usually laments the passing of night as the parting of lovers, and greets the new day somewhat sadly. Here, then, is my first poem of NaPoWriMo: an Anglo-Saxon Alba entitled, “Against Reality”.

Against Reality

Broken by birdsong, abashed by the lark,
Shall the sun shut down, so surely, my dreams?
Never to notice, so novice the wretch,
Seedlings of stories ascend from the ash?
Let not the light mark the last of our meetings!
In dreams, our condition (though dismal in truth)
Will soar past restrictions of spiritless flesh
And bring in a bounty; unbearable joy
In fiction I find you, though facts be unkind
In dreams you adore me, by day you are gone
My mind be my master – what matters the world?

Anglo-Saxon verse like this usually suits the telling of epic tales, not the capturing of a moment, or a statement of purpose. However, there is nothing to stop me using the form in this way, so I thought, “Why not?” Anyway, I’m pretty busy this month. There’s a time and a place for composing epic, thousand-line poems, and NaPoWriMo ain’t it. Maybe in the future, though.

I found it hard to break away from my default “poetry” settings: end-rhyming, a steady “one-two” beat throughout the line, and lines of similar length.  Focusing entirely on the sounds of the syllables, and picking out four strong beats to make a line, made me notice how much my brain was drawn to “tumpty-tumpty-tum” and abab or aabb rhyme schemes. Getting away from those roots is a good exercise, and will be continued tomorrow with the Brevette.


13 thoughts on “An Anglo-Saxon Alba

  1. I think it works well as a one-shot. It’s a great way to experiment without committing to a really long piece.
    And thanks for the explanation, it was illuminating! Hope you have a great month.

  2. I’m going to have such fun with your A-Z this year.
    Anglo-Saxon alliterative poetry is delightful My poetry, in the main, is unstructured within its own structure and I think I may try a few using this technique.

    • K. Willsen says:

      Thanks, Felicity. Your comments really make me smile, and I don’t reply as much as I should. Good to know you’re still coming here.

  3. Otshepeng says:

    I’m going to learn quite a bit about poetry this month. Thanks.

  4. QueasyPeasy says:

    I’m not a poet but I liked your piece. Thank you. Like others above, I’m in for some poetry education this month. 🙂

  5. Alex Hurst says:

    I loved this. The poem was epic! (No pun intended, maybe). And this is a great way to kill two birds with one stone, figuratively, without being too obtrusive with it. Looking forward to tomorrow’s lesson and example. 🙂

    Alex Hurst, fantasy author in Japan, participating in Blogging A-Z April Challenge.

  6. Elsie says:

    I just learned a ton from you about poetry. It’s fascinating how much truly goes into it. Beautiful piece.

    Enjoy your A-Z 🙂

    AJ’s wHooligan in the A-Z Challenge

  7. Kate says:

    I like this theme and look forward to learning more about poetry. I tend to write without thought of the style so this has been very interesting. see you tomorrow!

  8. Karan says:

    fantastic poem, the words are so perfect, loved it 🙂

  9. […] of a full stop, or at least a comma.  It can occur anywhere in a line, as we saw on Tuesday with Anglo-Saxon verse and the mid-line […]

  10. […] to a line. Following on from what I’ve learned this week, I’ve also included some alliteration, euphony, and a mix of caesura and […]

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