emphasis. No metric distinction is made between long and short syllables in the thesis.
6. Alliteration (initial rime, consisting in the agreement of the initial sounds of words or syllables) is employed to unite the two half-lines into the larger rhythmic unit of the complete line. Alliteration is restricted to syllables in the arsis (and marks the most emphatic of these); any additional alliteration that may occur in the thesis is to be regarded as accidental and therefore without significance in the structure of the line. The alliterating syllables have the same initial consonant (but the initial combinations st, sp, and sc are exceptional in alliterating only each with itself, not with any other initial s), or they have an initial vowel sound, any vowel or diphthong alliterating either with itself or (more commonly) with any other vowel sound.
The alliterating syllables are distributed as follows: (a) In the second half-line it is only the first arsis that shares in the alliteration. (b) In the first half-line both the first and the second arsis may alliterate; or the first only; or (less frequently) the second only.
7. The rhythmic stress, or the ictus, which distinguishes the arsis, coincides in general with the emphasis required by the sense. The four stresses of a complete line are therefore on the four most significant words or syllables of the line. These are not restricted to syllables with the primary word-accent, but may include syllables with a secondary word-accent, such as the radical syllable of the second member of a compound noun or adjective and the more important formative and derivative syllables (see Outline of Grammar, § 5, note).
The words that are made prominent by the rhythmic stress (of which some are made still more emphatic by the alliteration), being logically or rhetorically the most significant words in the line, are chosen according to the gradation of sentence-accent. Thus, nouns, adjectives, infinitives, and participles, intrinsically significant in a sentence, are employed only with rhythmic stress (primary or secondary) and are excluded from the true thesis. Next in this order may be
- The instances in which the four stresses of a line alliterate are few in number and may be regarded as accidental. This non-structural form of alliteration may be in the order ab | ab (Hwæt, wē Gā́rdèna | in gḗardàgum, Beowulf 1); or in the order ab | ba (Hǽbbe ic gefrúgnen, | þætte is féor héonan, Phœnix 1) The art of versification begins to decline towards the close of the Anglo-Saxon period. A poem as late as The Battle of Maldon, therefore, contains infringements of the strict rules of alliteration (e.g. mē sę́ndon tō þē | sǣ́męn snélle, 29).