A Festschrift in Honour of A.V.C. Schmidt
Aicill in Piers Plowman?
← 126 | 127 → RORY MCTURK
In his book The Clerkly Maker, Carl Schmidt devotes a section of his chapter on Langland’s versecraft to pararhyme, which may be defined as the occurrence of two or more syllables in sufficient proximity to each other for it to be noticed that they begin with identical consonants, contain different vowels, and end with consonants that are also identical, though not necessarily with the initial ones.1 That is to say, tick-tock is as much an example of pararhyme as tittle-tattle or tit (for) tat. The examples given in The Clerkly Maker of pararhyme in Piers Plowman seem in most cases to conform to this definition. Schmidt himself does not give a definition as such (he comes near to doing so in describing pararhyme as ‘in essence a form of compound alliteration’ (his italics)):2 he seems rather to equate pararhyme with what Gerard Manley Hopkins, in his lecture on ‘Rhythm and the other structural parts of rhetoric – verse’, calls ‘vowelling off’, which Hopkins obscurely defines as ‘changing of vowel down some scale or strain or keeping’.3 Whether or not pararhyme as defined above may indeed be equated with Hopkins’s ‘vowelling off’ will be discussed below. For the moment it may be noted that in three of Schmidt’s examples of pararhyme the placing of the corresponding syllables recalls the placing in Gaelic poetry of rhyming syllables according to the principle of aicill, whereby a word at the beginning or in the interior of a line...
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