Alliteration is the usage of consonant sounds at the start of the words, either beside each other or close to each other. Most poets like using literary devices like alliterative sounds to make the poems sound melodic. You can learn more about alliteration – here. The following poems are a few of the best examples of alliterations.
The Fire of Drift-wood by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
The first slight swerving of the heart,
That words are powerless to express,
And leave it still unsaid in part,
Or say it in too great excess.
The very tones in which we spake
Had something strange, I could but mark;
The leaves of memory seemed to make
A mournful rustling in the dark.
These three alliterative sounds are /s/, /w/ and again /s/. The poet has beautifully used first in the first verse and next two in the first two verses of the second stanza. The reader of this poem feels the throb of sounds when he reads the second stanza in which the rustling of the leaves syncs with the alliteration sounds of /w/ and /s/. Both of these alliterations mark the rustling sound.
The Bird with the Coppery, Keen Claws by Wallace Stevens
Above the forest of the parakeets,
A parakeet of parakeets prevails,
A pip of life amid a mort of tails.
(The rudiments of tropics are around,
Aloe of ivory, pear of rusty rind.)
His lids are white because his eyes are blind.
He is not paradise of parakeets,
Of his gold ether, golden alguazil,
Except because he broods there and is still.
Panache upon panache, his tails deploy
Upward and outward, in green-vented forms,
His tip a drop of water full of storms.
The poem ‘The Bird with the Coppery, Keen Claws’ poem talks about the forest, its foliage, and different trees. However, the best thing about this stanza is the use of alliterations. The first occurs in the very second verse followed by two more and all are of /p/ sounds, /g/ sound except /r/. All /p/ alliterations also have an intervening vowel sound. The melody created by the /p/ sound is obvious when a reader goes through this stanza.
My Lost Youth by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
I remember the gleams and glooms that dart
Across the school-boy’s brain;
The song and the silence in the heart,
That in part are prophecies, and in part
Are longings wild and vain.
And the voice of that fitful song
Sings on, and is never still:
“A boy’s will is the wind’s will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.
This poem shows the amazing use of the alliterative sounds of /g/, /b/, /p/, /w/, and /l/ which have also created musicality in the poem. The entire stanza has rich use of repeated consonant sounds at the start of the words, making the poem one of the best alliterative poems.
Sometimes I Walk Where The Deep Water Dips by Henry Timrod
Sometimes I walk where the deep water dips
Against the land. Or on where fancy drives
I walk and muse aloud, like one who strives
To tell his half-shaped thought with stumbling lips,
And view the ocean sea, the ocean ships,
With joyless heart: still but myself I find
And restless phantoms of my restless mind:
Only the moaning of my wandering words,
Only the wailing of the wheeling plover,
And this high rock beneath whose base the sea
Has wormed long caverns, like my tears in me:
And hard like this I stand, and beaten and blind,
This desolate rock with lichens rusted over,
Hoar with salt-sleet and chalkings of the birds.
This poem about adventures and challenges of life have rich alliterations. For example, sounds such as /m/, /w/, /d/ and /b/ have created a unique melody in the poem.
Luke Havergal by Edwin Arlington Robinson
Go to the western gate, Luke Havergal,
There where the vines cling crimson on the wall,
And in the twilight wait for what will come.
The leaves will whisper there of her, and some,
Like flying words, will strike you as they fall;
But go, and if you listen she will call.
Go to the western gate, Luke Havergal —
The above narrative poem is about a search for Luke Havergal. The poet has used four alliterations sounds in the above verses. The unique thing about them is that they have been repeated, /c/ sound is used once, and /w/ sound has been used thrice.
The Battle Hymn of the Republic by Julia Ward Howe
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord:
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
His truth is marching on.
I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps,
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps:
His day is marching on.
Despite some intervening consonant sounds, the alliterations such as /th/, /h/, /s/, and /d/ have made this poem a demonstrating the use of metrical patterns in their best form. These sounds create beautiful music with beautiful poetry. The poem is also a song often in sung in the church.
Orbit by Louise Bogan
The silence of it takes my breath,
Considering, believing; blinds
My eyes, that cannot hope to see
Six hundred million miles ahead
To where I’ll be twelve months from now —
Here, only here, but oh, meanwhile
The necessary swiftness of it
Dizzies me; the smoothness, too,
As of a perfect engine rounding
Curve on curve then straight away
As if forever; yet not so,
For the swinging is incessant — soft.
The poem is about a journey and is also written with rich alliteration sounds such as /b/, /m/, /h/ and /k/. These sounds have created a unique melody in this poem having pentameter used in verses.
American Names by Stephen Vincent Bennet
Seine and Piave are silver spoons,
But the spoonbowl-metal is thin and worn,
There are English counties like hunting-tunes
Played on the keys of a postboy’s horn,
But I will remember where I was born.
I will remember Carquinez Straits,
Little French Lick and Lundy’s Lane,
The Yankee ships and the Yankee dates
And the bullet-towns of Calamity Jane.
I will remember Skunktown Plain.
Although there are just three alliterations in the above example, they have added internal rhyming and musicality to the poem. It shows their best usage in the first stanza’s first line and the second stanza’s second line.
Montesano Unvisited by Richard Hugo
With houses hung that slanted and remote
the road that goes there if you found it
would be dangerous and dirt. Dust would cake
the ox you drive by and you couldn’t meet
the peasant stare that drills you black. Birds
might be at home but rain would feel rejected
in the rapid drain and wind would bank off
fast without a friend to stars. Inside
the convent they must really mean those prayers.
Despite having a sacred and divine thematic strand, the usage of the alliteration in every alternate verse shows that the poet is very much aware of the importance of these alliterative sounds. That is why the poem demonstrates a good melody.
Voice by Louis Gluck
I have always laughed
when someone spoke of a young writer
“finding his voice.” I took it
literally: had he lost his voice?
Had he thrown it and had it
not returned? Or perhaps they
were referring to his newspaper
the Village Voice? He’s trying
to find his Voice.
The humor-filled poem has rich use of alliterations such as the sounds of /s/, /h/ and /v/ and has made this poem a treat to read in terms of musicality and melody.