10 Poems All About Alliteration

Poetry is filled with alliteration because it lends itself naturally to the tone and musicality of the poetry. Take a look at these poems that are filled with alliteration, and see how it affects not only the sound, but also the meaning of the poems.

Short Examples of Alliteration

  1. The chilling cold almost chopped him apart.
  2. The captain kept the most of his fielders within the circle.
  3. The boy caught cold as soon as he reached the hill station.
  4. His fast friend now called him Brutus for his recent unfaithfulness.
  5. The lion licked the wounds of indignation after his prey was snatched by the hyenas.
  6. The ship sailed and sank like the Titanic.
  7. The famous scholar suffered from the worst sort of narcissism.
  8. The sight of homemade mincemeat pie made his mouth water.
  9. Love’s Labour’s Lost is an interesting comedy by William Shakespeare.
  10. The young princess looked even charming in the pink petticoat.
  11. The shepherd shook his head in negation.
  12. The poor patient shuddered at the brief draught of air that came in when the door opened.
  13. Throwing stones at buses used to be students’ favorite pastime in the past.
  14. The teacher taunted a weak student for their repeated failures.
  15. His posthumous novel was based on a platonic love story.

Examples of Alliteration in Poetry

Example #1: The Raven (by Edgar Allen Poe)

ONCE upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore, —
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping.

The alliteration in Poe’s poetry is frequent, and almost always with purpose. It adds to the singsong quality of the poetry, and helps the speaker to tell the story with a certain rhythm, which adds to the suspense.

Example #2: Paradise Lost (by John Milton)

Scarce from his mold
Behemoth, biggest born of earth, upheaved
His vastness.

Milton uses alliteration throughout Paradise Lost to add to the grandiose story and sound of the text. Saying “Behemoth, biggest born” has more of a punch than “biggest born” alone does – even though that is alliteration as well.

Example #3: Sir Galahad (by Alfred Lord Tennyson)

But blessed forms in whistling storms
Fly o’er waste fens and windy fields.

The “f” sounds in the second line listed here add to the onomatopoetic quality of the poem. Read it out loud, and you can almost hear the sounds of the “flying” that you are doing in the poem.

Example #4: Rime of the Ancient Mariner (by Samuel Taylor Coleridge)

And the balls like pulses beat;
For the sky and the sea, and the sea and the sky
Lay like a load on my weary eye

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is quite a long poem, so it is conceivable that Coleridge wanted to use alliteration so that the poem would continue to roll off the tongue. He also used it to connect key themes and symbols.

Example #5: The Caged Bird (by Maya Angelou)

The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn bright lawn

Maya Angelou uses alliteration to link together phrases, and more importantly, the beautiful imagery she uses throughout her poems.

Example #6: Beowulf (as translated by Seamus Heaney)

He was four times a father, this fighter prince:
one by one they entered the world,
Heorogar, Hrothgar, the good Halga
and a daughter, I have heard, who was Onela´s queen,
a balm in bed to the battle-scarred Swede.

There is almost no poem in the English language that has more alliteration than Beowulf – in many translations, it is in every line. The lines flow better and help give better mental images.

Example #7: Sonnet #5 (by William Shakespeare)

Sap checked with frost, and lusty leaves quite gone,
Beauty o’er-snowed and bareness every where:
Then were not summer’s distillation left,
A liquid prisoner pent in walls of glass,
Beauty’s effect with beauty were beref

Shakespeare’s poetry, especially his famous sonnets, were lined with alliteration. Typically it happens irregularly, but it is always used to great effect. Here, it adds to the romantic tone of the poem.

Example #8: I heard a Fly buzz – when I died (by Emily Dickinson)

I heard a Fly buzz – when I died –
The Stillness in the Room
Was like the Stillness in the Air –
Between the Heaves of Storm –

The alliteration is spaced out more in Emily Dickinson’s poem about death, but it serves to connect the contrasting images of Stillness and Storm in this poem.

Example #9: Birches (by Robert Frost)

They click upon themselves
As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored
As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.
Soon the sun’s warmth makes them shed crystal shells
Shattering and avalanching on the sNow-crust—

This use of the “cr” sound mimics the sound of ice breaking and trees knocking against each other, like they would in the winter. Check through Frost’s other poems – you will see similar patterns!

Example #10: To His Coy Mistress (by Andrew Marvell)

Had we but world enough, and time,
This coyness, lady, were no crime.
We would sit down, and think which way
To walk, and pass our long love’s day.

Notice, again, how the alliteration in this poem makes the romance really pop from the text. The alliteration in “long love” in particular is heralded for its romance.

Example #11: The Raven (by Edgar Allan Poe)

Closed my lids, and kept them close,
And the balls like pulses beat;
For the sky and the sea, and the sea and the sky
Lay like a load on my weary eye,
And the dead were at my feet

The Raven, by Edgar Allan Poe, has many examples of alliterations, which have been written in bold. The first line has a repetition of the /k/ sound; the second of the /b/ sound; the third of the /s/ sound; and the fourth has the /l/ sound.

Example #12: The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (by Samuel Taylor Coleridge)

Behemoth biggest born of earth upheaved
His vastness: Fleeced the flocks and bleating rose,
As plants: Ambiguous between sea and land
The river-horse, and scaly crocodile.

This poem by S.T. Coleridge also has fine examples of alliteration. The first line contains a repetition of the /b/ sound, and the second line repeats the /f/ sound.

Example #13: Paradise Lost (by John Milton)

I leave the plain, I climb the height;
No branchy thicket shelter yields;
But blessed forms in whistling storms
Fly o’er waste fens and windy fields

This extract from Milton contains alliterations in the last line, where the /f/ and /v/ sounds have been repeated.

Example #14: I have a Dream (by Martin Luther King Jr.)

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

This famous speech by Martin Luther King Junior contains excellent examples of alliteration in prose. The repletion of the /s/ sound has been highlighted here.

Example #15: In a Whispering Gallery (by Thomas Hardy)

“A spot for the splendid birth
Of everlasting lives,
Whereto no night arrives;
And this gaunt gray gallery
A tabernacle of worth”

In the third and fourth lines here, Hardy has used alliteration with the /n/ and /g/ sounds, which are repeated in the words as “no,” “night;” and then “gaunt,” gray,” and “gallery” respectively. Their use creates a sort of rhythm in the poem.