The a verse of the alliterative long line and the metre of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
The purpose of this study is to conduct a close and careful study of the metre of Sir
Gawain and the Green Knight, and thereby to describe the metrical principles that
underlie the structure of the unrhymed long line, especially, that of the a-verse, and to
demonstrate the stylistic possibilities that individual poets could exploit on the basis of
In the introduction, I re-examine the three-stave half-line theory and point out the
inconsistencies and unnecessary complexities that this theory entails, and argue for the
regular two-stave verse and the potential disjunction between alliteration and stress.
Chapter I examines the lines with non-aa/ax patterns found in Sir Gawain, and
considers whether the non-aa/ax alliterative patterns in this romance should be treated
as `irregular' and thus be assumed to require emendation.
Chapter II deals with the so-called `extended' verses, and how stress and alliteration
function in such half-lines; Chapter III investigates combinations of various syntactic
units, mainly those of adjective + noun and verb + adverb, and presents general metrical
`rules' which appear to govern the `extended' and non-'extended' a-verse; Chapter IV is
aimed at the demonstration of these rules by examining the metrical function in the long
line of doublet forms, such as to/for to + infinitive and on/ vpon folde.
Chapter V presents a comparative study between the metre of Sir Gawain and that of
Cleanness and Patience, the other alliterative poems found in the same manuscript, and
three other alliterative poems, namely, The Destruction of Troy, The Wars of Alexander,
and St Erkenwald.
Chapter VI explores how the alliterative metre can be exploited for stylistic purposes.
My conclusions smmarisetsh e metrical rules that have emerged from this study.