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Alliteration in Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey

Alliteration: Through alliteration—the repetition of words with the same first consonant sound—Wordsworth mimics the soothing sounds of nature, contrasting it with the grating sounds of city life. Wordsworth mimics the “murmur” of the River Wye as it weaves through the valley with the repeated sound of the “s” consonance. The sound of the “s” takes on a more scathing effect as he employs it to mimic the sound of hissing when he describes the “sneers of selfish men.” The way Wordsworth employs the same sounds to describe both the melodious murmurs of the river and the cacophony of city life provides a powerful contrast.

Alliteration Examples in Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey:

Lines Written a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, on Revisiting the Banks of the Wye during a Tour, July 13, 1798

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"misty mountain..."   (Lines Written a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, on Revisiting the Banks of the Wye during a Tour, July 13, 1798)

Contrasted against the slicing “s” alliteration in the lines above, the use of the “m” alliteration creates a sense of mellifluous ease. Nature, which “is full of blessings,” provides Wordsworth and his sister refuge. Instead of encountering “evil tongues,” they encounter freedom and solitude in the “misty” mountains and moonlight.

"sneers of selfish men,..."   (Lines Written a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, on Revisiting the Banks of the Wye during a Tour, July 13, 1798)

The phrase the “sneers of selfish men” seems to cut through the otherwise eloquent, grandiose language Wordsworth employs. With the alliteration of the hissing “s” sounds, Wordsworth denounces the modern, urban culture that gives rise to selfish, skeptical men. He claims that nature will “prevail” against the “dreary intercourse of daily life.”

"murmur..."   (Lines Written a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, on Revisiting the Banks of the Wye during a Tour, July 13, 1798)

The first piece of imagery the speaker recognizes is the sound of the River Wye as it flows from the mountains through the valley, which he likens to a “murmur.” The noun “murmur” describes a soft, indistinct, and continuous sound or utterance. Here, Wordsworth creates an auditory image of the River Wye as a quiet, constant accompaniment to the visually stimulating scenery around him. This murmur echoes throughout the following lines as Wordsworth employs alliteration of the “s” sound (“steep,” “secluded scene,” “seclusions,” and “sky”), evoking a sense of whispering and murmuring.

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