Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Form BOB-AND-WHEEL: A metrical devise in some alliterative-verse poetry, especially that of the Pearl Poet and that of fourteenth-century poems like Sir Tristrem. The first short line of a group of rhyming lines is known as the "bob" and the subsequent four are a quatraine called the "wheel." The bob contains one stress preceded by either one or occasionally two unstressed syllables (i.e., the bob is only two or three syllables long). Each line of the wheel contains three stresses. Together, the bob-and-wheel constitutes five lines rhyming in an ABABA pattern. Since it matches the alliterative pattern of the first part of the stanza, but also fits the rhyme scheme of the last five lines, the "bob" serves as a structural bridge between the alliterative sections and the rhyming sections of the poem. It is easier to understand by looking at an example. Click here for a sample to view. See also alliteration and rhyme. Bob-and-Wheel The bob-and-wheel is a structural device common in the Pearl Poet's poetry. The example below comes from the first stanza of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The bob appears in red, and the wheel appears in blue. Alliterative components are in bold print, and rhyming components are in italic print. Sithen the sege and the assut was sesed at Troye, The borgh brittened and brent to brondes and askes, The tulk that the trammes of tresoun ther wroght Was tried for his tricherie, the trewest on erthe-- Hit was Ennias the athel and highe kynde, That sithen depreced provinces and patrounes bicome Welneghe of al the wele in the west iles. Fro riche Romulus to Rome ricchis hym swythe, With gret bobbaunce that burghe he biges upon fyrst, And nevenes hit his aune nome, as hit now hat. Ticius to Tuskan and teldes bigynnes, Langaberde in Lumbardie lyftes up homes, And fer over the French flod Felix Brutus On mony bonkkes ful brode Bretayn he settes with wynne, Where werre and wrake and wonder Bi sythes has wont therinne, And oft bothe blysse and blunder Ful skete has skyfted synne. The final five rhymes--wynne, wonder, therinne, blunder, synne--have an ABABA rhyme pattern. The phrase with wynne is the bob; it bridges the alliterative section and moves the poem into the final rhyming section in each stanza. The bob-and-wheel structure is not common in the poetry of Chaucer, though even he uses it for parody in Sir Thopas. ALLITERATION: Repeating a consonant sound in close proximity to others, or beginning several words with the same vowel sound. For instance, the phrase "buckets of big blue berries" alliterates with the consonant b. Coleridge describes the sacred river Alph in Kubla Khan as "Five miles meandering with a mazy motion," which alliterates with the consonant m. The line "apt alliteration's artful aid" alliterates with the vowel sound a. One of Dryden's couplets in Absalom and Achitophel reads, "In pious times, ere priestcraft did begin, / Before polygamy was made a sin." It alliterates with the letter p. Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself" employs the technique: "I lean and loaf at my ease observing a spear of summer grass." Most frequently, the alliteration involves the sounds at the beginning of words in close proximity to each other. Alliteration is an example of a rhetorical scheme. Alliteration in which the first letters of words are the same (as opposed to consonants alliterating in the middles or ends of words) is more specifically called head rhyme, which is a bit of a misnomer since it doesn't actually involve rhyme in a technical sense. If alliteration also involves changes in the intervening vowels between repeated consonants, the technique is called consonance. RHYME (from Old French, rime meaning "series," in turn adopted from Latin rithmus and Greek rhythmos): Also spelled rime, rhyme is a matching similarity of sounds in two or more words, especially when their accented vowels and all succeeding consonants are identical. For instance, the word-pairs listed here are all rhymes: skating/dating, emotion/demotion, fascinate/deracinate, and plain/stain. Rhyming is frequently more than mere decoration in poetry. It helps to establish stanzaic form by marking the ends of lines, it is an aid in memorization when performing oral formulaic literature, and it contributes to the sense of unity in a poem. The best rhymes delight because of the human fascination with varying patterned repetition, but a successful and unexpected rhyme can also surprise the reader (which is especially important in comic verse). They may also serve as a rhythmical device for intensifying meaning.
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