Analysis: Sound Check
With 3-4 alliterations per line in the original Old English, "The Wanderer" sounds a lot like a tongue-twister. Now imagine saying that tongue-twister on a roller coaster, and you've got a pretty good idea of the sound of this poem. Its sentences seem to go on forever, but they're held together by varying patterns of accents – the high points of our poetic ride. Sometimes there's a long, long time between accents, like you're slowly climbing to the top. Then, suddenly, you hit the top, and tumble over the edge just to go into the next climb. Your climb could be two syllables long, or it could be eight – you have no idea when you're going to be falling again and when this ride's going to end. Just like on a real roller coaster, this unpredictability adds to the suspense – and the fun.
(Not sure what's going on with all these accents and syllables? Check out our section on "Form and Meter.")