Study Guide

Adam's Curse Sound Check

By William Butler Yeats

Sound Check

Yeats has plenty of tricks up his sleeve. In some ways, he's a lot like a rapper. Don't believe us? Read on as we break down the sonic devices in "Adam's Curse."

Assonance

Assonance is the repeated use of vowel sounds. Eminem himself uses this one all the time to give his lines a sense of beat and flow. Check out Yeats' flow below:

Washed by time's waters as they rose and fell (33)

It's the "ah" sounds in "washed" and "waters" that create assonance. Here's another example:

That you were beautiful, and that I strove 

In that line, the long U in "you" and "beautiful" creates the assonance, the short rhyming echo in the line. But that's not all that's happening here…

Alliteration

Alliteration is the repetition of initial consonant sounds, and it's another clever sonic trick. For example:

We saw the last embers of daylight die, (30)

In this line, the D sound in "daylight" and "die" create alliteration. Too many of those and you'll be tongue-tied. Check out the L sounds here, as well:

That they would sigh and quote with learned looks (26)

So, why sweat the technique here? What's Yeats up to with this assonance and alliteration? One idea is that, in a way, he's showing off. Let's face it: in a poem discussing how hard it is to write poetry, you better bring your A game as proof. In this case, Yeats is pulling out all the poetic stops to indicate just how much thought and technique can fit into a single line of verse. So are you convinced? Well, you should be.

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