Augmentation is the spacing of repeated consonant sounds with the last repeated consonant sound separated by a vowel.

More about Augmentation

Augmentation stems from the Latin augmentare, which means “to increase.” Musically, augmentation is the proportional lengthening of note-values that were previously used in a melody or motif. This is a technique discussed in Western music and in music theory. As a literary device discussed in Kenneth Burke’s essay “On Musicality in Verse: As Illustrated by Some Lines of Coleridge,” augmentation in poetry is the repetition of consonant sounds, where the repeated order of sounds is separated by the length of vowels.

Examples of Augmentation in Poetry

For instance, in the first tercet of “Morning Song” by Sylvia Plath, the second line contains the repeated sounds of sounds, f s l  to f– s – l, where “midwife slapped” contains the “f” sound in “wife” and “sl” sound in “slapped,” and then the same order of consonant sounds are augmented in the word “footsoles:”

           Love set you going like a fat gold watch.
           The midwife slapped your footsoles, and your bald cry
           Took its place among the elements.

Another example is the first stanza of Part V of “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge:

           Oh sleep! it is a gentle thing,
           Beloved from pole to pole!
           To Mary-Queen the praise be given!
           She sent the gentle sleep from heaven,
           That slid into my soul.

The “sl” is repeated in “sleep” twice, “slid,” and then in the fourth time it is augmented to “s––l” in the word “soul.” With this example and Plath’s “Morning Song,” augmentation is not based on a strict repetition count of consonant sounds. Instead, the number can vary and can be within a line of the poem or be found in multiple lines of a stanza.