Were rhetorical figures solely decorative, or were they intended to evoke particular responses at particular points in a narrative? When is chiasmus appropriate? When ought one to avoid alliteration? Bede hints at an answer in his treatise on rhetorical tropes and figures.
Stephen Harris is the author of Race and Ethnicity in Anglo-Saxon England (Routledge, 2003) and the forthcoming The Poetry of the Venerable Bede: A Commentary (West Virginia UP, 2015).