Anglo-Saxon Poetry is often divided into half lines, which alliterate with each other. For example, Beowulf begins as such:

  Hwæt! wē Gār-Dena     in gēar-dagum 
þēod-cyninga     þrym gefrūnon,
hū ðā æþelingas     ell en fremedon.

Is there a "correct" way to achieve this kind of formatting in Memoir? Obviously, if I wanted, I could just manually use \hspace to achieve this effect, but I'm curious if there is a facility here to correctly typeset this kind of material.

If not Memoir itself, are there any packages which can correctly typeset this kind of poetry?

For reference, here's a screenshot from an excerpt of Beowulf, in Routledge's Beowulf & Other Stories:

enter image description here

For what it's worth, the half line divisions here are comparatively rather narrow.

Here's an older, more "traditional" edition:

enter image description here

  • Can you provide an image/pointer to what it is supposed to look like in its final form? Commented Mar 28, 2017 at 15:28
  • 1
    Also, would convenience lie in inputting left and right stanzas separately, or in specifying each whole line in turn, with a designated left/right separator being specified on each line? I am hoping the tabstackengine package can help, but I need to know more about the final appearance, and the desired input formatting. Commented Mar 28, 2017 at 15:31
  • Would you like to say how you'd like to enter the input? (And what do you mean by “correct”? Ultimately any “package” for this will have a macro that will simply insert the appropriate kind of spaces, possibly with the appropriate kind of glue and penalties, anyway...) Commented Mar 28, 2017 at 16:08

3 Answers 3


There is the parcolumns package that you might want to look at (texdoc parcolumns) but this will set the left and right half-lines in two columns which is not what you appear to want. I think that the simplest is to use \hspace but perhaps abbreviated as you will need somehow to distinguish between the two halves of a line.

\newcommand*{\hld}{\hspace{3em}} % change 3em to suit

and then

First left half \hld first right half \\
Second left half \hld second right half \\
% and so on

I'll go ahead and post the solution I ended up using.


The commands \leavemode and \unskip are there at the beginning to gobble up the extra spaces before the command, so I can typeset my poems more naturally, without having to worry about accidentally producing extra space. For example,

First left half \halfline first right half \\
Second left half \halfline second right half \\

would produce precisely the same output as:

First left half{\halfline}first right half \\
Second left half{\halfline}second right half \\

The problem is where the break line spacer should be. Without a clear rule in terms of text width, number of words or characters, or verse syntax, it must be placed manually. Assuming that (otherwise clarify your question, please), the space seem close to a double quadrat (2em) that is a standard horizontal spacer in LaTeX, so simply write \qquad where you consider that it should be:


wē Gār-Dena\qquad in gēar-dagum\\
 þēodcyninga\qquad þrym gefrūnon,\\
hū ðā æþelingas\qquad ellen fremedon.

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