This anthology provides a generous and wide-ranging selection, beginning with the first lyrics in English to celebrate love as romantic devotion to a woman, and including all pre-Chaucerian love lyrics other than a few brief snatches. Poems by Chaucer and his successors present the courtly game Lyrics and carols are two of the most important types of medieval literature. Poems by Chaucer and his successors present the courtly game of love in its sophisticated later medieval form, while devotional lyrics portray the tenderness of the later medieval response to Christ as lover and beloved and to the Virgin Mary with the infant Jesus, Mary as sorrowing mother and as Queen of Heaven.
Fully represented also are lyrics on characteristically medieval moral and penitential themes, alongside miscellaneous lyrics such as drinking and dancing songs, ballads, satires, poems of wit, humour and sexual innuendo, accounts of lecherous priests, minstrels mocking their audiences, and women vividly listing their lovers' inadequacies.
The texts are edited anew, accompanied with a textual apparatus detailing manuscript readings where emendations have been made to restore sense, metre and rhyme. The language of pre-Chaucerian poems has been normalised to accord with the dialect of late fourteenth-century London -Chaucerian English- , and unfamiliar spellings in later lyrics have been regularized.
Readability is further aided by line-by-line glosses. An extensive introduction offers an appraisal of the forms, themes and contexts of the lyrics and a full discussion of their language and metre, while a comprehensive commentary gives further essential information. Thomas G. Get A Copy. Paperback , pages. More Details Friend Reviews.
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Thus it is obvious that any one who sets out to write about English literature in the Middle Ages will find himself addressing an audience which is not at all in agreement with regard to the subject. Others, starting from one favourite author—Dante or Chaucer or Malory—will try to place what they already know in its right relation to all its surroundings—by working, for instance, at the history of religious poetry, or the different kinds of story-telling. It is not easy to write for all these and for other different tastes as well. But it is not a hopeless business, so long as there is some sort of  interest to begin with, even if it be only a general vague curiosity about an unknown subject.
There are many prejudices against the Middle Ages; the name itself was originally an expression of contempt; it means the interval of darkness between the ruin of ancient classical culture and the modern revival of learning—a time supposed to be full of ignorance, superstition and bad taste, an object of loathing to well-educated persons. It is possible now to think of the Middle Ages and their literature without prejudice on the one side or the other.
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As no one now thinks of despising Gothic architecture simply because it is not Greek, so the books of the Middle Ages may be read in a spirit of fairness by those who will take the trouble to understand their language; they may be appreciated for what they really are; their goodness or badness is not now determined merely by comparison with the work of other times in which the standards and ideals of excellence were not the same.
The language is a difficulty. The older English books are written in the language which is commonly called Anglo-Saxon; this is certainly not one of the most difficult, but no language is really easy to learn. Anglo-Saxon poetry, besides, has a peculiar vocabulary and strange forms of expression. The poetical books are not to be read without a great deal of application; they cannot be rushed. Later, when the language has changed into what is technically called Middle English—say, in the thirteenth century—things are in many ways no better.
It is true that the language is nearer to modern English; it is true also that the language of the poetical books is generally much simpler and nearer that of ordinary prose than was the language of the Anglo-Saxon poets. And not only does the language of Yorkshire differ from that of Kent, or Dorset, or London, or Lancashire, but within the same district each author spells as he pleases, and the man who makes a copy of his book also spells as he pleases, and mixes up his own local and personal varieties with those of the original author.
There is besides an enormously greater amount of written matter extant in Middle English than in Anglo-Saxon, and this, coming from all parts of the country, is full of all varieties of odd words. The vocabulary of Middle English, with its many French and Danish words, its many words belonging to one region and not to another, is, in some ways, more difficult than that of Anglo-Saxon. The difference in language between Anglo-Saxon and Middle English corresponds to a division in the history of literature. Anglo-Saxon literature is different from that which follows it, not merely in its grammar and dictionary, but in many of its ideas and fashions, particularly in its fashion of poetry.
The difference may be expressed in this way, that while the older English literature is mainly English, the literature after the eleventh century is largely dependent on  France; France from to is the chief source of ideas, culture, imagination, stories, and forms of verse. It is sometimes thought that this was the result of the Norman Conquest, but that is not the proper explanation of what happened, either in language or in literature.
Medieval Lyric: Middle English Lyrics, Ballads, And Carols
For the same kind of thing happened in other countries which were not conquered by the Normans or by any other people speaking French. The history of the German language and of German literature in the Middle Ages corresponds in many things to the history of English. The change, in both languages, is a change from one kind of inflexion to another. Changes of this kind had begun in England before the Norman Conquest, and would have gone on as they did in Germany if there had been no Norman Conquest at all.
The French and the French language had nothing to do with it. Where the French were really important was in their ideas and in the forms of their poetry; they made their influence felt through these in all Western Christendom, in Italy, in Denmark, and even more  strongly in Germany than in England. Indeed it might be said that the Norman Conquest made it less easy for the English than it was for the Germans to employ the French ideas when they were writing books of their own in their own language.
The French influence was too strong in England; the native language was discouraged; many Englishmen wrote their books in French, instead of making English adaptations from the French. But whatever the differences might be between one nation and another, it is certain that after French ideas were appreciated in all the countries of Europe, in such a way as to make France the principal source of enlightenment and entertainment everywhere; and the intellectual predominance of France is what most of all distinguishes the later medieval from the earlier, that is, from the Anglo-Saxon period, in the history of English literature.
The leadership of France in the literature of Europe may be dated as beginning about , which is the time of the First Crusade and of many great changes in the life of Christendom. About there is an end of one great historical period, which began with what is called the Wandering of the German nations, and their settlement in various parts of the world. The Norman Conquest of England, it has been said, is the last of the movements in the wandering of the nations. Goths and Vandals, Franks, Burgundians,  Lombards, Angles, Jutes and Saxons, Danes and Northmen, had all had their times of adventure, exploration, conquest and settlement.
One great event in this wandering was the establishment of the Norwegian settlers in France, the foundation of Normandy; and the expeditions of the Normans—to Italy as well as to England—were nearly the last which were conducted in the old style. The two forms of the English language, Anglo-Saxon and Middle English, and the two periods of medieval English literature, correspond to the two historical periods of which one ends and the other begins about , at the date of the First Crusade.
Anglo-Saxon literature belongs to the older world; Anglo-Saxon poetry goes back to very early times and keeps a tradition which had come down from ancient days when the English were still a Continental German tribe. Middle English literature is cut off from Anglo-Saxon, the Anglo-Saxon stories are forgotten, and though the old alliterative verse is kept, as late as the sixteenth century, it is in a new form with a new tune in it; while instead of being the one great instrument of poetry it has to compete with rhyming couplets and stanzas of different measure; it is hard put to it by the rhymes of France.
In dealing with Anglo-Saxon literature it is well to remember first of all that comparatively little of it has been preserved; we cannot be sure, either, that the best things have been preserved, in the poetry especially. Anglo-Saxon poetry was being made, we know, for at least five hundred years. What now exists is found, chiefly, in four manuscript volumes,  which have been saved, more or less accidentally, from all sorts of dangers. No one can say what has been lost. Many manuscripts, as good as any of these, may have been sold as old parchment, or given to the children to cut up into tails for kites.
One Anglo-Saxon poem, Waldere , is known from two fragments of it which were discovered in the binding of a book in Copenhagen. Two other poems were fortunately copied and published about two hundred years ago by two famous antiquaries; the original manuscripts have disappeared since then. Who can tell how many manuscripts have disappeared without being copied? The obvious conclusion is that we can speak about what we know, but not as if we knew everything about Anglo-Saxon poetry. With the prose it is rather different. With the poetry, on the other hand, every fresh discovery—like that of the bookbinding fragments already mentioned—makes one feel that the extent of Anglo-Saxon poetry is unknown.
Anything may turn up. We cannot say what subjects were not treated by Anglo-Saxon poets. It is certain that many good stories were known to them which are not found in any of the extant manuscripts. The contents of Anglo-Saxon literature may be divided into two sections, one belonging to the English as a Teutonic people who inherited along with their language a form of poetry and a number of stories which have nothing to do with Roman civilization; the other derived from Latin and turning into English the knowledge which was common to the whole of Europe. The English in the beginning—Angles and Saxons—were heathen Germans who took part in the great movement called the Wandering of the Nations—who left their homes and emigrated to lands belonging to the Roman empire, and made slaves of the people they found there.
They were barbarians; the civilized inhabitants of Britain, when the English appeared there, thought of them as horrible savages. They were as bad and detestable as the Red Indians were to the Colonists in America long afterwards. There were centuries of an old civilization behind them when they settled in Britain; what it was like is shown partially in the work of the Bronze and the early Iron Age in the countries from which the English came.
The Germania of Tacitus tells more, and more still is to be learned from the remains of the old poetry. But Tacitus, though he might have been rather inclined to favour the Germans, was mainly a scientific observer who wished to find out the truth about them, and to write a clear description of their manners and customs. One of the proofs of his success is the agreement between his Germania and the pictures of life composed by the people of that race themselves in their epic poetry.
The case of the early English is very like that of the Danes and Northmen four or five hundred years later. The Anglo-Saxons thought and wrote of the Danes almost exactly as the Britons had thought of their Saxon enemies. The English had to suffer from the Danish pirates what the Britons had suffered from the English; they cursed the Danes as their own  ancestors had been cursed by the Britons; the invaders were utterly detestable and fiendish men of blood.
But luckily we have some other information about those pirates. From the Norwegian, Danish and Icelandic historians, and from some parts of the old Northern poetry, there may be formed a different idea about the character and domestic manners of the men who made themselves so unpleasant in their visits to the English and the neighbouring coasts. The pirates at home were peaceful country gentlemen, leading respectable and beneficent lives among their poorer neighbours. The Icelandic histories—including the history of Norway for three or four centuries—may be consulted for the domestic life of the people who made so bad a name for themselves as plunderers abroad.
They appear there, several varieties of them, as members of a reasonable, honourable community, which could have given many lessons of civilization to England or France many centuries later. But the strangest and most convincing evidence about the domestic manners of the Northmen is found in English, and is written by King Alfred himself. Ohthere belonged exactly to the class from which the most daring and successful rovers came.
He was a gentleman  of good position at home in Halogaland now called Helgeland in the north of Norway , a landowner with various interests, attending to his crops, making a good deal out of trade with the Finns and Lapps; and besides that a navigator, the first who rounded the North Cape and sailed into the White Sea. His narrative, which is given by Alfred as an addition to his translation of Orosius, makes a pleasant and amusing contrast to the history of the Danish wars, which also may have been partly written by King Alfred himself for their proper place in the English Chronicle.
The Angles and Saxons, like the Danes and Northmen later—like Sir Francis Drake, or like Ulysses, we might say—were occasionally pirates, but not restricted to that profession. They had many other things to do and think about. Before everything, they belonged to the great national system which Tacitus calls Germania —which was never politically united, even in the loosest way, but which nevertheless was a unity, conscious of its separation from all the foreigners whom it called, in a comprehensive manner, Welsh.
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It proves that the Germanic nations had a reciprocal free trade in subjects for epic poems. They were generally free from local jealousy about heroes. Instead of a natural rivalry among Goths, Burgundians and the rest, the early poets seem to have had a liking for heroes not of their own nation, so long as they were members of one of the German tribes. The Huns, it may be here remarked, are counted as Germans; Attila is not thought of as a barbarian.
The great example of this common right in heroes is Sigfred, Sigurd the Volsung, Siegfried of the Nibelungenlied. His original stock and race is of no particular interest to any one; he is a hero everywhere, and everywhere he is thought of as belonging, in some way or other, to the people who sing about him. This glory of Sigurd or Siegfried is different from the later popularity of King Arthur or of Charlemagne in countries outside of Britain or France. Arthur and Charlemagne are adopted in many places as favourite heroes without any particular thought of their nationality, in much the same way as Alexander the Great was celebrated  everywhere from pure love of adventurous stories.
He is not indeed a national champion, like the Cid in Spain or the Wallace in Scotland, but everywhere he is thought of, apart from any local attachment, as the hero of the race. One of the old English poems called Widsith the Far Traveller is an epitome of the heroic poetry of Germania , and a clear proof of the common interest taken in all the heroes.
The theme of the poem is the wandering of a poet, who makes his way to the courts of the most famous kings: Ermanaric the Goth, Gundahari the Burgundian, Alboin the Lombard, and many more. The poem is a kind of fantasia , intended to call up, by allusion, the personages of the most famous stories; it is not an epic poem, but it plays with some of the plots of heroic poetry familiar throughout the whole Teutonic region.
Ermanaric and Gundahari, here called Eormanric and Guthhere, are renowned in the old Scandinavian poetry, and the old High German. What they got from their minstrels was a number of stories about all the famous men of the Teutonic race—stories chanted in rhythmical verse and noble diction, presenting tragic themes and pointing the moral of heroism. Of this old poetry there remains one work nearly complete. Beowulf , because it is extant, has sometimes been over-valued, as if it were the work of an English Homer. But it was not preserved as the Iliad was, by the unanimous judgement of all the people through successive generations.
It must have been of some importance at one time, or it would not have been copied out fair as a handsome book for the library of some gentleman. It was preserved by an accident; it has no right to the place of the most illustrious Anglo-Saxon epic poem. The story is commonplace and the plan is feeble. But there are some qualities in it which make it accidentally or not, it hardly matters the best worth studying of all the Anglo-Saxon poems. It is the largest extant piece in any old Teutonic language dealing poetically with native Teutonic subjects.
It is the largest and fullest picture of life in the order to which it belongs; the only thing that shows incontestably the power of the old heroic poetry to deal on a fairly large scale with subjects taken from the national tradition. The impression left by Beowulf , when the carping critic has done his worst, is that of a noble manner of life, of courtesy and freedom, with  the dignity of tragedy attending it, even though the poet fails, or does not attempt, to work out fully any proper tragic theme of his own.
There is the same likeness between the Odyssey and the best of the Icelandic Sagas—particularly the Story of Burnt Njal ; and the lasting virtue of Beowulf is that it is bred in the same sort of world as theirs.
Beowulf , through its rendering of noble manners, its picture of good society, adds something distinct and unforgettable to the records of the past. Beowulf is worth studying, among other reasons, because it brings out one great difference between the earlier and later medieval poetry, between Anglo-Saxon and Middle English taste in fiction. Beowulf is a tale of adventure; the incidents in it are such as may be found in hundreds of other stories. Beowulf himself, the hero, is a champion and a slayer of monsters. He goes on a visit to Denmark, sits up for the ogre, fights with him and mortally wounds him.
Many years afterwards when he is king in his own country, Gautland which is part of modern Sweden , a fiery dragon is accidentally stirred up from a long sleep and makes itself a pest to the country. Beowulf goes to attack the dragon, fights and wins, but is himself killed by the poison of the dragon. The poem ends with his funeral.
So told, in abstract, it is not a particularly interesting story. Told in the same bald way, the story of Theseus or of Hercules would still have much more in it; there are many more adventures than this in later romances like Sir Bevis of Southampton or Sir Huon of Bordeaux.
What makes the poem of Beowulf really interesting, and different from the later romances, is that it is full of all sorts of references and allusions to great events, to the fortunes of kings and nations, which seem to come in naturally, as if the author had in his mind the whole history of all the people who were in any way connected with Beowulf, and could not keep his knowledge from showing itself.
There is an historical background. In romances, and also in popular tales, you may get the same sort of adventures as in Beowulf , but they are told in quite a different way. They have nothing to do with reality. In Beowulf , the historical allusions are so many, and given with such a conviction of their importance and their truth, that they draw away the attention from the main events of  the story—the fights with the ogre Grendel and his mother, and the killing of the dragon.
This is one of the faults of the poem. The story is rather thin and poor. But in another way those distracting allusions to things apart from the chief story make up for their want of proportion. It would be difficult to find anything like this in later medieval romance. It is this, chiefly, that makes Beowulf a true epic poem—that is, a narrative poem of the most stately and serious kind. The history in it is not English history; the personages in it are Danes, Gauts, and Swedes.
One of them, Hygelac, the king whom Beowulf succeeded, is identified with a king named by the Frankish historian Gregory of Tours; the date is about A.
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The epic poem of Beowulf has its source pretty far back, in the history of countries not very closely related to England. Yet the English hearers of the poem were expected to follow the allusions, and to be interested in the names and histories of Swedish, Gautish, and Danish kings. As if that was not enough, there is a story within the story—a poem of adventure is chanted by a minstrel at the Danish Court, and the scene of this poem is in Friesland. There is no doubt that it was a favourite subject, for the Frisian story is mentioned in the poem of Widsith, the Traveller; and more than that, there is an independent version of it among the few remains of Anglo-Saxon heroic poetry— The Fight at Finnesburh.
Those who listened to heroic songs in  England seem to have had no peculiar liking for English subjects. Their heroes belong to Germania. The same thing is found in Norway and Iceland, where the favourite hero is Sigurd. His story, the story of the Volsungs and Niblungs, comes from Germany. In Beowulf there is a reference to it—not to Sigfred himself, but to his father Sigemund.
Everywhere and in every possible way the old heroic poets seem to escape from the particular nation to which they belong, and to look for their subjects in some other part of the Teutonic system. In some cases, doubtless, this might be due to the same kind of romantic taste as led later authors to place their stories in Greece, or Babylon, or anywhere far from home. But it can scarcely have been so with Beowulf ; for the author of Beowulf does not try to get away from reality; on the contrary, he buttresses his story all round with historical tradition and references to historical fact; he will not let it go forth as pure romance.
The solid foundation and epic weight of Beowulf are not exceptional among the Anglo-Saxon poems. There are not many other poems extant of the same class, but there is enough to show that Beowulf is not alone. It is a representative work; there were others of the same type; and it is this order of epic poetry which makes the great literary distinction of the Anglo-Saxon period.
It is always necessary to remember how little we know of Anglo-Saxon poetry and generally of the ideas and imaginations of the early English. The gravity and dignity of most of their poetical works are unquestionable;  but one ought not to suppose that we know all the varieties of their poetical taste. It is probable that in the earlier Middle Ages, and in the Teutonic countries, there was a good deal of the fanciful and also of the comic literature which is so frequent in the later Middle Ages after and especially in France.
One proof of this, for the fanciful and romantic sort of story-telling, will be found in the earlier part of the Danish history written by Saxo Grammaticus. He collected an immense number of stories from Danes and Icelanders—one of them being the story of Hamlet—and although he was comparatively late writing at the end of the twelfth century , still we know that his stories belong to the North and are unaffected by anything French; they form a body of Northern romance, independent of the French fashions, of King Arthur and Charlemagne.
The English historians—William of Malmesbury, e. As for comic stories, there are one or two in careful Latin verse, composed in Germany in the tenth century, which show that the same kind of jests were current then as in the later comic poetry of France, in the Decameron of Boccaccio, and in the Canterbury Tales.
The earlier Middle Ages were more like the later Middle Ages than one would think, judging merely from the extant literature of the Anglo-Saxon period on the one hand and of the Plantagenet times on the other. But the differences are there, and one of the greatest is between the Anglo-Saxon fashion of epic poetry and the popular romances of the time of Edward I or Edward III.
The difference is brought out in many ways. This is the favourite sort of subject, and it is so because the poets were able thus to hit their audience again and again with increasing force; the effect they aimed at was a crushing impression of strife and danger, and courage growing as the danger grew and the strength lessened.
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Quite late in the Anglo-Saxon period—about the year —there is a poem on an English subject in which this heroic spirit is most thoroughly displayed: the poem on the Battle of Maldon which was fought on the Essex shore in between Byrhtnoth, alderman of East Anglia, and a host of vikings whose leader though he is not mentioned in the poem is known as Olaf Tryggvason. By the end of the tenth century Anglo-Saxon poetry had begun to decay.
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Yet the Maldon poem shows that it was not only still alive, but that in some respects it had made very remarkable progress. There are few examples anywhere of poetry  which can deal in a satisfactory way with contemporary heroes. In the Maldon poem, very shortly after the battle, the facts are turned into poetry—into poetry which keeps the form of the older epic, and which in the old manner works up a stronger and stronger swell of courage against the overwhelming ruin. The last word of the heroic age is spoken, five hundred years after the death of Hygelac above, p. It is one of the strange things in the history of poetry that in another five hundred years an old fashion of poetry, near akin to the Anglo-Saxon, comes to an end in a poem on a contemporary battle The last poem in the Middle English alliterative verse, which was used for so many subjects in the fourteenth century—for the stories of Arthur and Alexander and Troy, and for the Vision of Piers Plowman—is the poem of Scottish Field A.
This alliterative verse, which has a history of more than a thousand years, is one of the things that are carried over in some mysterious way from the Anglo-Saxon to the later medieval period. But though it survives the great change in the language, it has a different sound in the fourteenth century from what it has in Beowulf ; the older verse has a manner of its own. The Anglo-Saxon poetical forms are difficult at  first to understand.
The principal rule of the verse is indeed easy enough; it is the same as in the verse of Piers Plowman ; there is a long line divided in the middle; in each line there are four strong syllables; the first three of these are generally made alliterative; i. But there is a variety and subtilty in the Anglo-Saxon measure which is not found in the Middle English, and which is much more definitely under metrical rules. The Anglo-Saxon poets, at their best, are eloquent, and able to carry on for long periods without monotony.
Their verse does not fall into detached and separate lines. This habit is another evidence of long culture; Anglo-Saxon poetry, such as we know it, is at the end of its progress; already mature, and with little prospect in front of it except decay. The diction of Anglo-Saxon poetry is a subject of  study by itself. Here again there is a great difference between Anglo-Saxon and Middle English poetry. Middle English poetry borrows greatly from French.
Middle English generally copies French, and is generally unpretentious in its vocabulary. But Anglo-Saxon poetry was impossible without a poetical dictionary. It is very heavily ornamented with words not used in prose, and while there are hardly any similes, the whole tissue of it is figurative, and most things are named two or three times over in different terms. This makes it often very tiresome, when the meaning is so encrusted with splendid words that it can scarcely move; still more, when a poet does not take the trouble to invent his ornaments, and only repeats conventional phrases out of a vocabulary which he has learned by rote.
But those extravagances of the Anglo-Saxon poetry make it all the more interesting historically; they show that there must have been a general love and appreciation of fine language, such as is not commonly found in England now, and also a technical skill in verse, something like that which is encouraged in Wales at the modern poetical competitions, though certainly far less elaborate.
Further, these curiosities of old English verse make it all the more wonderful and admirable that the epic poets should have succeeded as they did with their stories of heroic resistance and the repeated waves of battle and death-agony. Tremendous subjects  are easily spoilt when the literary vogue is all for ornament and fine language.
Yet the Anglo-Saxon poets seldom seem to feel the encumbrances of their poetic language when they are really possessed with their subject. The eloquence of their verse then gets the better of their ornamental diction. The subjects of Anglo-Saxon poetry were taken from many different sources besides the heroic legend which is summarized by Widsith, or contemporary actions like the battle of Maldon. The conversion of the English to Christianity brought with it of course a great deal of Latin literature.
The new ideas were adopted very readily by the English, and a hundred years after the coming of the first missionary the Northumbrian schools and teachers were more than equal to the best in any part of Europe. The new learning did not always discourage the old native kind of poetry.
Medieval Lyric: Middle English Lyrics, Ballads, and Carols
Had that been the case, we should hardly have had anything like Beowulf ; we should not have had the poem of Maldon. Christianity and Christian literature did not always banish the old-fashioned heroes. Tastes varied in this respect. The Frankish Emperor Lewis the Pious is said to have taken a disgust at the heathen poetry which he had learned when he was young.
But there were greater kings who were less delicate in their religion. Alfred the Great, his Welsh biographer tells us, was always ready to listen to Saxon poems when he was a boy, and when he was older was fond of learning poetry by heart. He was bold enough to bring in a Northern hero in his translation of the Latin philosophical book of Boethius.
He is the original craftsman like Daedalus in Greece , the brother of the mythical archer Egil and the harper Slagfinn—the hero of one of the finest of the old Scandinavian poems, and of many another song and story. The royal genealogies in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle are an example of the conservative process that went on with regard to many of the old beliefs and fancies—a process that may be clearly traced in the poem of Beowulf —by means of which pre-Christian ideas were annexed to Christianity.
The royal house of England, the house of Cerdic, still traces its descent from Woden; and Woden is thirteenth in descent from Noah. Woden is kept as a king and a hero, when he has ceased to be a god. This was kindlier and more charitable than the alternative view, that the gods of the heathen were living devils. There was no destruction of the heroic poetry through the conversion of the English, but new themes were at once brought in, to compete with the old ones. His motive is different.
It is partly the same motive as that of King Alfred in his prose translations. Anglo-Saxon poetry, which had been heathen, Teutonic, concerned with traditional heroic subjects was drawn into the service of the other world without losing its old interests. Hence comes, apart from the poetical value of the several works, the historical importance of Anglo-Saxon poetry, as a blending of Germania , the original Teutonic civilization, with the ideas and sentiments of Christendom in the seventh century and after.
But while there was this common purpose in these  poems, there were as great diversities of genius as in any other literary group or school. Sometimes the author is a dull mechanical translator using the conventional forms and phrases without imagination or spirit. Sometimes on the other hand he is caught up and carried away by his subject, and the result is poetry like the Fall of the Angels part of Genesis , or the Dream of the Rood. These are utterly different from the regular conventional poetry or prose of the Middle Ages.
There is no harm in comparing the Fall of the Angels with Milton. The method is nearly the same: narrative, with a concentration on the character of Satan, and dramatic expression of the character in monologue at length.
The Dream of the Rood again is finer than the noblest of all the Passion Plays. It is a vision, in which the Gospel history of the Crucifixion is so translated that nothing is left except the devotion of the young hero so he is called and the glory; it is not acted on any historical scene, but in some spiritual place where there is no distinction between the Passion and the Triumph. In this way the spirit of poetry does wonderful things; transforming the historical substance. It is quite impossible to dismiss the old English religious poetry under any summary description.
Much of it is conventional and ordinary; some of it is otherwise, and the separate poems live in their own way. It is worth remembering that the manuscripts of the Dream of the Rood have a history which is typical of the history in general, the progress of Anglo-Saxon poetry, and the change of centre from Northumberland  to Wessex. The Ruthwell Cross with the runic inscription on it is thus one of the oldest poetical manuscripts in English, not to speak of its importance in other ways. The Ruthwell verses are Northumbrian.
They were at first misinterpreted in various ways by antiquaries, till John Kemble the historian read them truly. Some time after, an Anglo-Saxon manuscript was found at Vercelli in the North of Italy—a regular station on the old main road which crosses the Great St. Bernard and which was commonly used by Englishmen, Danes, and other people of the North when travelling to Rome. In this Vercelli book the Dream of the Rood is contained, nearly in full, but written in the language of Wessex—i.
The West Saxon verses of the Rood corresponding to the old Anglian of the Ruthwell Cross are an example of what happened generally with Anglo-Saxon poetry—the best of it in early days was Anglian, Northumbrian; when the centre shifted to Wessex, the Northern poetry was preserved in the language which by that time had become the proper literary English both for verse and prose. Cynewulf is an old English poet who has signed his name to several poems, extant in West Saxon. Seller Inventory More information about this seller Contact this seller. Book Description Wileyand ;Blackwell, New Book.
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