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The Wanderer: an Old English Elegy

Old English poetry: form, affinities with Anglo-Saxon visual art; 'Wanderer': form and content

richard dury

on 6 April 2018

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Transcript of The Wanderer: an Old English Elegy

The Wanderer:
an Old English elegy

Old English
language of Germanic settlers of Britain
5th - mid-12th cent.
Old English
language of Germanic settlers of Britain
5th - mid-12th cent.
Old English poetry
Structure: simple but intricate
Metre: simple binary structure
2 half-lines
each half-line has 2 stressed syllable
2 (or 3) of the line's stressed syllable linked by alliteration
Binary metre
similar to the metre of
nursery rhymes and rap music
Skill, intricacy
Anglo-Saxon art (jewellery, illuminated manuscripts) was also intricate and sophisticated
Anglo-Saxon poetry was intricate: a display of linguistic ability
Illuminated manuscripts
Sutton Hoo treasure (early 7th century)
Lindisfarne Gospels (early 8th century)
thoughts of an exile on
present hard and lonely life
past glories (in his lord's band of warriors),
idea that all things must pass
faith in the heavenly Lord
lines linked by repeated meaning
half-lines linked by repeated sounds
typical German poetry
Pagan elements
'wyrd' ('fate'): 'wyrd bið ful aræd!' (Fate is fully determined)
Transitoriness of life, without a protective God:
Mixture of pagan and Christian elements
Germanic culture
importance of sea-travel: 'hrimcealde sae' ('ice-cold sea'), 'fealwe wegas' ('dark waves')
Roman buildings: 'enta geweorc' (giants' work)
Loyalty to lord: 'goldwine' (gold-friend), 'wynedrihten' (friendly lord)
Loyalty to brother-warriors: 'selesecgas' (hall-warriors), 'leofre duguþe' (beloved band of warriors)
Cultural context
the most famous Old English poem is . . .
It tells the story of the hero Beowulf
It's a . . . poem
a narrative poem
tells a story
a lyric poem
expresses feelings, emotions, and thoughts of a single person
an elegy
a formal lyric poem
laments a death or something that has vanished
Beowulf's heroic adventures
The Wanderer
Anglo-Saxon poetry:
narrative and lyrical
Full transcript