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Anglo-Saxon Society: a brief overview
Transcript of Anglo-Saxon Society: a brief overview
Anglo-Saxon cultural structure
Those who pray ------> monks, clergy
Those who fight ------> nobles, chiefs, lords
Those who work -------> everybody else (peasants, slaves, etc.)
(sometimes women = 4th Estate)
non-literate culture: stories shared orally
Poetry/songs = presentation of collective memory of events; performance of the past made present in the singing
scop (pronounced shope): poet/bard/singer
--> consider similarities with "shaper" as a creator
Secular (non-religious) poetic topics
Devotion to your human Lord
Anglo-Saxon elegy (lament)
Preserved in the Exeter Book - a massive collection of Anglo-Saxon poetry
Exeter Book = about 975 CE
Poem probably composed orally much earlier
"Those who fight"
To your kin (family / blood-relations); to your lord
Vassal structure: allegiance owed to lord; fight for him in exchange for his protection and group belonging.
"Kin" = root of "king"
Lord = from Old English "hlaf" (loaf) and "weard" (ward or protector)
Society based on gift-giving: your lord was your "ring giver"
Blood feud = social duty / requirement
wergild = "man price"
Tension = heroic code with Christian worldview --> blending of worldviews in poetry/literature
Poem written in elegiac meter: hexameter and pentameter lines
Sustained lament in verse for a death
Anglo-Saxon elegiac subject matter: change and loss, death, exile, transcience of worldly things
The Anglo-Saxon war-band: a king and his retainers (his loyal men)
Base structure of noble society
Main problem / source of tension in "The Wanderer"
Latin: "where are they?"
Poetic technique of reflection in A-S poetry
Survivors or lone warriors mourn the loss of normalcy or a tribe / group
Anglo-Saxon: "freoþuwebbe" or "friþwebbe"
woman married into a different tribe - political move
loyalty = family or husband?
The Wife's Lament
female speaker (grammatical proof)
Likely male composer/writer
Anglo-Saxon retelling of Biblical story
Anonymous poet (vs. 10th century prose translation by abbot Ælfric)
key = moments of cultural blending / tension