Thursday 5 July 2018

Anglo saxon Literature Notes,Poetry,epic poem,writers ,religious poetry

        Anglo-Saxons  Old English literature                        ( 5th Century-1066)

Anglo Saxon poetry language and literature
Anglo-saxons literature old English literature

                      Historical Background Of Anglo Saxon Literature

Aside from the pleasure of reading the study of literature has one definite object and that is to know men,so a reading of this early Anglo saxon  period and their poetry not only Makes us acquainted but also leads to a profound respect for the men who were our ancestors.

Before we study more of their, literature it is well to glance briefly at their life and language.
the anglo-saxons were a  people who inhabitant Great Britain from the 5th century originally the name Anglo Saxon denotes two of the three Germanic, tribes jutes, Angels and saxons.

Historically the Anglo Saxon period denotes the period in Britain about after their initial settlement and up until the Norman.

Angeln  was the home of one tribe and the name still clings to the spot from where some of our forefathers sailed on their momentous voyage.The Angels where the most numerous of the conquering tribes and from them the new home was called Anglalond by gradual changes this became the first Englelond and then England.

it was during the Anglo Saxon period Christianity was established and there was a flowering of literature and language ,this period also includes the creation of an English nation with many of the aspects that survive today including regional government of shires and hundreds. The term anglo-saxon is popularly used for the language that was spoken and written by the Anglo saxons in England and Eastern Scotland between mid 5th century and the mid 12th century. in scholarly use it is commonly called old English.

                         Anglo Saxon poetry

It was made up of poems and All the English poems  prior to the Norman conquest are included in Anglo Saxon literature those poems can be divided into two groups , Christian poetry and pagan .Pagan  group contains  Germanic sages, tales, legends etc. on the other side Christian group talked about the Bible the lives of the saints etc. the two groups co existed until the Norman conquest. The Pagan poetry came to end and the Christian poetry went on .The poetry of Anglo Saxon was unwritten which was divided into two groups Epic and lyric.

                  Anglo -saxon Epic poem

The most important pagan Epic poem is the Beowulf the earliest, greatest Epic ,or heroic poem in our literature. the poet writing this poem is anonymous ,but most Scholars place him in the Anglian Kingdom. 

Beowulf is a Scandinavian Saga. It was written by a scholar after an oral transmission. the poem has got two stories with the same Hero Beowulf a young man who helps the king of the danes against a monster, grendel in the first part Beowulf kills Grendel's and kills Grendel's mother in  the second part. it was written in dialect of wessex.

The rhythm of all our earliest poetry including Beowulf depended upon accent and alliteration ;that is the beginning of two or more words in the same line with the same sound or letter. the lines were made up of two short halves ,separated by a pause .No time was used,but a musical effect was produced by giving each half line two strongly accented syllables.

                  Anglo Saxon lyrical poetry

Anglo Saxon poetry old English literature
Anglo-Saxons poetry

The Anglo Saxon English poetry was unwritten .it consisted of songs and poems,mainly heroic in character ,which was handed over to one generation to another generation by the words of mouth.


The earliest of Anglo Saxon lyrical poem is WIDSITH ,was a poem of about 150 lines ,the author and date of its composition are unknown .The poem expresses the wondering life of the gleeman journey and experience in different places.The poem records the poet's own experience and emotions and to some extent it is a glorification of his own self

                               Deor's Lament

Deor's lament or complain of deor is more lyrical than widsith ,Deor's lament is about the complain against his unjust dismissal from the favour of lord by a rival poet.This poem marks a definite progresses of the lyrical approach of Anglo-saxons poetry.The lyrical note is however , specially dominated in certain elegies of early days.these poems are all marked with the sense of melancholy.

Poems like The Ruin ,The seafarer ,The wanderer,The wife's complain ,The husband's message are specific instances in their respect ,all the mentioned poems contain lamentations for the loss of certain things.Poetic techniques ,graphic , imagery and harmonious melody are the important features of lyrical poetry.

     Anglo Saxon Religious poetry(8th Century)

By the 8th century,the techniques of Anglo Saxon heroic poetry were being applied to purely Christian themes and it was because of the christianising of the Anglo Saxon which had far reaching effects on their literature.
Even Beowulf is suffused to christain lessons and biblical references . After all The fountain of literacy and education in the anglo-saxons was the church .the christain element in Beowulf and other heroic or the lyric poems of the old English  poetry is responsible for savings from 'oblivian' .

Most of the religious  poem of old English like -Exodus ,Andreas, Judith are derivative and based on famous stories from the christain mythology or from Bible.A very few of them seem to be original including the masterpiece named The Dream Of The Road.

The four Anglo Saxon christain poems which have the name of Cynewulf walked into them in arostic form are "Christ" , "Julian ", Elene ",and "Fates of the Apostles" all these poems posses both a high degree of literary craftsmanship and a note of mystical contemplation which sometimes rises to a high level of religious passion.

   Christain writers of the anglo-saxons period

Venerable Bede

most important of his works
"Ecclesiastical history of the English people"


The greatest work attributed to Caedmon is the so called Paraphrase.


The only signed poems of Cynewulf are the Christ ,Juliana ,The fates of the Apostles and elene.

Alfred (849-901)

Alfred is chiefly known as a translator.his important translation are  four in number : Orosius's universal history and geography,the leading work in general history for several centuries, Bede's history.
More important than any translation is the English or Saxon chronicle .

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