Saturday 4 April 2020

7 Major Anglo-Saxon poetry , old english poetry

7 Major Anglo-Saxon poetry , old english poetry
7 of the Major Anglo-Saxon poetry

Major Anglo-Saxon poetry analysis and summary

Following poems are the 7 major poems of Anglo-Saxon

The Ruined Burg or The Ruin

The Ruined or the Ruined Burg is usually claimed as one of the Memorable productions of the Anglo-Saxon poetic inspiration. Stands out as a most representative piece of Anglo-Saxon elegies with a clear and pointed elegiac note of course the character of the poem, as elegy differs from what is seen in other elegies ,it mourns not the misfortunes of a person , but of a place not for the death of a person loved, but for the ruin of a place that has a nostalgic ardour .

The subject-matter of the poem is the lamentation of the unknown Anglo-Saxon poet for the vanished glory of a great city the ruins of which stand before him. The city referred to , is very probably the roman built city of Bath. The Anglo-Saxon poet of "The Ruin" laments impulsively over the end of the glorious city of the past. First, he describes the ancient gorgeous buildings , now deserted and turned roofless the tottering, next he goes to muse on their great past, when they were richly adorned and crowded with noble princess and proud warriors. Finally, he makes out the sad contrast from the awful decline of the ruined city, he mourns deeply for the loss of its pomp and splendor, crowd and noise attraction and business. All those are gone forever. There is left nothing but the sad mutability of grandeur and splendor , gory and color , so ruthlessly changed by the ravages of times.
The elegy ends with a plaintive note of reflection on the unkindness of fate to that populous and prosperous city of a remote past. The ruin or the Ruined burg need be ranked with the first pieces of Anglo-Saxon poetry. It significance is noted in several ways .

In the first place , it is an impressive elegy , and echoes the modern elegiac note that muses on the way of the world and its tragedy.
In the second place, the ruin stands out prominently as a piece of personal poetry.

In the third place thoroughly rich in descriptive details. In institutes graphic comparison between the past glory and present degeneration of a renowned city .

The Wanderer

The work of an unknown Anglo-Saxon poet is one of the earliest Anglo-Saxon elegies rather of a considerable length of about 115 lines. It is of course , less popular and admired than the Seafarer or The Ruin . Nevertheless, as an Example of the Earliest English elegies , it has no insignificant position in the history of Anglo-Saxon literature . It is found to achieved a superb synthesis of dry realism, Emotional intensity and spiritual peace.
The subject matter of this is the lamentation of a young man for his dead master . The mourner at one time a thane in the service of a generous lord is now turned into a weary Wanderer , bereft of his dear lord and adrift on a frozen and wide sea. The wanderer travels in a ship, alone and friendless , seeking a home for peace and perfection. His fervent love for his dead lords leads him to dream in sleep of his union with him. He seems to go back to the days when his lord was still alive to bestow honor and gifts on him in the great mead hall. He dreams to place once again his head and hands on his Lord's knee to pledge his loyality to him as in days gone by. But to his utter astonishing and despair The Wanderer wakes up on a cold and lonely sea and finds himself still haunted with the pang of his separation from his Kind Lord. He looks before and after and hears us word of greetings or love to quieten or gladden his heart. The poem , however , concludes with a social consolation drawn from the vicissitudes of human life and all around destruction that has inevitably overtaken the world.

".... Those days are long spend
In the Night of the past as if they never had been"

The Wanderer, along with the Ruin, is a piece of personal elegy. The Poet's lamentation is impulsive and genuine out a truly, subjective note, which is always the chief trait of out a lyrical poetry. Again an essentially elegiac spirit is forcefully echoed in it, and may well be likened to the grief of Lord Tennyson in his immortal elegy in Memoriam. The philosophie aspect of the poem has a likeness with Tennyson's memorable elegy .
Of course, in descriptive details. The Poem lags behind the Seafarer or the Ruin . Nevertheless . The picturesque aspect of Anglo-Saxon poetry is not missed in this work. Morever as a poem on the sea and sealife. The Wanderer Stands just beneath the Seafarer . In fact , of the poem which have rich contribution of the making of Anglo-Saxon elegiac poetry. The Wanderer articulary , a name to be reckoned with.


The place of the earliest known Anglo-Saxon poem is attributed to Widsith. The works rather of a pagan tradition but it remains quite interesting for a modern reader. The unknown Anglo-Saxon Poet of Widsith has definately displayed the very nature as well as outlook of Pre-Christian Anglo-Saxon poetry .
 Widsith is a short poem rather a song , it records the experience and sensations of a traveller who has wanderer Widsith or the far wanderer has travelled widely among different tribes and race and come across different tribal chiefs and princely rulers . The Wanderer gives a list of the tribal princess with whom he was acquainted and who had given him rich presents. Some of these princess like king of the Goths, King of the Huns and Albon, kings of the Lombards and Theodrik, King of Franks are historical figures references, are also made to Hrothgar and Hrothwulf and their victory over Ingel, an incident mentioned in Beowulf the poet also describes the rituals and the social manners and customs of different primitive people, it further contains some details about the Wandering ministrels of Primitive times. In short, Widsith is a record of remote teutonic world .
 Widsith is a valuable piece of the social documents of primitive life and times in Britain . It has no doubt , a historical and legendry character . But the historical elements , recorded in it , are Seldom accurates Widsith, in fact is plainly no historical work , but a typical document of primitive socities and social life. The importance of the poem mainly lies in its social aspects. The work contains too much of the rites and customs , habits and manners of the teutonic people of the past .
Widsith is also rich in descriptive details and may be characterized as the first parent of the descriptive English poems, like Byran's Childe Harold's pilgrimage. In its enumeration of different primitive princess and lords , the poem , though not an Epic itself , contains much matter common with Epic poetry. Yet, Widsith bears a deal of lyrical notes in the poets subjective description and rejections. Morever the unknown poet's concluding glorification of his craft is strongly personal and at the same time, synthesizes individuality and universality. All these are definately lyrical features .


one of the earliest lays of the Anglo-Saxon period is the complaint of Deor. This is like Widsith poet by bord of course unlike the wandering bord , Widsith but it is much shorter , only for 52 lines and in its general tone strikes a short contrast .
The complaint of Deor has a theme different from Widsith. It is all about the complaint of a bord who had a lovish lord who loved him and enriched him with gold and lands. Deor , however has fortune and he is ousted from the favour of hid lord by rival poet. The poem is the poets complaint of his fortune and a wrong dismissal from his Lord's court. The poem , however ends with the consolatory message derived by Deor from thought of the habitual unkindness of fate and his belief that adversity will wear off in course of time .
Along with Widsith, the complaint of Deor indicate the degree of advancement of old English Poetry in a sense , the poem is an advancement upon Widsith. Widsith is mainly descriptive though it has come subjective touches, particularly at the End Deor's complaint is mainly subjective and reflective and in his respect , it may well be taken as the earliest of English lyrical poetry.
The Complaint of Deor belongs essentially to the heathenic world. Though it seems to contain christian interpolation here and there , as in the stowal surrender to the unkindness of fate it remains plainly heathenic in sentiment  .


Anglo-Saxon poetry , as it is found today, contains a collection of Riddles, ninety-five in all. These riddles stand out apart from the other specimen to Anglo-Saxon poetry. They are generally attributed to Cynewulf , although there is hardly any convincing evidence in support of such a conjecture it is supposed that those riddles , found in Exter book , were inspired by a similar collection of Latin riddles by sympohsius. Aldheim was the first English writer to a climatise Latin riddles in English.
Riddles are intellectual exercises to exhibit as well as test wit and sagacity . They are intended only to provoke attention and sharpen wit . They are of a short length. The Anglo-Saxon riddles are , however , different from the conventional Latin riddles. They are not the poetic bits of wits and intellegence. They are rather the true poems of varying and occasionally considerable length, they lack the courtly percussion of the conventional lyric and cannot technically called lyrics.
The Anglo-Saxon riddles are the pieces of poetry rather of an uneven length and of an unequal quality. They deal with a number of subjects animals, especially domestic animals natural phenomena astronomical bodies , different tools and instruments and weapons. Customs and so on. Some of these riddles describe the animals and the birds and their bodily features the Nightiangle , the swan , the bull etc .
The Anglo-Saxon riddles as they are found hardly original . They have been made rather christian by their christian editors .
The Riddles are often found obscure and vague and their effect in some cases becomes worrisome .


The seafarer is an ellegiac poem found in the exeter book. The poem is composed in the form of a monologue uttered by an old sailor who narrated the hardships and the lonely fascination that the sea has for the sailors. The poem appears to be structured in distinct sections, they cursed revealing hardship of ocean life and the second suggesting the subtle attraction of the sea. The second sections appeals to be an allegory which symbolically presents troubles of the seamen , representing  the hardship of life . The fascination of the Sea is suggested of the desire of the soul to respond to the call of God. The soul desires to go on its way to its way to its true home kingdom of God.
It is however uncertain whether the last section was appended by a christian monk or whether a sea-loving christian composed it some critics believed that the two sections of the poem can be read together and as  a dialogue between an old sailor and an over enthusiastic young Mariner. The old sailor emphasis upon the hardship of the sea facing life against the strong arguement of the young men who is anxious to launch on a sailor carrier . The young man is fascinated by the hardship associated with this way of the poem can be interpreted both from the religious as well as secular point of view . The shifting moods of the poem becomes more impressive if taken as the alternation of weariness and fascination in the same person . The poem concludes with the conventional religious sentiments exhibiting a strong element of regret self pity and melancholy born out of an understanding and realisation what life is ephemeral.

The Dream of the Rood

The dream of the rood belongs to the Cynewulf school of religious poetry and was probably composed in the late nineteen century it is remarkable for being didactic devotional and mystical in tone and style . It is the oldest surviving English poem in the form of a dream or vision. The dreamer describes this vision of the bright cross which was brilliantly adorned with gems. he then proceeds to recount the speech the cross or the rood narrates its origin in the forest its removal and its subsequent transformation into a cross for Christ it tells of its horrors at the role it had to play and determination to stand fast because that was God's command. The suffering of Christ is narrated as he ascends the loss for the redemption mankind . The entire narration is done using verse charged with simple eloquence religious passion and wonder . The speech concludes by exhorting every soul to seek the king of god through the cross. The poem concludes with the dreamer giving an account of his own religious hopes.


Anglo-Saxon Poetry Characteristics         Anglo-Saxon Literature notes

Major theme of old english                       Contribution of Alfric ,Alfred to Anglo-Saxon prose

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