Wednesday 1 April 2020

Aelfric , Alfred , Wulfstan contribution to Anglo-Saxon prose , English literature notes


Aelfric , Alfred , Wulfstan contribution to Anglo-Saxon prose , English literature notes

Contribution of Aelfric to Anglo-saxon prose

of the makers of Anglo-Saxon prose , the name of Aelfric comes next to that of Alfred . A solid foundation for Anglo-Saxon Prose was laid by Alfred , and Aelfric added to it perfection and force . While Alfred gave it strength and durability, Aelfric enriched it with grace and lucidity . His contribution to growth of English prose was really remarkable . Aelfric as he himself has admitted , was a pupil of the monastic school, founded by Aethelwold at Abingdon. The exact year of his birth is not known , but , from his own account , his association with the Cathedral at Winchester is well evident he was a scholar , and had a religious training but Alfred had no such scholarship or training. Consequently , Aelfric style was much more impressive and learned than Alfred's .

Of the exact nature of Aelfric's work , little is actually known. It is supposed that he wrote in the first year the eleventh century. Of his writing colloquium and catholic homilies deserves particular mention , and they have established his name as one of architects of Anglo-Saxon prose .
Colloquium of Aelfric is meant for teaching atin by conservation. This is conceived in quite interesting way . The conversation is between the teacher , a novice and a number of persons Representating different trades and occupations. Catholic homilies consists of the compilation and translations made by him from the works of the celebrated churchmen. It comprises 120 homilies in three groups of forty , meant for those men to read who do not know Latin. The three series of forty Sermons each and the commemorations of various saints, venerated by the catholic church from the whole work. These homilies exhibit Aelfric style in it maturity his rhythmic and alliterative expression , no doubt, cause Monotory in their excesses, but they closely akin to the ballad verse were very attractive to lay audience. To Aelfric credit may be given also for the compilation of Vocabulary which is a crude of Latin-English Dictionary.

Aelfric , Alfred , Wulfstan contribution to Anglo-Saxon prose , English literature notes

Aelfric contribution to Anglo-Saxon prose is manifest mainly in two ways.

 In the first place it is expressed through his attempt to instruct Latin to his people , His Colloquium and Latin-English dictionary are indeed, notable efforts in this direction. 

In the second place, Aelfric is found to have immensely enriched the style of of Anglo-Saxon prose. In this connection the prose style of Aelfric need to be mentioned and assessed.

Aelfric prose unlike Alfred's is intended for speaking, Naturally it has a conversational style, full of impulse and sonority. Its character is different from the prose of the translation of Bede's work. Aelfric prose is essentially poetic more or less balanced and frequently alliterative giving them the swing of metrical.
The poetic prose of Aelfric is definately a gem in Anglo-Saxon literature. It marks a great advance on the English prose which Alfred had brought into existance. It is remarkably clear, pointed and lucid. There is much less awkwardness or obscurity in Aelfric writings which attain a very great extent, beauty spontaniety and harmony.
Aelfric is generally taken as the greatest prose writer of Anglo-Saxon period. He is also honoured as the most distinguished thelogian prose writer. He deserves a high admiration for his simple yet forceful mode of instructing christian percepts. His influence on English prose is found to last long even after his death, probably in 1020 .


 In the political history of the Anglo-Saxon, Alfred is a renowned name. He was a national hero who first unified the English nation and inspired in them a feelings of Nationalism. Alfred is also a great name in the history of Anglo-Saxon literature. No other single name of that remote period has so much contribution to the development of Anglo-Saxon literature. It is to him that English prose owes its origin and stupendous success. It is due to his untiring efforts that the loose, detached , unformed prose of the period became a solid, robust and graceful edifice. After his victory against the Danes, Alfred, a wise king as he was , set himself to the task of reanimating and reconstructing his people who had sunk into the depths of barbarism and ignorance, orderly , disciplined and cultured, he devoted himself who heartedly to improve their literary ideal and intellectual and cultural standard of course , Alfred name is mainly connected with Anglo-Saxon prose ,and his contribution to its growth is beyond any exaggeration. 

Alfred contribution to the development of Anglo-Saxon prose is marked in a three fold ways-

First, he helped the development of the Anglo-Saxon chronicle or simply the chronicle which was the first true specimen of the Anglo-Saxon prose.

Second, he initiated and encouraged the English translation of certain great Latin work .

Third , he himself wrote and thereby contributed to the growth of Anglo-Saxon prose.

Before Alfred, The Anglo-Saxon chronicle was nothing but a loose and detached record of the birth of certain king and the history of their warfare.
It was Alfred's sincere efforts and spontaneous enthusiasm that immensely contributed to the growth of the Anglo-Saxon chronicle as the first monumental work of English prose. Alfred was supposed to have written some portions of the chronicles , but what more to did was to raise the formless chronicles to the immortality of the first national history of a western nation in its own language. The considerable part that Alfred played in the literary movement of the time is most singularly marked in his landable enterprise to translate their classical works  which seemed to him apt to civilize and improve his people . Bede a great scholar of the age traced the history of the religious development of England in religious literature of all ages , his importance is an admitted fact. By bringing out the translation of Bede's work Alfred tried to instill into his ignorant people the truly christian morality.


Anglo-Saxon prose had its solid basic under the pioneering achievement of the great English King. It had further development and received an artistic growth at the hand of Aelfric a great artist in the Anglo-Saxon prose style. Aelfric followed by another prose writer. He was Wulfstan a churchman who like Aelfric was a scholar and possessed of a rich and impetuous prose style.

Wulfstan like Aelfric , was an artist and he added to the growth of the forceful impulsive English prose style. His letter addressed to the English is acclaimed still now as  a remarkable specimen of Anglo-Saxon prose . These reveals his patriotic zeal as well as impulsive mode of writing . The letter is a passionate and patriotic exhortation to the English nation to stand against the aggression of the savage Danes , Wulfstan's another remarkable work is Homilies, which contains like Aelfric ,rich instructive , sermons given out in a telling manner that easily impresses and convinces the audience .

Wulfstan was an inspired author-a christian as well as patriot. He is found to have a style, vigorous and penetrative and here he may well be placed by the side of Aelfric . His style masked with both Sincerity and Impulsiveness. Of course, Wulfstan has not the all pervasive magnificance of Aelfric ,as a prose writer and stand inferior to him in this respect. But his mighty of Presenting matters , vigorously and impressively remains an asset in the history of Anglo-Saxon prose , indeed , in the making of Anglo-Saxon prose, Wulfstan contribution must not be at all ignored.


Anglo-Saxon Poetry Characteristics   Anglo-Saxon Literature notes

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