Anglo Saxon Heroic Poetry

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S.B. Anglo- Saxon Heroic Poetry Anglo Saxon Heroic poetry is the nearest one can get to the oral pagan literature of the Heroic age of Germania. Of surviving Anglo-Saxon literature, Heroic poetry brings modern readers most closely into contact with the Germanic origins of the invaders of Britain. This is written in Old English or Anglo-Saxon. The verse used is usually alliterative and stressed, is without any rhyme. Each line contains four stressed syllables with a varying number of unstressed ones. The stressed alliterative verse of AngloSaxon poetry is clearly the product of an oral court minstrelsy – being intended to be recited by the scop who frequented the halls of kings and chiefs and sometimes even found service under one master. One of the earliest surviving Anglo-Saxon Heroic poems, dating somewhere around the 8th Century, is the Widsith, an autobiographical record of a scop. Widsith, the ‘far wanderer’ narrates his travels through the Germanic world and mentions all the rulers he visits. Some of his characters figure in other poems, like Beowulf and Hrothgar. But it cannot be said to be a true autobiography as the span of kings covered, converts his living period to over two hundred years. Beowulf holds special position in Anglo-Saxon literature as it is not only the single complete epic found but also nowhere else is the traditional theme presented against a background revealing the culture and society of the Germanic people. It falls into two main parts, the first dealing with the visit of Beowulf to the court of King Hrothgar of Denmark to slay the man-eating monster, Grendel and is successful in his job. The second part starts fifty years later, when Beowulf the king of the Geats fights the last battle of his life against a dragon. It ends with description of Beowulf’s funeral. On the surface, Beowulf is a heroic poem celebrating the exploits of a great warrior, one who reflects the ideals of the Heroic age. But Beowulf is also a record of marvels,...
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