Christian and Pagan Aspects in Beowulf

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Beowulf is an epic poem with pagan origins, yet it is rife with Christian elements. The second quotation from the first part assigns fate as the ruler of all men, a distinctly non-Christian view. Additionally, the gaining of earthly treasures as rewards for virtuous conduct, here the spoils from a defeated enemy, is not heroic in any Christian sense.

Christians advocate the advancement of spiritual rather than worldly treasure. By seeking worldly fame rather than eternal salvation, Beowulf is clearly motivated by a pagan value system.

The imagery, actions, and symbols of Beowulf operate from a still extant pagan viewpoint. The poem is filled with monsters, weapons with magical powers, races of giants, and references to Norse gods.

The Christianizing process was done to add Christian moral anecdotes to make the poem more acceptablt to a society that was changing from the old pagan ways to a new Christian order. The appeal of the poem lies, however, in the poignancy of Beowulf's glorious rise to power and his ultimate loss of his life in confronting the dragon. Although steeped in pagan belief, this classic offers interesting insights into human life in modern society.

Related to the pagan world view of Beowulf and his fellow warriors is the limitations on life. Wise counsel preaches all to remember their mortality as a warning against excessive pride.

It is possible for a learned reader to learn Old English well enough to move on to an Old English text. Old English poetry has no stanzaic form and no end rhyme, except by accident.

Each half-line has two strong stresses. Alliteration occurs only on stressed syllables. The first stress of the second trochaic hexametric dithyramb conjoins with the third sequential spondee in a manner most resembling harp playing in a summer breeze.

Old English poems contain clearly defined stress patterns, with weak and strong stresses bunched in accordance to their penultimate strength...
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