Old English Poetry

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Topics: Beowulf
Old English Poetry
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1. Beowulf - It is the conventional title of an Old English heroic epic poem consisting of 3182 alliterative long lines, set in Scandinavia, commonly cited as one of the most important works of Anglo-Saxon literature. It survives in a single manuscript known as the Nowell Codex. Its composition by an anonymous Anglo-Saxon poet is dated between the 8th and the early 11th century.

In the poem, Beowulf, a hero of the Geats in Scandinavia, comes to the help of Hrothgar, the king of the Danes, whose mead hall (Heorot) has been under attack by a being known as Grendel. After Beowulf slays him, Grendel's mother attacks the hall and is then also defeated. Victorious, Beowulf goes home to Geatland in Sweden and later becomes king of the Geats. After a period of fifty years has passed, Beowulf’s kingdom is terrorized by a dragon, and he sets out to slay the dragon, however he is fatally wounded in the battle and dies. After his death, his attendants bury him in a tumulus, a burial mound, in Geatland.

Concerning the history of Beowulf, an entire library worth of information has been gathered but scholars still differ too radically for us to express a positive judgment. This much, however, is clear, - that there existed, at the time the poem was composed, various northern legends of Beowa, a half-divine hero, and the monster Grendel. The latter has been interpreted in various ways, - sometimes as a bear, and again as the malaria of the marsh lands. However, the simplest interpretation of these myths is to regard Beowulf’s successive fights with the three dragons as the overcoming, first, of the overwhelming danger of the sea, which was beaten back by the dykes; second, the conquering of the sea itself, when men learned to sail upon it; and third, the conflict with the hostile forces of nature, which are overcome at last by man’s indomitable will and perseverance.

2. Widsith - Widsith is an Old English poem of 144 lines that

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