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The other noticeable styles found in Anglo-Saxon poetry are kenning, variation, and litotes. They used to sing ballads whenever they had good deal of hunting or they returned from a war having defeated the enemy in the battlefield. It was not an organised effort but random. Among the gleeful crowd, any of them could cry out loud a random verse and the rest would say it after him rhythmically and some more lines could be added by others as well. This pattern inclined them towards the composition of complete ballads.

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They even became professionals who made their living by roaming around the villages singing the legendary ballads or their own composed ones. Later on, these minstrels also served at courts of the kings and sang the heroic ballads for the warriors to entertain them. Since it was completely oral, the work is lost.

But those popular ballads and minstrel poetry gradually developed into epic poetry because it passed on to others through word-of-mouth and other poets added into the poetry. It has an intentional effort to be vague and mysterious. Variation Variation is a repetition of a word used earlier in the verse with a different word. Litotes Litotes is a type of oral irony. It was used similarly used in the case of the understatement.

Litotes aims to intensify the feeling in the poetry. The following themes and subjects are commonly found in Anglo-Saxon literary works: Battle, war, warriors; seas; storms; ravens; eagles; wolves; death, dying; fate, destiny; nobles, rulers; weapons and armor. It started as pagan and then evolved to Christian religious poetry and from oral to manuscript.

Therefore it gathered numerous genres in it. Heroic Poetry The Anglo-Saxons were ever ready to fight and go top the war. It was their in their blood to look for battles. The warriors were entertained by the poets when they came back from a war being triumph. The poets told them the stories of heroes, gallantry, valor, etc.

Waldere is another heroic poem dealing with the life of Walter of Aquitaine. Widsith is also a heroic one pertaining to Eormanric and the Goths from 4th century. Moreover Anglo-Saxon Chronicle has heroic poems. They were so influenced by this heroic poetry that they thought of turning Gospel into heroic poetic manner.

Elegiac Poetry The elegiac poems describe wisdom and the ups and downs of life. The Exeter Book has a numerous poems which fall under the category of elegies.

Old English period : Anglo-Saxon period

Beowulf Beowulf is the longest, oldest and a complete surviving epic poem consisting of verses in Anglo-Saxon literature. It was made as an oral composition and it is rich in formulas. It was actually conceived in AD and then turned into a manuscript by a Christian poet in c. The real creator of this epic poem is unknown.

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The poem is heroic work, but also displays human wisdom, honour, loyalty, and destiny. The poem describes the heroic acts of Beowulf who comes save the King Hrothgar and his people from a fierce monster, Grendel. In a massive action, Beowulf kills the monster and then his revenge-seeking monster mother as well. When he returns, he, after some time becomes the king his own tribe.

He finally meets his death fighting against fire-breathing dragon which has become a plague to his people, for somebody has stolen a piece of treasure he is guarding. Beowulf is given a royal burial. Dream of the Rood The dream of the rood is the classical poem written in the form of traditional riddle style.

The Cross tells the event of Crucifixion. The poem plays a significant because it guides people and lead to the righteous path. Battle of Maldon Battle of Maldon is a heroic poem of verses. It tells about the celebration of Earl Byrhtnoth and his people who fell in a combat against the Vikings in It is regarded as one of the most excellent works.

Old English Literature - British and Irish Literature - Oxford Bibliographies

But its beginning and end are lost. It is about celebration of the triumph of King Athelstan against the Scots and Norse. The Wanderer The Wanderer is about the life of an old man who witnesses an assault which took place when he was young. His close friends and relatives were murdered in the attack. The memories imprint on his mind. Then the old wise man gets involved in warfare to protect society.

The only hope of salvation is the ecstasy of heaven. Bede, Cademon, King Alfred and Cynewulf. Aldhelm Aldhelm is the first recognized English poet. He was the bishop of Sherborne and founder of Malmesbury. He was a learned man and skilled at writing religious and social, and political issues. He used to say verses extemporarily on a harp standing on a bridge leading to Malmesbury so that his flock did not stray. He was exalted by St. Bede for his multifarious works. It is assumed that here the flock in fact refers to astray people not to the sheep.

He wrote sermons, treatise, and an epistle for his godson, King Aldfrith. Bede St. The essays in this collection offer modern readers some avenues of ac- cess to the study of Old English; focusing on the texts that are often en- countered in an introductory or second-semester Old English class, they are meant to provoke discussion, answer questions, provide background, and occasionally startle the reader into appreciation for the complexity and energy of Anglo-Saxon studies.

Some essays provide a historical frame- work for general reading, while others discuss a single text in some detail. In addition to generous amounts of information and critical analysis, each essay provides an exemplary model of how contemporary readers grapple with these old, fragmented, and sometimes mysterious texts.


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A number of the essays investigate common themes that are, I believe, ultimately related—the creation of English national identity, the uses of texts and the nature of literacy, the idea of the individual subject as an entity enmeshed in, yet separate from, its culture. These themes recur in these es- says because they recur in the texts we read, and because they are, perhaps, the fundamental questions of all literary history: who are these people who wrote these books?

What were they trying to say, and to whom?

A New Critical History of Old English Literature

What made them write, and what consequences did this writing have? And what do we do when we assign boundaries to literary periods and group texts in anthologies and editions? Whose interests do we serve? What responsibil- ity do we have to these texts, what obligations to our own place in history? When we engage with seriousness and reverence and humility in a deep contemplation of the literature of any vanished age, we eventually commit ourselves to a particular view of time and the self that is, ultimately, authen- ticating and affirming of both our shared humanity and our cultural contin- gency.

We acknowledge the distance between ourselves and the past even as we accept the connections that inevitably bind us to the writers and readers of another age. We explore the difference between one culture and a tem- porally remote other, while affirming by virtue of our very exploration that there is a history of the human subject in its cultural setting whose develop- ment we can read and understand—there is a thread, however tenuous, that leads from there to here.

We shape these texts by studying them, editing them, preserving them, interpreting them; they shape us no less thoroughly by the long perspective they take on our own cultural enterprises and ex- pectations, and by the way we use them to validate, challenge, support, or escape from the present order of things.

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We know the reading habits of the Anglo-Saxons primarily from the physical remains of their texts, from early runic inscriptions to eleventh- century vernacular homiletic anthologies, but we do not generally know how, when, by whom, or under what circumstances these texts were read. Charters and other pieces of documentary evidence, as Kelly presents them, preserve the outlines of social interac- tions and situated uses of written language, and in their remains we may discern the history of a developing reliance on records and texts.

Charters, primarily ecclesiastical instruments, also reveal the close interdependence of royal bureaucracy and monastic and episcopal establishments—clerics provided the transcribers and the repositories of records, kings provided patronage and security and the grants of land that, typically, charters record.

Ownership of land came to be associated with textual author- ity: more detailed records came to be kept of large estates and in some sense came to represent those estates—culminating in the great Norman survey of the Domesday book, which, it could be argued, is the greatest triumph of the Anglo-Saxon secular bureaucracy.

We cannot understand the purpose or meaning of any Old English text until we consider the reasons for its de- position in writing and the people who might have read it; these basic ques- tions of context and audience underlie all interpretive activity.