In addition to verbal formulas, many themes have been shown to appear among the various works of Anglo-Saxon literature. The theory proposes to explain this fact by suggesting that the poetry was composed of formulae and themes from a stock common to the poetic profession, as well as literary passages composed by individual artists in a more modern sense.
Larry Benson introduced the concept of "written-formulaic" to describe the status of some Anglo-Saxon poetry which, while demonstrably written, contains evidence of oral influences, including heavy reliance on formulas and themes. Among the most thoroughly documented themes is "The Hero on the Beach". Crowne  first proposed this theme, defined by four characteristics:. One example Crowne cites in his article is that which concludes Beowulf's fight with the monsters during his swimming match with Breca:.
Crowne drew on examples of the theme's appearance in twelve Anglo-Saxon texts, including one occurrence in Beowulf. It was also observed in other works of Germanic origin, Middle English poetry, and even an Icelandic prose saga. John Richardson held that the schema was so general as to apply to virtually any character at some point in the narrative, and thought it an instance of the "threshold" feature of Joseph Campbell 's Hero's Journey monomyth.
Dane, in an article  characterised by Foley as "polemics without rigour"  claimed that the appearance of the theme in Ancient Greek poetry, a tradition without known connection to the Germanic, invalidated the notion of "an autonomous theme in the baggage of an oral poet. The Old English poetry which has received the most attention deals with the Germanic heroic past.
The longest at 3, lines, and the most important, is Beowulf , which appears in the damaged Nowell Codex. Beowulf relates the exploits of the hero Beowulf, King of the Weder-Geats or Angles , around the middle of the 5th century. The author is unknown, and no mention of Britain occurs. Scholars are divided over the date of the present text, with hypotheses ranging from the 8th to the 11th centuries. Other heroic poems besides Beowulf exist. Two have survived in fragments: The Fight at Finnsburh , controversially interpreted by many to be a retelling of one of the battle scenes in Beowulf , and Waldere , a version of the events of the life of Walter of Aquitaine.
Two other poems mention heroic figures: Widsith is believed to be very old in parts, dating back to events in the 4th century concerning Eormanric and the Goths , and contains a catalogue of names and places associated with valiant deeds. Deor is a lyric, in the style of Consolation of Philosophy , applying examples of famous heroes, including Weland and Eormanric, to the narrator's own case. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle contains various heroic poems inserted throughout. The line poem The Battle of Maldon celebrates Earl Byrhtnoth and his men who fell in battle against the Vikings in It is considered one of the finest, but both the beginning and end are missing and the only manuscript was destroyed in a fire in Old English heroic poetry was handed down orally from generation to generation.
As Christianity began to appear, re-tellers often recast the tales of Christianity into the older heroic stories. Related to the heroic tales are a number of short poems from the Exeter Book which have come to be described as "elegies"  or "wisdom poetry". Gloomy in mood is The Ruin , which tells of the decay of a once glorious city of Roman Britain cities in Britain fell into decline after the Romans departed in the early 5th century, as the early English continued to live their rural life , and The Wanderer , in which an older man talks about an attack that happened in his youth, where his close friends and kin were all killed; memories of the slaughter have remained with him all his life.
He questions the wisdom of the impetuous decision to engage a possibly superior fighting force: the wise man engages in warfare to preserve civil society, and must not rush into battle but seek out allies when the odds may be against him. This poet finds little glory in bravery for bravery's sake. The Seafarer is the story of a somber exile from home on the sea, from which the only hope of redemption is the joy of heaven. Alfred the Great wrote a wisdom poem over the course of his reign based loosely on the neoplatonic philosophy of Boethius called the Lays of Boethius.
Several Old English poems are adaptations of late classical philosophical texts. The longest is a 10th-century translation of Boethius' Consolation of Philosophy contained in the Cotton manuscript Otho A. Other short poems derive from the Latin bestiary tradition. Anglo-Saxon riddles are part of Anglo-Saxon literature. The most famous Anglo-Saxon riddles are found in the Exeter Book. This book contains secular and religious poems and other writings, along with a collection of 94 riddles, although there is speculation that there may have been closer to riddles in the book.
The riddles are written in a similar manner, but "it is unlikely that the whole collection was written by one person. Although the Exeter Book has a unique and extensive collection of Anglo-Saxon riddles,  riddles were not uncommon during this era. Riddles were both comical and obscene. The Vercelli Book and Exeter Book contain four long narrative poems of saints' lives, or hagiography.
Andreas is 1, lines long and is the closest of the surviving Old English poems to Beowulf in style and tone. The cult of the True Cross was popular in Anglo-Saxon England and this poem was instrumental in promoting it. Guthlac consists of two poems about the English 7th century Saint Guthlac.
Juliana describes the life of Saint Juliana, including a discussion with the devil during her imprisonment. There are a number of partial Old English Bible translations and paraphrases surviving. The Junius manuscript contains three paraphrases of Old Testament texts. These were re-wordings of Biblical passages in Old English, not exact translations, but paraphrasing, sometimes into beautiful poetry in its own right. The first and longest is of Genesis originally presented as one work in the Junius manuscript but now thought to consist of two separate poems, A and B , the second is of Exodus and the third is Daniel.
The Nowell Codex contains a Biblical poetic paraphrase, which appears right after Beowulf , called Judith , a retelling of the story of Judith.
Old English translations of Psalms have been preserved, following a prose version of the first 50 Psalms. In addition to Biblical paraphrases are a number of original religious poems, mostly lyrical non-narrative. The Dream of the Rood is a dream vision in which the personified cross tells the story of the crucifixion. Christ appears as a young hero-king, confidant of victory, while the cross itself feels all the physical pain of the crucifixion, as well as the pain of being forced to kill the young lord.
There are a number of religious debate poems. The longest is Christ and Satan in the Junius manuscript, it deals with the conflict between Christ and Satan during the forty days in the desert. Another debate poem is Solomon and Saturn , surviving in a number of textual fragments, Saturn is portrayed as a magician debating with the wise king Solomon.
Other poetic forms exist in Old English including short verses, gnomes , and mnemonic poems for remembering long lists of names. There are short verses found in the margins of manuscripts which offer practical advice, such as remedies against the loss of cattle or how to deal with a delayed birth, often grouped as charms. The longest is called Nine Herbs Charm and is probably of pagan origin. There are a group of mnemonic poems designed to help memorise lists and sequences of names and to keep objects in order.
Anglo-Saxon poetry is marked by the comparative rarity of similes. This is a particular feature of Anglo-Saxon verse style, and is a consequence both of its structure and of the rapidity with which images are deployed, to be unable to effectively support the expanded simile. As an example of this, Beowulf contains at best five similes, and these are of the short variety.
The Wanderer Summary
This can be contrasted sharply with the strong and extensive dependence that Anglo-Saxon poetry has upon metaphor , particularly that afforded by the use of kennings. The most prominent example of this in The Wanderer is the reference to battle as a "storm of spears". Old English poetry traditionally alliterates, meaning that a sound usually the initial consonant sound is repeated throughout a line.
For instance, in the first line of Beowulf , "Hwaet!
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We Gar-Dena in gear-dagum",  meaning "Lo! The Old English poet was particularly fond of describing the same person or object with varied phrases, often appositives that indicated different qualities of that person or object. For instance, the Beowulf poet refers in three and a half lines to a Danish king as "lord of the Danes" referring to the people in general , "king of the Scyldings" the name of the specific Danish tribe , "giver of rings" one of the king's functions is to distribute treasure , and "famous chief".
Such variation, which the modern reader who likes verbal precision is not used to, is frequently a difficulty in producing a readable translation. Old English poetry, like other Old Germanic alliterative verse, is also commonly marked by the caesura or pause. In addition to setting pace for the line, the caesura also grouped each line into two couplets.
The amount of surviving Old English prose is much greater than the amount of poetry. That wrath which hurl'd to Pluto's gloomy reign The souls of mighty chiefs untimely slain; Whose limbs unburied on the naked shore, Devouring dogs and hungry vultures tore. Since great Achilles and Atrides strove, Such was the sovereign doom, and such the will of Jove!
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Follow Us. Find Poets. Read Stanza. Jobs for Poets. Materials for Teachers. The Walt Whitman Award. James Laughlin Award. Because of this vast array of differences, it is important to try to understand the basics that run true for most Christians. Many elements of the poem bring its sorrowful message to life, such as the perspective it is told in, its elegiac tone common to the poetry of the time, its eloquent, descriptive diction, and, although not necessarily mournful, a transition into something more of a wisdom poem.
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