Anglo-Saxon Poetry (Old-English)

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A great mystery shrouds the Anglo-Saxon poetry. It is not unlikely that a great part of the Anglo-Saxon poetry is lost to us. From the case of the manuscript of Waldere which was discovered in the binding of a book in Copenhagen. It will not be foolish to think that many manuscripts as good as those which have survived the onslaught of time might have been sold out as the old parchment or given away to boys to make the tails to make their kites. Moreover, we do not know for certain whether the English-the Angles and Saxons – left their continental homes in Germany in the fifth century along with the manuscript of any poems. It appears that the Anglo-Saxon poems which deal with Scandinavian themes, and are distinctly pagan in outlook were brought over to England by Angles and Saxons in fifth century.

The style of the Old English poetry is the “poetic diction”. There was a number of set per phrases in their stock. Thus with them the eyes were “jewel of the head”, “body is the “fleshy Clothing”, the sun is the “candle of heaven “or the “jewel of the sky”, the sea is the “whale as road” or “the seal’s bath” and so on. The poetry abounds in abrupt metaphors, condensed in single composite words, but similies born of imagination are rare. An elevate and aristocratic tone pervaded, there was nio humour, but mocking word – contest. Tendency towards repetition of the same idea in different ways or of the same sound in words is another distinctive mark of poetry . The style has force and vigour when necessary but little of grace.

Anglo-Saxon prose is of much later origin than poetry and os rather poor on quality and quantity. This is natural, for prose implies a certain measure of civilization, it is the achievement of civilization. But is as old as man.

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