Heroism In Old English Literature

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Old English Literature

Initially, 'Old English' was referred to as 'Anglo-Saxon'. The term 'Old English' was invented for nationalistic and philological convenience, to show a cultural continuity between the England of the sixth century and the England of the nineteenth century. This period marks a change in the English language. The term 'Anglo-Saxon' tells apart the language from the culture of modern England. The word ‘Saxon' was used by angry celts at English conquerers and English cultural imperialists. Henry Sweet insisted to use 'Old English' in one of King Alfred’s translations to highlight the independence of the the English language. Some years later, King Alfred himself referred to the English used by himself and the English of
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The scop improvised songs with heroic themes performed at social events in monastic halls. Such poetry used complex alliterations, sentences, words and phrases styled into two-stresses half lines and varying syllables enabling the scops to memorise them. The half lines are then linked to the other lines by an alliteration and the first stress of the second half line.
Beowulf

‘Beowulf’ is one of the oldest pre-Christian English poems. The narrator is aware that his story and his characters are influenced by pagan virtues and that heroism goes along with his own religious beliefs and values. However, the focus on mortality and the determination of wyrd give off a Christian message (obeying the almighty Gods). ‘Beowulf’ depicts a series of battles between good and evil, humanity and other destructive forces.Irony also features in this epic.
Beowulf can be considered as an epic poem as it celebrates the success of a hero.There is a contrast between humans and monsters which highlights the social and the alien. The lord is depicted as the rewarder of Beowulf’s bravery and the founder of feasts.
The Battle of Maldon and the
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Widsith takes the form of a soliloquy spoken by an imaginary scop known as the Wandererto who describes the people and princes amongst whom he had journeyed.’The Ruin' is a short poem about a ruined city which portrays the insecurities of nature and its achievements and a longing for heavenly resolution. The narrator wonders if there could have ever been a race of such mighty builders. The narrator does not evoke a sense of alienation but he speaks of an exile from vanished wonders, an awareness reinforced by the ravages of time and wyrd. 'The wife’s lament' focuses on the themes of banishment, displacement and social disgrace. A woman’s voice is mourning her husband though the reader doesn’t know what happened to him. Some link it to another poem 'The Husband’s Message'. It has also been interpreted as a paraphrase of the 'Song of Songs' in which a christian should is yearning for its heavenly lover. These elegiac poems recall Bede’s image of the transience of earthly
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