The twenty-five poems and eleven metrical charms in this Old English volume offer tantalizing insights into the mental landscape of the Anglo-Saxons. The Wanderer and The Seafarer famously combine philosophical consolation with introspection to achieve a spiritual understanding of life as a journey. The Wife’s Lament, The Husband’s Message, and Wulf and Eadwacer direct a subjective lyrical intensity on the perennial themes of love, separation, and the passion for vengeance. From suffering comes wisdom, and these poems find meaning in the loss of fortune and reputation, exile, and alienation. “Woe is wondrously clinging; clouds glide,” reads a stoic, matter-of-fact observation in Maxims II on nature’s indifference to human suffering. Another form of wisdom emerges in the form of folk remedies, such as charms to treat stabbing pain, cysts, childbirth, and nightmares of witch-riding caused by a dwarf. The enigmatic dialogues of Solomon and Saturn combine scholarly erudition and proverbial wisdom. Learning of all kinds is celebrated, including the meaning of individual runes in The Rune Poem and the catalog of legendary heroes in Widsith.This book is a welcome complement to the previously published DOML volume Old English Shorter Poems, Volume I: Religious and Didactic.
Alongside famous long works such as Beowulf, Old English poetry offers a large number of shorter compositions, many of them on explicitly Christian themes. This volume of the Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library presents twenty-nine of these shorter religious poems composed in Old and early Middle English between the seventh and twelfth centuries. Among the texts, which demonstrate the remarkable versatility of early English verse, are colorful allegories of the natural world, poems dedicated to Christian prayer and morality, and powerful meditations on death, judgment, heaven, and hell.Previously edited in many different places and in some instances lacking accessible translations, many of these poems have remained little known outside scholarly circles. The present volume aims to offer this important body of texts to a wider audience by bringing them together in one collection and providing all of them with up-to-date translations and explanatory notes. An introduction sets the poems in their literary-historical contexts, which are further illustrated by two appendices, including the first complete modern English translation of the so-called Old English Benedictine Office.
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