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The Earliest English Poems

Various - Author

Michael Alexander - Translator

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ISBN 9780140445947 | 192 pages | 07 Jan 1992 | Penguin Classics | 5.07 x 7.79in | 18 - AND UP
Summary of The Earliest English Poems Summary of The Earliest English Poems Reviews for The Earliest English Poems An Excerpt from The Earliest English Poems
Epic grandeur, formal eloquence and a sober intensity are the hallmarks of Old English verse.

Anglo-Saxon poetry was produced between 700 and 1000 AD for an audience that delighted in technical accomplishment, and the durable works of Old English verse spring from the source of the English language.

Michael Alexander has translated the best of the Old English poetry into modern English and into a verse form that retains the qualities of Anglo-Saxon metre and alliteration. Included in this selection are the ‘heroic poems’ such as Widsith, Deor, Brunanburh and Maldon, and passages from Beowulf; some of the famous ‘riddles’ from The Exeter Book; all the ‘elegies’, including The Ruin, The Wanderer, The Seafarer, The Wife’s Complaint and The Husband’s Message, in which the virtu of Old English is found in its purest and most concentrated form; together with the great Christian poem The Dream of the Rood.

Riddle 25

I'm the world's wonder, for I make women happy
- a boon to the neighbourhood, a bane to no one,
though I may perhaps prick the one who picks me.

I am set well up, stand in a bed,
have a roughish root. Rarely (though it happens)
a churl's daughter more daring than the rest
- and lovelier! - lays hold of me,
rushes my red top, wrenches at my head,
and lays me in the larder.
She learns soon enough,
the curly-haired creature who clamps me so,
of my meeting with her: moist is her eye!

Swings by his thigh a thing most magical!
Below the belt, beneath the folds
of his clothes it hangs, a hole in its front end,
stiff-set and stout, but swivels about.

Levelling the head of this hanging instrument,
its wielder hoists his hem above the knee:
it is his will to fill a well-known hole
that it fits fully when at full length.

He has often filled it before. Now he fills it again. Introduction
A Note on the Translation
Preface to the Second Edition
Preface to the Third Edition

The Ruin

Caedmon's Hymn

Bede's Death Song

Heroic Poems
Deor and Widsith
Beowulf and the Fight at Finnsburg
Waldere

Elegies
The Wanderer and the Seafarer
The Wife's Complaint, the Husband's Message and Wulf and Eadwacer

Gnomic Verses

Riddles

The Dream of the Rood

The Phoenix

Brunaburh

The Battle of Maldon

Map of the Site of the Battle of Maldon
Notes
Appendixes:
A. The Runes
B. Suggested Solutions to the Riddles
C. Anglo-Saxon Metric
Glossary of Proper Names
Further Reading