Early British Literature. The Celts and the Anglo-Saxons. Roman Britain 1st-5th c. Pre-Historical / Pre-Roman. Stonehenge. Important Events During Roman Occupation. Julius Caesar begins invasion/occupation in 55 B.C. Occupation completed by Claudius in 1 st cent. A.D.
Early British Literature
The Celts and the Anglo-Saxons
Tomb of King Athlestan in Malmesbury Abbey
House of Wessex
E or A = Æ
Coin from King Edgar’s reign
Canute of Denmark 1016-1035
Harthacanute Harold I 1040-42 1036-40
Alfred the Great, his son Edward and wife Ealhswith at the Witan -- Assembly of the Wise
Wessex: West Saxons
Politically and Culturally
Continued political instability and conflict (i.e., tribal war): there was no central government or church*
The Anglo-Saxon code (more on this when we read Beowulf
Linguistically (The English Language at its Earliest)
The English language is “born” during the first millennium and is known as Old English (OE). Anglo-Saxon is the term for the culture.
Old English is mainly Germanic** in grammar (syntax and morphology) and lexicon (words) the core of our modern English is vastly influenced by this early linguistic “DNA” (but even Germanic languages derived from a theoretical Proto-Indo-European language, the grandparent of classical languages such as Greek, Sanskrit, Latin, and German (**Remember: Vikings were Germanic people)
*Alfred the Great (ruled from approx. 871-899 A.D.) was one of the first Anglo-Saxon kings to push Vikings back; in fact, he was one of the first kings to begin consolidating power, unifying several of the separate Anglo-Saxon kingdoms
2. Anglo-Saxon and Viking Invasions 410 – 1066 A.D.
1. Roman Occupation 55 B.C.-410 A.D.
3. The Norman Invasion (The Battle of Hastings) in 1066 A.D.
A Short History of Our Language
“How English got to be so hard to study, but is still so beautiful to hear and read”
*The dating of the beginnings of OE is difficult; scholars only have written texts in OE beginning in around 700 A.D., but peoples in England must have been speaking a version of OE prior to works being written in the vernacular (as opposed to Latin)
OE=Old English ME=Middle English EMnE=Early Modern English MnE=Modern English
OLD ENGLISH and MIDDLE ENGLISH
VERY DIFFICULT LANGUAGE, BUT ONE PERFECT FOR LIMITLESS AND BEAUTIFUL EXPRESSION
Celtic Latin German French
The initial page of the Peterborough Chronicle
Alliterative lists of names and tribes
Oral mnemonic device
Found extensively in Widsith
Technique also found in Old Testament
Proverbs, traditional wisdom
Hit becwæÞ – It is said
“As the sea is smooth when storms are at rest, So people are quiet when peace is proclaimed.”(Exeter Book)
I war with the wind, with the waves I wrestle; I must battle with both when the bottom I seek, My strange habitation by surges o’er-roofed. I am strong in the strife, while still I remain; As soon as I stir, they are stronger than I. They wrench and they wrest, till I run from my foes; What was put in my keeping they carry away. If my back be not broken, I baffle them still. The rocks are my helpers, when hard I am pressed; Grimly I grip them. Guess what I’m called.
The Exeter Book
Charm for a Swarm of Bees
Take earth with your right hand and throw it under your right foot, saying:
I've got it, I've found it:Lo, earth masters all creatures, it masters evil, it masters deceit, it masters humanity's greedy tongue.
Throw light soil over them [the bees] as they swarm, saying:
Sit, wise women, settle on earth: never in fear fly to the woods. Please be mindful of my welfare as all men are of food and land.
Trans. Karl Young
Fore ðæm nedfere nænig wiorðeðonc snottora ðon him ðearf siæto ymbhycgenne ær his hiniongehwæt his gastæ godes oððe yflesæfter deað dæge doemed wiorðe.
Facing that enforced journey, no man can beMore prudent than he has good call to be,If he consider, before his going hence,What for his spirit of good hap or of evilAfter his day of death shall be determined.
Beda Venerabilis from an medieval manuscript