Anglo-Saxon Literature Anglo-Saxons created their oral literature using certain conventions. Let’s examine those characteristics for ourselves. The first characteristic that the reader can recognize is the four major beats per line.
Example • “I war with the wind; with the waves I wrestle.” • Notice: The four major beats are “war” and “wind”; “waves” and “wrestle”
2nd Characteristic • The second characteristic of their poetry is called a “caesura.” A caesura is simply a pause in the middle of the line. • This offered a musical break.
Example • Can you locate the caesura in the following line? • “I war with the wind; with the waves I wrestle.” • The caesura comes between the words “wind” and “with”.
3rd Characteristic • A third characteristic is the use of alliteration. • Today, alliteration is the repetition of the same beginning consonant sound. • Anglo-Saxon alliteration was the repetition of any sound whether consonant or vowel.
Anglo-Saxon Alliteration • In the first half of a line, two words alliterate; in the second half, one word alliterates with the two from the first half. • Sometimes only one word alliterates with one word in the second half.
Example • “Grim and greedy, the gruesome monster came.” • Notice: the two “g” words in the first half alliterate with the one “g” word in the second half. • “Now Grendel came, from his crags of mist” • Notice: the word “came” in the first half alliterates with the word “crags” in the second half.
More Examples • “The gold-hall of heroes, the gaily adorned.” • Notice: the “o” sounds follows the same pattern as the consonant sounds. • Two “o” sounds in the first half and one “o” sound in the second half.
4th Characteristic • The 4th characteristic is the use of kennings. • A kenning is usually a hyphenated compound word formed of two nouns. • In later Anglo-Saxon forms, two adjectives were used. • In the original language, no hyphen or space was used between these words.
Uses of Kennings • Old Norse and Anglo-Saxon languages were very limited. • The scops, or bards, coined kennings in order to offer more choices of language. • Once a kenning was created, the poets used them over and over.
Examples • Earliest form: “skycandle”, “battledew” • Later form: “sky-candle” and “battle-dew” • “Sky-candle” was the sun, and “battle-dew” was blood. • Adjective form: “foamy-necked plunger” for ship • Prepositional form: “giver of rings” for kings/lords
Anglo-Saxon Riddle “I heard of a wonder, of words moth-eaten: That is a strange thing, I thought, weird That a man’s song be swallowed by a worm, His binded sentences, his bedside stand-by Rustled in the night—and the robber-guest Not one whit the wiser for the words he had mumbled.” Notice: “robber-guest” Notice: “o”, “w”, “t”, “s”, “r”, and “w”. Answer: on next slide
What’s Next? • Find at least five riddles from the following website, and try your hand at answering them. Remember the answers and the number of the riddle. • http://technozen.com/exeter/index.htm