Elegies

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  • Publicado : 1 de noviembre de 2010
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The Anglo Saxons bequeathed an enormous legacy; simple but beautiful architecture, masterpieces of art like the Bayeux Tapestry, a complicated yet marvellous language called Old English, etc. Nevertheless, the most valuable legacy to our modern society is their literature. Its variety of genre that includes poetry, hagiography, riddles, etc, makes it one of the most abounding literatures of alltimes. Manuscripts collected from that period reflects their customs and values, although, there still are several things unknown about the Anglo Saxons.

One of the most significant manuscripts is The Exter Book, in which appear a number of short poems that have been described as “elegies”. These poems illustrate heroic or wisdom tales; the main character represents a heroic figure thatgoes through misfortunes remembering on his glorious and brave past. Furthermore, by that time the figure of a heroic warrior was a role model to the society, as according to some authors; “ This literature focused on the telling of the brave and heroic warriors possessing attributes they valued and wished to emulate.” (Scott, Foresman and Company, 5).

From The Exter Book we can regard asthe more centrals: The Wanderer, The Seafarer, The Husband Message and The Wife’s Lament. These elegies are very personal and reveal values, beliefs, and thoughts of that era; concern of the surrounding world and the meaning of life. The tone of these poems is especially dark; there is the idea of sadness about what is lost which leads to nostalgia of the magnificent past, where they follow andexpress their loyalty to their Lord. Indeed, the setting of these poems support it by describing places and surroundings as cold and freezing as it is in winter season, showing that the main character is in a very miserable circumstance which is opposite from his previous situation. Another important element in these elegies is the importance of fate; it is not up to the hero to decide his closingstage, he cannot escape his destiny.

Nostalgia, threat and distress are main themes in these poems: The Wanderer, The Seafarer and The Wife’s Lament. We will see how these concepts are conveying throughout the poems in different ways.

First of all, the title The Wanderer give us previously an idea of the poem without even read it; a wanderer is someone who moves around withoutdestination; lost, uncertainty, aimless and this is well-represent in line 6: “The wanderer’s mind moved upon adversity and savage slaughter and the ruin of kinsmen”; this is one of the first lines of the poem and we already can see that the character is sad and alone because he does not belong to a comittatus anymore, he is lost without his kind and this is intensify by the use of polysyndeton.According to this, one author says: “The bond between lord and retainer went deeper than material benefits on either side ... It involved emotional ties and ceremonial practices as well” (Grzebeta). This is how the society worked, hence, if a man was exile or banish from his comittatus, he lost everything, his position, his comrades and with this, his manliness and a feeling of nostalgia began toappear. Nostalgia about the past, however, he could not show it because it was not valuable for a brave hero.

This loss of everything that was valuable to a hero and that leads to nostalgia continue appearing in other Anglo Saxon poems, as we can see in The Seafarer.

Here it is use the same technique as in The Wanderer, flashbacks of his glorious past which contrasts with hiscurrent situation, as we can see in Line 81: “The days are gone/ when the kingdoms of earth flourished in glory;/ now there are no rulers, no emperors,/ no givers of gold, as once there were…”(Scott, Foresman and Company, 54). As we can observe, the writer uses anaphora to increase and intensify the sense of loss leading to a climax. This shows that nothing is more or will be more significant than...
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