1. OLD ENGLISH PERIOD
( Beowulf (lines 2821-2831):
-No regularity in the number of syllables.
-Stresses ( No regularity (3, 4 or 5).
-Alliteration ( Regularity ( ALLITERATIVE VERSE (alliterative pattern). The sounds that alliterate belong to the stressed syllables. Verse based on the stresses.
-Each line can be seen astwo half lines / phrases. Each one has a primary stress (sometimes two) ( Accentual metre. The length is not the same in two consecutive lines (the rhythm is not regular) The first stress of the second half always alliterate with one of the stresses in the first half. The alliterating sound is never repeated in two consecutive lines.
( These conventions impose constrictions to the poet:
•Lines divided in two halves imply a very concise way of expression. This leads to the use of compound words.
• The iambic pentameter sets up a rhythmic continuity.
( SYNTACTIC FEATURES:
- Syntax tends to be rather loose / free.
- Appositions ( ambiguity.
( LEXICAL FEATURES:
- Use of compounds and KENNINGS (metaphors / synonyms). They provide variety.• Examples of kennings:
o “battle” = “the din of spear”
o “sea” = “expanse of the floods” (“floda begang”[OE])
“ganet’s bath” (“ganotes bald”)
“road of the wave”
“home of the winds (“windgeard”).
Socialorganizations = Tribal organizations (usually related with kinship). Loyalty to the chief. England was divided into a number of kingdoms. Not until the Norman Conquest (1066) did England achieve uniformity.
The king was someone who possessed values that were acknowledged by all members of society and by the idea of “kingly” / royal. The king was the strongest, bravest and most generous man. He neededhis noblemen to help him in the battle. This heroic ideal had nothing to do with the common people, who were illiterate. This heroic behaviour had to do with the idea of excellence, generosity, loyalty, strength, but also with revenge and with a strong idea of destiny. People were used to face death very often.
Warriors were endeavoured to get fame, reputation, honour, etc. They enjoyedboasting. A warrior was not afraid of death if it was a glorious death.
It is not surprising to find in this society people who could sing or narrate the heroic deeds of these warriors and also the battles ( EPIC was a genre very much used at this time. This society valued poets who narrated in epic poems the great deeds of these heroes (Beowulf, The Battle of Maldon, etc.)
The origin hasnothing to do with Christianity. England was Christianise from the 7th century. Missionaries arrived, and monasteries were built. It seems that the original Celtic British were Christian. But the Anglo-Saxon colonizers were pagan. It seems that christianisation was rather fast. This literature was negotiating the Christian-pagan-Germanic heroic ideals with the new Christian view of life and values.-Northumbrian
( 4 main dialects -Mercian
-ms* Cotton Vitellius (British Library)
( 32.000 lines of poetry in 4 manuscripts -Junius ms (Bodleian Library Oxford)-Exeter Book
-Vercelli Book (Italy)
It is very difficult to classify Old English poetry: short elegies (with lyrical tone), riddles, gnomic verse, epic poems, biblical poems… We can find different classifications. It is also very difficult to think of poetry before 7th century...