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ENGL 200 Lecture 1 - Old English Poems.docx

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McGill University
English (Arts)
ENGL 200
Wes Folkerth

Old-English Poems Introduction  Book is divided into 4 different ages: 1. The Middle Ages 2. 16 Century th 3. Early 17 Century 4. the Restoration and Eighteenth Century  The 16 century is the golden age of English literature  In England, before the Roman empire, the Celts lived there, spreading Christianity  Romans were chased out by the Germanic tribes: o Angles o Saxons o Jutes (not talked about too much)  There are then 3 periods; o Anglo-Saxon o Anglo-Norman o The Middle Ages  These people were mostly pagan, and they had their own culture  Many works have a Christian flavor, when missionaries tried to convert them  Anglo-Saxon language is quite unique, but when the French came in, they spread their influence and the elite began to speak French  There was some influence by the French: o Pork, Beef, and Poultry are French words o Words were put together, especially nouns; “earring” for example. o They liked to use nouns when we prefer to use adjectives o We call this kind of metaphor a kenning; for example, a gas-guzzler o Most Old English that survives comes in the form of nouns Caedmon, by Beade  During this period, most people learned how to write through monasteries, since there was quite a lot of education there  It was a very Christian culture, and that is why the stories and poetry have a lot of Christian elements in them  Caedmon did not like to become like his other herdsmen  He shunned this culture, and he is thus approached in sleep by an angel, who tells him to sing, and he eventually does after much hesitation and confusion  Notice the way that each verse is delivered o Caesuras in the middle of each line o On each side of the caesura, it ends and begins with the same sound (alliteration) Page 25 “…he dreamed that someone was standing at his side and greeted him, calling out his name. “Caedmon,” he said, “sing me something.”  It is important to note that he is divinely inspired  It is also important to note that a woman, the abbess, notices him  This stories indicates that the articulation, the beginnings of true poetry, started with divine intervention  Caedmon referred to God in many different ways: o Eternal God  He takes the Anglo-Saxon experience and puts it into literature  It is almost as if the poem is trying to sell Christianity, to persuade those who are pagan and familiar with Anglo-Saxon culture  A lot of English has Christian connections, intertwined with intense relationships and scenarios  All of these four stories take place during desperate times with little to look forward to, and so Christianity is depicted as a way to improve life.  Freya is a Norse God, and is referred to by Caedmon; therefore, he uses Pagan concepts to relate to the Anglo-Saxons Dream of the Rood  The script was found in Northern Italy  Literature is a kind of archeological object – it tells you about the environment of the past  The translator tries to preserve the natural all
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