🔥🔥🔥 Anglo Saxon Culture Influence On Beowulf

Sunday, November 28, 2021 9:11:23 AM

Anglo Saxon Culture Influence On Beowulf



Anglo Saxon Culture Influence On Beowulf the Prince of the Danes gave to Beowulf the wielding of them both, Anglo Saxon Culture Influence On Beowulf horses and Anglo Saxon Culture Influence On Beowulf and bade him well enjoy them. He opens a door through which our How to dress for success enters a new world, a world of music, love, beauty, heroism,--the whole splendid Anglo Saxon Culture Influence On Beowulf of Greek literature. But if any one of the Frisians by daring speech should Anglo Saxon Culture Influence On Beowulf to mind the murderous hate between them, then should [ 77 ] Anglo Saxon Culture Influence On Beowulf edge of the sword avenge it. View Wish List View Cart. Historical Foundations of the Common Frederick Douglass Logic Based Argument Analysis. The xenophobia is there, this one acknowledges its there even in their Anglo Saxon Culture Influence On Beowulf. Samuel Butler.

The World of Beowulf

No, we're not going to teach you how to read in an awesome manner—go ahead and continue the act of reading however it suits you. In your pjs? In a bubble bath? Even better. There's actually no way to make reading any sexier that it already is. But imagine if there were a book that was a page turner, a thrill a minute, full of gore and mayhem Beowulf, a great and glorious hero arrives from over the sea, clad in a shirt of shining mail, ready to do barehanded battle with a demonic monster. And if that leaves you wanting more, Beowulf is ready to deliver.

Once the demonic monster bites the dust, his bigger, badder, even more demonic mom arrives to avenge her son's death. But that's still not the climax. Just in case anyone doubted Beowulf's prowess at this point, a dragon shows up to test him to the limit. This isn't dry-as-dust literature that you fall asleep over; it's the kind of thing you pay twelve bucks to see while eating popcorn. Although the recent Beowulf movie goes just a little bit off-script. But here's the thing: Beowulf is also the oldest major work of literature in English. In fact, it's in such old English technical name: "Old English" that it seems like a foreign language to us today, because our words have changed so much since it was written.

It's a glimpse of an ancient Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian culture. But this history lesson isn't just names, dates, and agricultural innovations. Instead, it's gleaming golden armor, straining sinews, and wild drunken parties that go all night because everyone would rather tell stories about past glorious victories than think about the fact that they'll probably die horribly tomorrow. It's a brutal world, but one that offers the possibility of fame — and maybe even fortune, if you're lucky. After all, you will have read the first recorded epic poem written in English. Beowulf This recent film is a great thing to rent if you're looking for a sexy action-adventure flick, but it's terrible as a study aid.

Pluses: an incredible cast and terrific special effects. Minuses: too different from the poem to help you learn about the original. Although it also deviates from the original in some places, it's probably more useful as a review or study aid than the film. Beowulf This adaptation of Beowulf , starring Christopher Lambert, includes some science-fiction elements that might seem odd in a medieval epic. The Thirteenth Warrior Based on a Michael Crichton novel, this film uses many elements from Beowulf , but combines them with the travel narrative of an Arab courtier, played by Antonio Banderas.

You might have fun trying to disentangle the two plots — but it also might be confusing if you're just trying to learn about Beowulf. Even if you don't understand Old English, it's interesting to hear what the poem would have sounded like to its original audience. Free Beowulf Audio Book At this site, you can download an audio reading of the entire text of Beowulf in a contemporary English translation for free. First Page of the Beowulf Manuscript This scan of the first page of the only surviving manuscript of Beowulf shows what the work of Anglo-Saxon scribes actually looked like. Illustration of Beowulf by Virgil Burnett This illustration of Beowulf by Virgil Burnett depicts him as a stereotypical medieval hero. Beowulf E-Text from the University of Virginia Library This site offers a translation of Beowulf that you can read online or download to your computer for free.

Not as up-to-date or readable as contemporary translations, but convenient for online work. Google Books Preview of A Beowulf Handbook In this online preview, you can read several chapters from the most famous — and most useful — anthology of scholarly articles about Beowulf. Beowulf in Cyberspace This Danish website provides a new translation of Beowulf and plenty of background materials for students and teachers alike.

As you read the translation of the poem, you can click on the hyperlinked proper names, vocabulary terms, and historical footnotes to learn more, or you can click on links to audio readings of the poem in Old English. Beowulf in Hypertext This website provides an overview of the poem, the complete text in both Old English and contemporary English, summaries of each section, and information about the characters and history of Beowulf. Resources for the Study of Beowulf This mega-site provides an exhaustive bibliography of links to information about Beowulf , the Old English language, and Anglo-Saxon culture. History and Meaning of Beowulf Concerning the history of Beowulf a whole library has been written, and scholars still differ too radically for us to express a positive judgment.

This much, however, is clear,--that there existed, at the time the poem was composed, various northern legends of Beowa, a half-divine hero, and the monster Grendel. The latter has been interpreted in various ways,--sometimes as a bear, and again as the malaria of the marsh lands. For those interested in symbols the simplest interpretation of these myths is to regard Beowulf's successive fights with the three dragons as the overcoming, first, of the overwhelming danger of the sea, which was beaten back by the dykes; second, the conquering of the sea itself, when men learned to sail upon it; and third, the conflict with the hostile forces of nature, which are overcome at last by man's indomitable will and perseverance.

All this is purely mythical; but there are historical incidents to reckon with. About the year a certain northern chief, called by the chronicler Chochilaicus who is generally identified with the Hygelac of the epic , led a huge plundering expedition up the Rhine. After a succession of battles he was overcome by the Franks, but--and now we enter a legendary region once more--not until a gigantic nephew of Hygelac had performed heroic feats of valor, and had saved the remnants of the host by a marvelous feat of swimming.

The majority of scholars now hold that these historical events and personages were celebrated in the epic; but some still assert that the events which gave a foundation for Beowulf occurred wholly on English soil, where the poem itself was undoubtedly written. Poetical Form The rhythm of Beowulf and indeed of all our earliest poetry depended upon accent and alliteration; that is, the beginning of two or more words in the same line with the same sound or letter.

The lines were made up of two short halves, separated by a pause. No rime was used; but a musical effect was produced by giving each half line two strongly accented syllables. Each full line, therefore, had four accents, three of which i. The musical effect was heightened by the harp with which the gleeman accompanied his singing.. The poetical form will be seen clearly in the following selection from the wonderfully realistic description of the fens haunted by Grendel.

It will need only one or two readings aloud to show that many of these strange-looking words are practically the same as those we still use, though many of the vowel sounds were pronounced differently by our ancestors. They a darksome land Ward inhabit , wolf cliffs, windy nesses, Frightful fen paths where mountain stream Under nesses' mists nether downward wanders, A flood under earth. It is not far hence, By mile measure, that the mere stands, Over which hang rimy groves. The poem "Widsith," the wide goer or wanderer, is in part, at least, probably the oldest in our language.

The author and the date of its composition are unknown; but the personal account of the minstrel's life belongs to the time before the Saxons first came to England. From the numerous references to rings and rewards, and from the praise given to generous givers, it would seem that literature as a paying profession began very early in our history, and also that the pay was barely sufficient to hold soul and body together. Of all our modern poets, Goldsmith wandering over Europe paying for his lodging with his songs is most suggestive of this first recorded singer of our race.

His last lines read:. Thus wandering, they who shape songs for men Pass over many lands, and tell their need, And speak their thanks, and ever, south or north, Meet someone skilled in songs and free in gifts, Who would be raised among his friends to fame And do brave deeds till light and life are gone. He who has thus wrought himself praise shall have A settled glory underneath the stars. Deor's Lament. In "Deor" we have another picture of the Saxon scop, or minstrel, not in glad wandering, but in manly sorrow.

It seems that the scop's living depended entirely upon his power to please his chief, and that at any time he might be supplanted by a better poet. Deor had this experience, and comforts himself in a grim way by recalling various examples of men who have suffered more than himself. The poem is arranged in strophes, each one telling of some afflicted hero and ending with the same refrain: His sorrow passed away; so will mine. Weland for a woman knew too well exile. Strong of soul that earl, sorrow sharp he bore; To companionship he had care and weary longing, Winter-freezing wretchedness. Woe he found again, again, After that Nithhad in a need had laid him-- Staggering sinew-wounds--sorrow-smitten man!

That he overwent; this also may I. The Seafarer. The wonderful poem of "The Seafarer" seems to be in two distinct parts. The first shows the hardships of ocean life; but stronger than hardships is the subtle call of the sea. The second part is an allegory, in which the troubles of the seaman are symbols of the troubles of this life, and the call of the ocean is the call in the soul to be up and away to its true home with God.

Whether the last was added by some monk who saw the allegorical possibilities of the first part, or whether some sea-loving Christian scop wrote both, is uncertain. Following are a few selected lines to show the spirit of the poem:. The hail flew in showers about me; and there I heard only The roar of the sea, ice-cold waves, and the song of the swan; For pastime the gannets' cry served me; the kittiwakes' chatter For laughter of men; and for mead drink the call of the sea mews. When storms on the rocky cliffs beat, then the terns, icy-feathered, Made answer; full oft the sea eagle forebodingly screamed, The eagle with pinions wave-wet The shadows of night became darker, it snowed from the north; The world was enchained by the frost; hail fell upon earth; 'T was the coldest of grain.

Yet the thoughts of my heart now are throbbing To test the high streams, the salt waves in tumultuous play. Desire in my heart ever urges my spirit to wander, To seek out the home of the stranger in lands afar off. There is no one that dwells upon earth, so exalted in mind, But that he has always a longing, a sea-faring passion For what the Lord God shall bestow, be it honor or death. No heart for the harp has he, nor for acceptance of treasure, No pleasure has he in a wife, no delight in the world, Nor in aught save the roll of the billows; but always a longing, A yearning uneasiness, hastens him on to the sea.

The woodlands are captured by blossoms, the hamlets grow fair, Broad meadows are beautiful, earth again bursts into life, And all stir the heart of the wanderer eager to journey, So he meditates going afar on the pathway of tides. The cuckoo, moreover, gives warning with sorrowful note, Summer's harbinger sings, and forebodes to the heart bitter sorrow. Now my spirit uneasily turns in the heart's narrow chamber, Now wanders forth over the tide, o'er the home of the whale, To the ends of the earth--and comes back to me.

Eager and greedy, The lone wanderer screams, and resistlessly drives my soul onward, Over the whale-path, over the tracts of the sea. The Fight at Finnsburgh and Waldere. Two other of our oldest poems well deserve mention. The "Fight at Finnsburgh" is a fragment of fifty lines, discovered on the inside of a piece of parchment drawn over the wooden covers of a book of homilies. This no eastward dawning is, nor is here a dragon flying, Nor of this high hall are the horns a burning; But they rush upon us here--now the ravens sing, Growling is the gray wolf, grim the war-wood rattles, Shield to shaft is answering.

The fight lasts five days, but the fragment ends before we learn the outcome: The same fight is celebrated by Hrothgar's gleeman at the feast in Heorot, after the slaying of Grendel. They escaped with a great treasure, and in crossing the mountains were attacked by Gunther and his warriors, among whom was Walter's former comrade, Hagen. Walter fights them all and escapes. The same story was written in Latin in the tenth century, and is also part of the old German Nibelungenlied. Though the saga did not originate with the Anglo-Saxons, their version of it is the oldest that has come down to us.

The chief significance of these "Waldere" fragments lies in the evidence they afford that our ancestors were familiar with the legends and poetry of other Germanic peoples. We have now read some of our earliest records, and have been surprised, perhaps, that men who are generally described in the histories as savage fighters and freebooters could produce such excellent poetry. It is the object of the study of all literature to make us better acquainted with men,--not simply with their deeds, which is the function of history, but with the dreams and ideals which underlie all their actions.

So a reading of this early Anglo-Saxon poetry not only makes us acquainted, but also leads to a profound respect for the men who were our ancestors. Before we study more of their literature it is well to glance briefly at their life and language. The Name Originally the name Anglo-Saxon denotes two of the three Germanic tribes,--Jutes, Angles, and Saxons,--who in the middle of the fifth century left their homes on the shores of the North Sea and the Baltic to conquer and colonize distant Britain.

Angeln was the home of one tribe, and the name still clings to the spot whence some of our forefathers sailed on their momentous voyage. The old Saxon word angul or ongul means a hook, and the English verb angle is used invariably by Walton and older writers in the sense of fishing. We may still think, therefore, of the first Angles as hook-men, possibly because of their fishing, more probably because the shore where they lived, at the foot of the peninsula of Jutland, was bent in the shape of a fishhook.

The name Saxon from seax, sax , a short sword, means the sword-man, and from the name we may judge something of the temper of the hardy fighters who preceded the Angles into Britain. The Angles were the most numerous of the conquering tribes, and from them the new home was called Anglalond. By gradual changes this became first Englelond and then England. More than five hundred years after the landing of these tribes, and while they called themselves Englishmen, we find the Latin writers of the Middle Ages speaking of the inhabitants of Britain as Anglisaxones ,--that is, Saxons of England,--to distinguish them from the Saxons of the Continent. In the Latin charters of King Alfred the same name appears; but it is never seen or heard in his native speech.

There he always speaks of his beloved "Englelond" and of his brave "Englisc" people. In the sixteenth century, when the old name of Englishmen clung to the new people resulting from the union of Saxon and Norman, the name Anglo-Saxon was first used in the national sense by the scholar Camden [21] in his History of Britain ; and since then it has been in general use among English writers.

In recent years the name has gained a wider significance, until it is now used to denote a spirit rather than a nation, the brave, vigorous, enlarging spirit that characterizes the English-speaking races everywhere, and that has already put a broad belt of English law and English liberty around the whole world. The Life. If the literature of a people springs directly out of its life, then the stern, barbarous life of our Saxon forefathers would seem, at first glance, to promise little of good literature. Outwardly their life was a constant hardship, a perpetual struggle against savage nature and savage men. Behind them were gloomy forests inhabited by wild beasts and still wilder men, and peopled in their imagination with dragons and evil shapes.

In front of them, thundering at the very dikes for entrance, was the treacherous North Sea, with its fogs and storms and ice, but with that indefinable call of the deep that all men hear who live long beneath its influence. Here they lived, a big, blond, powerful race, and hunted and fought and sailed, and drank and feasted when their labor was done. Almost the first thing we notice about these big, fearless, childish men is that they love the sea; and because they love it they hear and answer its call:. No delight has he in the world, Nor in aught save the roll of the billows; but always a longing, A yearning uneasiness, hastens him on to the sea. As might be expected, this love of the ocean finds expression in all their poetry. In Beowulf alone there are fifteen names for the sea, from the holm , that is, the horizon sea, the "upmounding," to the brim , which is the ocean flinging its welter of sand and creamy foam upon the beach at your feet.

And the figures used to describe or glorify it--"the swan road, the whale path, the heaving battle plain"--are almost as numerous. In all their poetry there is a magnificent sense of lordship over the wild sea even in its hour of tempest and fury:. Often it befalls us, on the ocean's highways, In the boats our boatmen, when the storm is roaring, Leap the billows over, on our stallions of the foam. The Inner Life. A man's life is more than his work; his dream is ever greater than his achievement; and literature reflects not so much man's deed as the spirit which animates him; not the poor thing that he does, but rather the splendid thing that he ever hopes to do.

In no place is this more evident than in the age we are now studying. Those early sea kings were a marvelous mixture of savagery and sentiment, of rough living and of deep feeling, of splendid courage and the deep melancholy of men who know their limitations and have faced the unanswered problem of death. They were not simply fearless freebooters who harried every coast in their war galleys. If that were all, they would have no more history or literature than the Barbary pirates, of whom the same thing could be said. These strong fathers of ours were men of profound emotions.

In all their fighting the love of an untarnished glory was uppermost; and under the warrior's savage exterior was hidden a great love of home and homely virtues, and a reverence for the one woman to whom he would presently return in triumph. So when the wolf hunt was over, or the desperate fight was won, these mighty men would gather in the banquet hall, and lay their weapons aside where the open fire would flash upon them, and there listen to the songs of Scop and Gleeman,--men who could put into adequate words the emotions and aspirations that all men feel but that only a few can ever express:. Music and song where the heroes sat-- The glee-wood rang, a song uprose When Hrothgar's scop gave the hall good cheer.

It is this great and hidden life of the Anglo-Saxons that finds expression in all their literature. Briefly, it is summed up in five great principles,--their love of personal freedom, their responsiveness to nature, their religion, their reverence for womanhood, and their struggle for glory as a ruling motive in every noble life. Springs of Anglo-Saxon Poetry In reading Anglo-Saxon poetry it is well to remember these five principles, for they are like the little springs at the head of a great river,--clear, pure springs of poetry, and out of them the best of our literature has always flowed.

Thus when we read,. Blast of the tempest--it aids our oars; Rolling of thunder--it hurts us not; Rush of the hurricane--bending its neck To speed us whither our wills are bent,. Again, when we read,. Now hath the man O'ercome his troubles. No pleasure does he lack, Nor steeds, nor jewels, nor the joys of mead, Nor any treasure that the earth can give, O royal woman, if he have but thee, [25]. So in the matter of glory or honor; it was, apparently, not the love of fighting, but rather the love of honor resulting from fighting well, which animated our forefathers in every campaign.

The whole secret of Beowulf's mighty life is summed up in the last line, "Ever yearning for his people's praise. Oriental peoples built monuments to perpetuate the memory of their dead; but our ancestors made poems, which should live and stir men's souls long after monuments of brick and stone had crumbled away. It is to this intense love of glory and the desire to be remembered that we are indebted for Anglo-Saxon literature. Our first recorded speech begins with the songs of Widsith and Deor, which the Anglo-Saxons may have brought with them when they first conquered Britain.

At first glance these songs in their native dress look strange as a foreign tongue; but when we examine them carefully we find many words that have been familiar since childhood. We have seen this in Beowulf ; but in prose the resemblance of this old speech to our own is even more striking. Here, for instance, is a fragment of the simple story of the conquest of Britain by our Anglo-Saxon ancestors:. And tha Bryttas tha forleton Cent-lond, and mid myclum ege flugon to Lundenbyrig. At this time Hengest and Aesc, his son, fought against the Britons at the place which is called Crayford and there slew four thousand men. And then the Britons forsook Kentland, and with much fear fled to London town.

The reader who utters these words aloud a few times will speedily recognize his own tongue, not simply in the words but also in the whole structure of the sentences. From such records we see that our speech is Teutonic in its origin; and when we examine any Teutonic language we learn that it is only a branch of the great Aryan or Indo-European family of languages.

In life and language, therefore, we are related first to the Teutonic races, and through them to all the nations of this Indo-European family, which, starting with enormous vigor from their original home probably in central Europe [27] spread southward and westward, driving out the native tribes and slowly developing the mighty civilizations of India, Persia, Greece, Rome, and the wilder but more vigorous life of the Celts and Teutons. In all these languages--Sanskrit, Iranian, Greek, Latin, Celtic, Teutonic--we recognize the same root words for father and mother, for God and man, for the common needs and the common relations of life; and since words are windows through which we see the soul of this old people, we find certain ideals of love, home, faith, heroism, liberty, which seem to have been the very life of our forefathers, and which were inherited by them from their old heroic and conquering ancestors.

It was on the borders of the North Sea that our fathers halted for unnumbered centuries on their westward journey, and slowly developed the national life and language which we now call Anglo-Saxon. Dual Character of our Language It is this old vigorous Anglo-Saxon language which forms the basis of our modern English. If we read a paragraph from any good English book, and then analyze it, as we would a flower, to see what it contains, we find two distinct classes of words. The first class, containing simple words expressing the common things of life, makes up the strong framework of our language. These words are like the stem and bare branches of a mighty oak, and if we look them up in the dictionary we find that almost invariably they come to us from our Anglo-Saxon ancestors.

The second and larger class of words is made up of those that give grace, variety, ornament, to our speech. They are like the leaves and blossoms of the same tree, and when we examine their history we find that they come to us from the Celts, Romans, Normans, and other peoples with whom we have been in contact in the long years of our development. The most prominent characteristic of our present language, therefore, is its dual character. Its best qualities--strength, simplicity, directness--come from Anglo-Saxon sources; its enormous added wealth of expression, its comprehensiveness, its plastic adaptability to new conditions and ideas, are largely the result of additions from other languages, and especially of its gradual absorption of the French language after the Norman Conquest.

It is this dual character, this combination of native and foreign, of innate and exotic elements, which accounts for the wealth of our English language and literature. To see it in concrete form, we should read in succession Beowulf and Paradise Lost , the two great epics which show the root and the flower of our literary development. The literature of this period falls naturally into two divisions,--pagan and Christian. The former represents the poetry which the Anglo-Saxons probably brought with them in the form of oral sagas,--the crude material out of which literature was slowly developed on English soil; the latter represents the writings developed under teaching of the monks, after the old pagan religion had vanished, but while it still retained its hold on the life and language of the people.

In reading our earliest poetry it is well to remember that all of it was copied by the monks, and seems to have been more or less altered to give it a religious coloring. The coming of Christianity meant not simply a new life and leader for England; it meant also the wealth of a new language. The scop is now replaced by the literary monk; and that monk, though he lives among common people and speaks with the English tongue, has behind him all the culture and literary resources of the Latin language. The effect is seen instantly in our early prose and poetry. In general, two great schools of Christian influence came into England, and speedily put an end to the frightful wars that had waged continually among the various petty kingdoms of the Anglo-Saxons.

The first of these, under the leadership of Augustine, came from Rome. It spread in the south and center of England, especially in the kingdom of Essex. It founded schools and partially educated the rough people, but it produced no lasting literature. The other, under the leadership of the saintly Aidan, came from Ireland, which country had been for centuries a center of religion and education for all western Europe. The monks of this school labored chiefly in Northumbria, and to their influence we owe all that is best in Anglo-Saxon literature. The Venerable Bede, as he is generally called, our first great scholar and "the father of our English learning," wrote almost exclusively in Latin, his last work, the translation of the Gospel of John into Anglo-Saxon, having been unfortunately lost.

Much to our regret, therefore, his books and the story of his gentle, heroic life must be excluded from this history of our literature. His works, over forty in number, covered the whole field of human knowledge in his day, and were so admirably written that they were widely copied as text-books, or rather manuscripts, in nearly all the monastery schools of Europe. It is a fascinating history to read even now, with its curious combination of accurate scholarship and immense credulity. In all strictly historical matters Bede is a model. Every known authority on the subject, from Pliny to Gildas, was carefully considered; every learned pilgrim to Rome was commissioned by Bede to ransack the archives and to make copies of papal decrees and royal letters; and to these were added the testimony of abbots who could speak from personal knowledge of events or repeat the traditions of their several monasteries.

Side by side with this historical exactness are marvelous stories of saints and missionaries. It was an age of credulity, and miracles were in men's minds continually. The men of whom he wrote lived lives more wonderful than any romance, and their courage and gentleness made a tremendous impression on the rough, warlike people to whom they came with open hands and hearts. It is the natural way of all primitive peoples to magnify the works of their heroes, and so deeds of heroism and kindness, which were part of the daily life of the Irish missionaries, were soon transformed into the miracles of the saints.

Bede believed these things, as all other men did, and records them with charming simplicity, just as he received them from bishop or abbot. He, Lord everlasting, Established of old the source of all wonders: Creator all-holy, He hung the bright heaven, A roof high upreared, o'er the children of men; The King of mankind then created for mortals The world in its beauty, the earth spread beneath them, He, Lord everlasting, omnipotent God. The words were written about A. Here is a free and condensed translation of Bede's story:. There was, in the monastery of the Abbess Hilda, a brother distinguished by the grace of God, for that he could make poems treating of goodness and religion.

Whatever was translated to him for he could not read of Sacred Scripture he shortly reproduced in poetic form of great sweetness and beauty. None of all the English poets could equal him, for he learned not the art of song from men, nor sang by the arts of men. Rather did he receive all his poetry as a free gift from God, and for this reason he did never compose poetry of a vain or worldly kind. Until of mature age he lived as a layman and had never learned any poetry.

Indeed, so ignorant of singing was he that sometimes, at a feast, where it was the custom that for the pleasure of all each guest should sing in turn, he would rise from the table when he saw the harp coming to him and go home ashamed. Now it happened once that he did this thing at a certain festivity, and went out to the stall to care for the horses, this duty being assigned to him for that night. In the morning he went to the steward of the monastery lands and showed him the gift he had received in sleep.

To test him they expounded to him a bit of Scripture from the Latin and bade him, if he could, to turn it into poetry. He went away humbly and returned in the morning with an excellent poem. Thereupon Hilda received him and his family into the monastery, made him one of the brethren, and commanded that the whole course of Bible history be expounded to him. He in turn, reflecting upon what he had heard, transformed it into most delightful poetry, and by echoing it back to the monks in more melodious sounds made his teachers his listeners.

In all this his aim was to turn men from wickedness and to help them to the love and practice of well doing. It is the story of Genesis, Exodus, and a part of Daniel, told in glowing, poetic language, with a power of insight and imagination which often raises it from paraphrase into the realm of true poetry. Aside from the doubtful question of authorship, even a casual reading of the poem brings us into the presence of a poet rude indeed, but with a genius strongly suggestive at times of the matchless Milton.

The book opens with a hymn of praise, and then tells of the fall of Satan and his rebel angels from heaven, which is familiar to us in Milton's Paradise Lost. Then follows the creation of the world, and the Paraphrase begins to thrill with the old Anglo-Saxon love of nature. Quickly the High King's bidding was obeyed, Over the waste there shone light's holy ray.

Then parted He, Lord of triumphant might, Shadow from shining, darkness from the light. Light, by the Word of God, was first named day. After recounting the story of Paradise, the Fall, and the Deluge, the Paraphrase is continued in the Exodus, of which the poet makes a noble epic, rushing on with the sweep of a Saxon army to battle. A single selection is given here to show how the poet adapted the story to his hearers:. Then they saw, Forth and forward faring, Pharaoh's war array Gliding on, a grove of spears;--glittering the hosts!

Fluttered there the banners, there the folk the march trod. Onwards surged the war, strode the spears along, Blickered the broad shields; blew aloud the trumpets Wheeling round in gyres, yelled the fowls of war, Of the battle greedy; hoarsely barked the raven, Dew upon his feathers, o'er the fallen corpses-- Swart that chooser of the slain! Sang aloud the wolves At eve their horrid song, hoping for the carrion. The longest of these is Judith , in which the story of an apocryphal book of the Old Testament is done into vigorous poetry. Holofernes is represented as a savage and cruel Viking, reveling in his mead hall; and when the heroic Judith cuts off his head with his own sword and throws it down before the warriors of her people, rousing them to battle and victory, we reach perhaps the most dramatic and brilliant point of Anglo-Saxon literature.

Of Cynewulf, greatest of the Anglo-Saxon poets, excepting only the unknown author of Beowulf , we know very little. Indeed, it was not till , more than a thousand years after his death, that even his name became known. Though he is the only one of our early poets who signed his works, the name was never plainly written, but woven into the verses in the form of secret runes, [32] suggesting a modern charade, but more difficult of interpretation until one has found the key to the poet's signature.

Works of Cynewulf. Unsigned poems attributed to him or his school are Andreas , the Phoenix , the Dream of the Rood , the Descent into Hell , Guthlac , the Wanderer , and some of the Riddles. The last are simply literary conundrums in which some well-known object, like the bow or drinking horn, is described in poetic language, and the hearer must guess the name.

The Christ Of all these works the most characteristic is undoubtedly The Christ , a didactic poem in three parts: the first celebrating the Nativity; the second, the Ascension; and the third, "Doomsday," telling the torments of the wicked and the unending joy of the redeemed. Cynewulf takes his subject-matter partly from the Church liturgy, but more largely from the homilies of Gregory the Great. The whole is well woven together, and contains some hymns of great beauty and many passages of intense dramatic force. Throughout the poem a deep love for Christ and a reverence for the Virgin Mary are manifest.

More than any other poem in any language, The Christ reflects the spirit of early Latin Christianity. Here is a fragment comparing life to a sea voyage,--a comparison which occurs sooner or later to every thoughtful person, and which finds perfect expression in Tennyson's "Crossing the Bar. Now 'tis most like as if we fare in ships On the ocean flood, over the water cold, Driving our vessels through the spacious seas With horses of the deep. A perilous way is this Of boundless waves, and there are stormy seas On which we toss here in this reeling world O'er the deep paths. Ours was a sorry plight Until at last we sailed unto the land, Over the troubled main. Help came to us That brought us to the haven of salvation, God's Spirit-Son, and granted grace to us That we might know e'en from the vessel's deck Where we must bind with anchorage secure Our ocean steeds, old stallions of the waves.

Andreas and Elene In the two epic poems of Andreas and Elene Cynewulf if he be the author reaches the very summit of his poetical art. Andreas , an unsigned poem, records the story of St. Andrew, who crosses the sea to rescue his comrade St. Matthew from the cannibals. A young ship-master who sails the boat turns out to be Christ in disguise, Matthew is set free, and the savages are converted by a miracle. Elene has for its subject-matter the finding of the true cross.

It tells of Constantine's vision of the Rood, on the eve of battle. After his victory under the new emblem he sends his mother Helena Elene to Jerusalem in search of the original cross and the nails. The poem, which is of very uneven quality, might properly be put at the end of Cynewulf's works. He adds to the poem a personal note, signing his name in runes; and, if we accept the wonderful "Vision of the Rood" as Cynewulf's work, we learn how he found the cross at last in his own heart. There is a suggestion here of the future Sir Launfal and the search for the Holy Grail.

The same northern energy which had built up learning and literature so rapidly in Northumbria was instrumental in pulling it down again. Toward the end of the century in which Cynewulf lived, the Danes swept down on the English coasts and overwhelmed Northumbria. Monasteries and schools were destroyed; scholars and teachers alike were put to the sword, and libraries that had been gathered leaf by leaf with the toil of centuries were scattered to the four winds. So all true Northumbrian literature perished, with the exception of a few fragments, and that which we now possess [35] is largely a translation in the dialect of the West Saxons.

This translation was made by Alfred's scholars, after he had driven back the Danes in an effort to preserve the ideals and the civilization that had been so hardly won. With the conquest of Northumbria ends the poetic period of Anglo-Saxon literature. With Alfred the Great of Wessex our prose literature makes a beginning. This is now to be said, that whilst I live I wish to live nobly, and after life to leave to the men who come after me a memory of good works. So wrote the great Alfred, looking back over his heroic life. That he lived nobly none can doubt who reads the history of the greatest of Anglo-Saxon kings; and his good works include, among others, the education of half a country, the salvage of a noble native literature, and the creation of the first English prose.

Life and Times of Alfred. For the history of Alfred's times, and details of the terrific struggle with the Northmen, the reader must be referred to the histories. The struggle ended with the Treaty of Wedmore, in , with the establishment of Alfred not only as king of Wessex, but as overlord of the whole northern country. Then the hero laid down his sword, and set himself as a little child to learn to read and write Latin, so that he might lead his people in peace as he had led them in war.

It is then that Alfred began to be the heroic figure in literature that he had formerly been in the wars against the Northmen. With the same patience and heroism that had marked the long struggle for freedom, Alfred set himself to the task of educating his people. First he gave them laws, beginning with the Ten Commandments and ending with the Golden Rule, and then established courts where laws could be faithfully administered. Safe from the Danes by land, he created a navy, almost the first of the English fleets, to drive them from the coast. Then, with peace and justice established within his borders, he sent to Europe for scholars and teachers, and set them over schools that he established. Hitherto all education had been in Latin; now he set himself the task, first, of teaching every free-born Englishman to read and write his own language, and second, of translating into English the best books for their instruction.

Every poor scholar was honored at his court and was speedily set to work at teaching or translating; every wanderer bringing a book or a leaf of manuscript from the pillaged monasteries of Northumbria was sure of his reward. In this way the few fragments of native Northumbrian literature, which we have been studying, were saved to the world. Alfred and his scholars treasured the rare fragments and copied them in the West-Saxon dialect. Works of Alfred. Aside from his educational work, Alfred is known chiefly as a translator.

After fighting his country's battles, and at a time when most men were content with military honor, he began to learn Latin, that he might translate the works that would be most helpful to his people. His important translations are four in number: Orosius's Universal History and Geography , the leading work in general history for several centuries; Bede's History , [37] the first great historical work written on English soil; Pope Gregory's Shepherds' Book , intended especially for the clergy; and Boethius's Consolations of Philosophy , the favorite philosophical work of the Middle Ages. The Saxon Chronicle. More important than any translation is the English or Saxon Chronicle.

This was probably at first a dry record, especially of important births and deaths in the West-Saxon kingdom. When it touches his own reign the dry chronicle becomes an interesting and connected story, the oldest history belonging to any modern nation in its own language. The record of Alfred's reign, probably by himself, is a splendid bit of writing and shows clearly his claim to a place in literature as well as in history. The Chronicle was continued after Alfred's death, and is the best monument of early English prose that is left to us.

Here and there stirring songs are included in the narrative, like "The Battle of Brunanburh" and "The Battle of Maldon. The Chronicle was continued for a century after the Norman Conquest, and is extremely valuable not only as a record of events but as a literary monument showing the development of our language. Close of the Anglo-Saxon Period. After Alfred's death there is little to record, except the loss of the two supreme objects of his heroic struggle, namely, a national life and a national literature. It was at once the strength and the weakness of the Saxon that he lived apart as a free man and never joined efforts willingly with any large body of his fellows. The tribe was his largest idea of nationality, and, with all our admiration, we must confess as we first meet him that he has not enough sense of unity to make a great nation, nor enough culture to produce a great literature.

A few noble political ideals repeated in a score of petty kingdoms, and a few literary ideals copied but never increased,--that is the summary of his literary history. For a full century after Alfred literature was practically at a standstill, having produced the best of which it was capable, and England waited for the national impulse and for the culture necessary for a new and greater art. Both of these came speedily, by way of the sea, in the Norman Conquest. Summary of Anglo-Saxon Period.

Our literature begins with songs and stories of a time when our Teutonic ancestors were living on the borders of the North Sea. Three tribes of these ancestors, the Jutes, Angles, and Saxons, conquered Britain in the latter half of the fifth century, and laid the foundation of the English nation. The first landing was probably by a tribe of Jutes, under chiefs called by the chronicle Hengist and Horsa. The date is doubtful; but the year is accepted by most historians. These old ancestors were hardy warriors and sea rovers, yet were capable of profound and noble emotions. Their poetry reflects this double nature. Its subjects were chiefly the sea and the plunging boats, battles, adventure, brave deeds, the glory of warriors, and the love of home.

Accent, alliteration, and an abrupt break in the middle of each line gave their poetry a kind of martial rhythm. In general the poetry is earnest and somber, and pervaded by fatalism and religious feeling. A careful reading of the few remaining fragments of Anglo-Saxon literature reveals five striking characteristics: the love of freedom; responsiveness to nature, especially in her sterner moods; strong religious convictions, and a belief in Wyrd, or Fate; reverence for womanhood; and a devotion to glory as the ruling motive in every warrior's life.

In our study we have noted: 1 the great epic or heroic poem Beowulf , and a few fragments of our first poetry, such as "Widsith," "Deor's Lament," and "The Seafarer. Bede, our first historian, belongs to this school; but all his extant works are in Latin. Northumbrian literature flourished between and In the year Northumbria was conquered by the Danes, who destroyed the monasteries and the libraries containing our earliest literature. Our most important prose work of this age is the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, which was revised and enlarged by Alfred, and which was continued for more than two centuries. It is the oldest historical record known to any European nation in its own tongue.

Selections for Reading. Miscellaneous Poetry. Hall, Lumsden, etc. For the facts of the Anglo-Saxon conquest of England consult first a good text-book: Montgomery, pp. For fuller treatment see Green, ch. Stevenson; C. Anglo-Saxon Texts. Special Works. The Christ of Cynewulf, prose translation by Whitman; the same poem, text and translation, by Gollancz; text by Cook. Suggestive Questions.

What is the relation of history and literature? Why should both subjects be studied together? Explain the qualities that characterize all great literature. Has any text-book in history ever appealed to you as a work of literature? What literary qualities have you noticed in standard historical works, such as those of Macaulay, Prescott, Gibbon, Green, Motley, Parkman, and John Fiske?

Why did the Anglo-Saxons come to England? What induced them to remain? Did any change occur in their ideals, or in their manner of life? Do you know any social or political institutions which they brought, and which, we still cherish? From the literature you have read, what do you know about our Anglo-Saxon ancestors? What virtues did they admire in men? How was woman regarded? Can you compare the Anglo-Saxon ideal of woman with that of other nations, the Romans for instance? Tell in your own words the general qualities of Anglo-Saxon poetry. How did it differ in its metrical form from modern poetry? What passages seem to you worth learning and remembering? Can you explain why poetry is more abundant and more interesting than prose in the earliest literature of all nations?

Tell the story of Beowulf. What appeals to you most in the poem? Why is it a work for all time, or, as the Anglo-Saxons would say, why is it worthy to be remembered? Note the permanent quality of literature, and the ideals and emotions which are emphasized in Beowulf. Describe the burials of Scyld and of Beowulf. Does the poem teach any moral lesson? Explain the Christian elements in this pagan epic. Name some other of our earliest poems, and describe the one you like best.

How does the sea figure in our first poetry? How is nature regarded? What poem reveals the life of the scop or poet? How do you account for the serious character of Anglo-Saxon poetry? Compare the Saxon and the Celt with regard to the gladsomeness of life as shown in their literature. What useful purpose did poetry serve among our ancestors? What purpose did the harp serve in reciting their poems? Would the harp add anything to our modern poetry? What is meant by Northumbrian literature? Who are the great Northumbrian writers?

What besides the Danish conquest caused the decline of Northumbrian literature? For what is Bede worthy to be remembered? What effect did Christianity have upon Anglo-Saxon literature? What are the Cynewulf poems? Describe any that you have read. How do they compare in spirit and in expression with Beowulf? Compare the views of nature in Beowulf and in the Cynewulf poems. Describe the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. What is its value in our language, literature, and history? Give an account of Alfred's life and of his work for literature. How does Anglo-Saxon prose compare in interest with the poetry? The name Norman, which is a softened form of Northman, tells its own story. The men who bore the name came originally from Scandinavia,--bands of big, blond, fearless men cruising after plunder and adventure in their Viking ships, and bringing terror wherever they appeared.

It was these same "Children of Woden" who, under the Danes' raven flag, had blotted out Northumbrian civilization in the ninth century. Later the same race of men came plundering along the French coast and conquered the whole northern country; but here the results were altogether different. Instead of blotting out a superior civilization, as the Danes had done, they promptly abandoned their own. Their name of Normandy still clings to the new home; but all else that was Norse disappeared as the conquerors intermarried with the native Franks and accepted French ideals and spoke the French language. So rapidly did they adopt and improve the Roman civilization of the natives that, from a rude tribe of heathen Vikings, they had developed within a single century into the most polished and intellectual people in all Europe.

The union of Norse and French i. Roman-Gallic blood had here produced a race having the best qualities of both,--the will power and energy of the one, the eager curiosity and vivid imagination of the other. When these Norman-French people appeared in Anglo-Saxon England they brought with them three noteworthy things: a lively Celtic disposition, a vigorous and progressive Latin civilization, and a Romance language.

At the battle of Hastings the power of Harold, last of the Saxon kings, was broken, and William, duke of Normandy, became master of England. Of the completion of that stupendous Conquest which began at Hastings, and which changed the civilization of a whole nation, this is not the place to speak. We simply point out three great results of the Conquest which have a direct bearing on our literature. Second, they forced upon England the national idea, that is, a strong, centralized government to replace the loose authority of a Saxon chief over his tribesmen. And the world's history shows that without a great nationality a great literature is impossible.

Third, they brought to England the wealth of a new language and literature, and our English gradually absorbed both. For three centuries after Hastings French was the language of the upper classes, of courts and schools and literature; yet so tenaciously did the common people cling to their own strong speech that in the end English absorbed almost the whole body of French words and became the language of the land. It was the welding of Saxon and French into one speech that produced the wealth of our modern English. Naturally such momentous changes in a nation were not brought about suddenly.

At first Normans and Saxons lived apart in the relation of masters and servants, with more or less contempt on one side and hatred on the other; but in an astonishingly short time these two races were drawn powerfully together, like two men of different dispositions who are often led into a steadfast friendship by the attraction of opposite qualities, each supplying what the other lacks. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle , which was continued for a century after Hastings, finds much to praise in the conquerors; on the other hand the Normans, even before the Conquest, had no great love for the French nation. After conquering England they began to regard it as home and speedily developed a new sense of nationality.

Geoffrey's popular History , [43] written less than a century after the Conquest, made conquerors and conquered alike proud of their country by its stories of heroes who, curiously enough, were neither Norman nor Saxon, but creations of the native Celts. Thus does literature, whether in a battle song or a history, often play the chief role in the development of nationality. The change in the life of the conquerors from Norsemen to Normans, from Vikings to Frenchmen, is shown most clearly in the literature which they brought with them to England. The old Norse strength and grandeur, the magnificent sagas telling of the tragic struggles of men and gods, which still stir us profoundly,--these have all disappeared.

In their place is a bright, varied, talkative literature, which runs to endless verses, and which makes a wonderful romance out of every subject it touches. The theme may be religion or love or chivalry or history, the deeds of Alexander or the misdeeds of a monk; but the author's purpose never varies. He must tell a romantic story and amuse his audience; and the more wonders and impossibilities he relates, the more surely is he believed. We are reminded, in reading, of the native Gauls, who would stop every traveler and compel him to tell a story ere he passed on. There was more of the Gaul than of the Norseman in the conquerors, and far more of fancy than of thought or feeling in their literature.

If you would see this in concrete form, read the Chanson de Roland , the French national epic which the Normans first put into literary form , in contrast with Beowulf , which voices the Saxon's thought and feeling before the profound mystery of human life. It is not our purpose to discuss the evident merits or the serious defects of Norman-French literature, but only to point out two facts which impress the student, namely, that Anglo-Saxon literature was at one time enormously superior to the French, and that the latter, with its evident inferiority, absolutely replaced the former. To understand this curious phenomenon it is necessary only to remember the relative conditions of the two races who lived side by side in England.

On the one hand the Anglo-Saxons were a conquered people, and without liberty a great literature is impossible. The inroads of the Danes and their own tribal wars had already destroyed much of their writings, and in their new condition of servitude they could hardly preserve what remained. The conquering Normans, on the other hand, represented the civilization of France, which country, during the early Middle Ages, was the literary and educational center of all Europe.

They came to England at a time when the idea of nationality was dead, when culture had almost vanished, when Englishmen lived apart in narrow isolation; and they brought with them law, culture, the prestige of success, and above all the strong impulse to share in the great world's work and to join in the moving currents of the world's history. Small wonder, then, that the young Anglo-Saxons felt the quickening of this new life and turned naturally to the cultured and progressive Normans as their literary models. In the Advocates' Library at Edinburgh there is a beautifully illuminated manuscript, written about , which gives us an excellent picture of the literature of the Norman period.

In examining it we are to remember that literature was in the hands of the clergy and nobles; that the common people could not read, and had only a few songs and ballads for their literary portion. We are to remember also that parchments were scarce and very expensive, and that a single manuscript often contained all the reading matter of a castle or a village. Hence this old manuscript is as suggestive as a modern library.

It contains over forty distinct works, the great bulk of them being romances. There are a few other works, similarly incongruous, crowded together in this typical manuscript, which now gives mute testimony to the literary taste of the times. Obviously it is impossible to classify such a variety. All the scholarly works of the period, like William of Malmesbury's History , and Anselm's [46] Cur Deus Homo , and Roger Bacon's Opus Majus , the beginning of modern experimental science, were written in Latin; while nearly all other works were written in French, or else were English copies or translations of French originals.

Except for the advanced student, therefore, they hardly belong to the story of English literature. We shall note here only one or two marked literary types, like the Riming Chronicle or verse history and the Metrical Romance, and a few writers whose work has especial significance. Geoffrey's Historia Regum Britanniae is noteworthy, not as literature, but rather as a source book from which many later writers drew their literary materials. Among the native Celtic tribes an immense number of legends, many of them of exquisite beauty, had been preserved through four successive conquests of Britain. Geoffrey, a Welsh monk, collected some of these legends and, aided chiefly by his imagination, wrote a complete history of the Britons. The "History" is a curious medley of pagan and Christian legends, of chronicle, comment, and pure invention,--all recorded in minute detail and with a gravity which makes it clear that Geoffrey had no conscience, or else was a great joker.

As history the whole thing is rubbish; but it was extraordinarily successful at the time and made all who heard it, whether Normans or Saxons, proud of their own country. It is interesting to us because it gave a new direction to the literature of England by showing the wealth of poetry and romance that lay in its own traditions of Arthur and his knights. Shakespeare's King Lear , Malory's Morte d'Arthur , and Tennyson's Idylls of the King were founded on the work of this monk, who had the genius to put unwritten Celtic tradition in the enduring form of Latin prose. The French literature of the Norman period is interesting chiefly because of the avidity with which foreign writers seized upon the native legends and made them popular in England.

Until Geoffrey's preposterous chronicle appeared, these legends had not been used to any extent as literary material. Indeed, they were scarcely known in England, though familiar to French and Italian minstrels. Legends of Arthur and his court were probably first taken to Brittany by Welsh emigrants in the fifth and sixth centuries. They became immensely popular wherever they were told, and they were slowly carried by minstrels and story-tellers all over Europe. Geoffrey met this demand by creating an historical manuscript of Welsh history. That was enough for the age. With Geoffrey and his alleged manuscript to rest upon, the Norman-French writers were free to use the fascinating stories which had been-for centuries in the possession of their wandering minstrels.

Geoffrey's Latin history was put into French verse by Gaimar c. From about onward Arthur and Guinevere and the matchless band of Celtic heroes that we meet later in Malory's Morte d' Arthur became the permanent possession of our literature. Layamon's Brut c. This is the most important of the English riming chronicles, that is, history related in the form of doggerel verse, probably because poetry is more easily memorized than prose. We give here a free rendering of selected lines at the beginning of the poem, which tell us all we know of Layamon, the first who ever wrote as an Englishman for Englishmen, including in the term all who loved England and called it home, no matter where their ancestors were born.

Now there was a priest in the land named Layamon. He was son of Leovenath--may God be gracious unto him. He dwelt at Ernley, at a noble church on Severn's bank. He read many books, and it came to his mind to tell the noble deeds of the English. Then he began to journey far and wide over the land to procure noble books for authority. Pen he took, and wrote on book-skin, and made the three books into one. Then follows the founding of the Briton kingdom, and the last third of the poem, which is over thirty thousand lines in length, is taken up with the history of Arthur and his knights.

If the Brut had no merits of its own, it would still interest us, for it marks the first appearance of the Arthurian legends in our own tongue. A single selection is given here from Arthur's dying speech, familiar to us in Tennyson's Morte d'Arthur. The reader will notice here two things: first, that though the poem is almost pure Anglo-Saxon, [50] our first speech has already dropped many inflections and is more easily read than Beowulf ; second, that French influence is already at work in Layamon's rimes and assonances, that is, the harmony resulting from using the same vowel sound in several successive lines:. An elf very beautiful.

And heo seal mine wunden And she shall my wounds Makien alle isunde, Make all sound; Al hal me makien All whole me make Mid haleweiye drenchen. With healing drinks. With mickle joy. Aefne than worden Even with these words Ther com of se wenden There came from the sea That wes an sceort bat lithen, A short little boat gliding, Sceoven mid uthen, Shoved by the waves; And twa wimmen ther inne, And two women therein, Wunderliche idihte. Wondrously attired. And heo nomen Arthur anan And they took Arthur anon And an eovste hine vereden And bore him hurriedly, And softe hine adun leiden, And softly laid him down, And forth gunnen lithen.

And forth gan glide. Metrical Romances. Love, chivalry, and religion, all pervaded by the spirit of romance,--these are the three great literary ideals which find expression in the metrical romances. Read these romances now, with their knights and fair ladies, their perilous adventures and tender love-making, their minstrelsy and tournaments and gorgeous cavalcades,--as if humanity were on parade, and life itself were one tumultuous holiday in the open air,--and you have an epitome of the whole childish, credulous soul of the Middle Ages. The Normans first brought this type of romance into England, and so popular did it become, so thoroughly did it express the romantic spirit of the time, that it speedily overshadowed all other forms of literary expression.

Form Though the metrical romances varied much in form and subject-matter, the general type remains the same,--a long rambling poem or series of poems treating of love or knightly adventure or both. Its hero is a knight; its characters are fair ladies in distress, warriors in armor, giants, dragons, enchanters, and various enemies of Church and State; and its emphasis is almost invariably on love, religion, and duty as defined by chivalry. In the French originals of these romances the lines were a definite length, the meter exact, and rimes and assonances were both used to give melody.

In England this metrical system came in contact with the uneven lines, the strong accent and alliteration of the native songs; and it is due to the gradual union of the two systems, French and Saxon, that our English became capable of the melody and amazing variety of verse forms which first find expression in Chaucer's poetry. Cycles of romances In the enormous number of these verse romances we note three main divisions, according to subject, into the romances or the so-called matter of France, Rome, and Britain.

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