Anglo-Saxon Literature

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Lyric Poetry

Genre
◦ A classification or category of a literary form

Dramatic poem
◦ Involves more than one speaker

Narrative poem
◦ Tells a complete story

Lyric poem
◦ Expresses the observations and feelings of a single
speaker
◦ Presents an experience or single effect (does not tell a
full story)
◦ (orig.) A song accompanied by a lyre

Speaker
◦ Who is the voice of the poem—the character who tells the
poem?

Subject (story)
◦ What is the speaker telling about—what’s going on in this
poem? (where? When? What?—if supplied)

Tone
◦ What is the speaker’s attitude about the subject/story?

Mood
◦ What is the poem’s atmosphere—what the audience feels?

Theme
◦ What message about life, about the human experience,
does the poem present?

Elegy
◦ A solemn and formal lyric poem about death
◦ Mourns the passing away of an individual person or
reflects on a tragic theme, such as the passing of
youth, beauty, or a way of life
◦ (adj.) elegaic

Planctus
◦ Medieval literary genre
◦ Means “complaint”
◦ Distinguished from elegy—
 Fictional speaker
 Mourns a loss other than death

Exile: separation or banishment from one’s native
country, region, or home
◦ Expressed with memorable sadness and pain
◦ Wraecca—wretch, stranger, unhappy man, and wanderer

Allegiance: pledging loyalty to a particular lord or
king (hlaford –“lord”)
◦ Source of sustenance (hlafweard—“guardian of the loaf”)
◦ Dispenser of wealth
◦ Guarantor of the security of his followers in a dangerous
and uncertain world

Longing for home and comfort
◦ Mead hall
◦ The lord and his followers shared the warmth of a fire, the
comfort of food and drink (mead), and the pleasures of recited
poetry (scops)

Kenning
◦ An appositive phrase (renames something or
someone)
◦ Often a colorful metaphor
◦ Examples:
 The ocean, “the whale’s home”
 “Beowulf,/A prince of the Geats”
 Grendel, “shepherd of evil, guardian of crime”

Caesura
◦ A natural break/mid-line pause in the middle of a
line of Anglo-Saxon poetry
◦ Divides each four-stress line in half
◦ Essential to the rhythm (meter) of the poem
◦ Example:

. . . My feet were cast
In icy bands, bound with frost
With frozen chains, and hardship groaned
Around my heart. Hunger tore
At my sea-weary soul.

Alliteration
◦ Repetition of initial consonant sounds
◦ Examples:
 “I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.”
 “This tale is true, and mine. It tells . . .”
◦ Anglo-Saxon convention (tradition) is to use
alliteration with a heavy hand (a bit overused)
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