Characteristics of Anglo – Saxon Poetry:

Characteristics of Anglo–Saxon Poetry
 An epic is a long narrative poem that tells the great deeds of a larger than life
hero, who embodies the values of a particular culture.
 Characteristics of an epic
 deals with a significant event for the culture or mankind in general
 source is typically a combination of history and myth
 includes dramatization and interpretation through dialogue
 elements of the supernatural
 may include battles of major proportions
 may begin with a statement of theme or an invocation to some
spiritual power
 style of language is dignified, formal, and makes use of elaborate
rhetorical devices
 The epic hero is the central figure in an epic who has superior qualities and risks
personal danger to pursue a grand quest.
Characteristics of an epic hero
 great leader
 broad setting
 hero does great deeds in battle
 gods or supernatural beings are usually involved
 story told in heightened language
 Beowulf as an Epic Hero
 superior physical strength
 very ethical
 must defeat monsters that embody dark powers
 glorified by the people he saves
 Several literary devices were used to help scops memorize these tales
o Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in words that are close
together in a poem or the repetition of consonant sounds that are similar.
“So Hrothgar’s men lived happy in his hall.”
o Compounding occurs when two words are merged to create a new word
 doghouse, barefoot, backstabbing
 foerhseoc – “life-sick” or mortally wounded
o Kennings are special kinds of metaphors that use compound words,
prepositional phrases, or possessives to name a person, place, thing, or
event indirectly.
 banhus – “bone-house” or the human body (compounding)
 “candle of heaven” – the sun (prepositional phrase)
 “whale’s road” – the ocean (possessive)
o A Caesura is a strong pause in a line of verse, like a rest functions in
music. It usually separates the line in two in Anglo-Saxon verse.
o Rhythm is the accented syllables or beats in a line