Old English period (#Anglo-#Saxon)
AND #Top #Writers from the Old English period
Old English literature, also called Anglo-Saxon literature, literature written in Old English c. 650–c. 1100. For a description of this period in the context of the history of English literature, seeEnglish literature: The Old English period.
Beowulf is the oldest surviving Germanic epic and the longest Old English poem; it was likely composed between 700 and 750. Other great works of Old English poetry include The Wanderer, The Seafarer, The Battle of Maldon, and The Dream of the Rood. This poetry is alliterative; one of its features is the kenning, a metaphorical phrase used in place of a common noun (e.g., “swan road” for “sea”). Two known poets from this period are Caedmon, considered the first Old English Christian poet, and Cynewulf. Old English poetry has survived almost entirely in four manuscripts: the Exeter Book, the Junius Manuscript, the Vercelli Book, and the Beowulf manuscript.
Old English prose works include legal writings, medical tracts, religious texts, and translations from Latin and other languages. Particularly notable is the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, a historical record begun about the time of King Alfred’s reign (871–899) and continuing for more than three centuries.
The heroic tale of Beowulf is the most noteworthy work of the Anglo-Saxon era and is often regarded as a major Germanic work but it is good to know about other notable works of the respective era that are important in their own ways. Anglo-Saxon era is marking of the official beginning of English literature; the literature of the respective era is also termed as the Germanic narrative and is reflective of the ancient Anglo-Saxon community. The literature of Germanic period is largely based on religious stories, lives and works of religious figures and tales composed by drawing inspiration from Biblical accounts. The main reason of it is that Bible was the only source of knowledge available, which acts as a muse for the literary figures of the time. Alongside Biblical references, oral tradition was also a significant influence on the Anglo-Saxon writers.
1. #Caedmon, (flourished 658–680), first Old English Christian poet, whose fragmentary hymn to the creation remains a symbol of the adaptation of the aristocratic-heroic Anglo-Saxon verse tradition to the expression of Christian themes. His story is known from Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People, which tells how Caedmon, an illiterate herdsman, retired from company one night in shame because he could not comply with the demand made of each guest to sing. Then in a dream a stranger appeared commanding him to sing of “the beginning of things,” and the herdsman found himself uttering “verses which he had never heard.” When Caedmon awoke he related his dream to the farm bailiff under whom he worked and was conducted by him to the monastery at Streaneshalch (now called Whitby). The abbess St. Hilda believed that Caedmon was divinely inspired and, to test his powers, proposed that he should render into verse a portion of sacred history, which the monks explained. By the following morning he had fulfilled the task. At the request of the abbess he became an inmate of the monastery. Throughout the remainder of his life his more learned brethren expounded Scripture to him, and all that he heard he reproduced in vernacularpoetry. All of his poetry was on sacred themes, and its unvarying aim was to turn men from sin to righteousness.
2. #Cynewulf, also spelled Cynwulf or Kynewulf (flourished 9th century ad, Northumbria or Mercia [now in England]), author of four Old English poems preserved in late 10th-century manuscripts. Elene and The Fates of the Apostles are in the Vercelli Book, and The Ascension (which forms the second part of a trilogy, Christ, and is also called Christ II) and Juliana are in the Exeter Book. An epilogue to each poem, asking for prayers for the author, contains runic characters representing the letters c, y, n, (e), w, u, l, f, which are thought to spell his name. A rhymed passage in the Elene shows that Cynewulf wrote in the Northumbrian or Mercian dialect. Nothing is known of him outside his poems, as there is no reason to identify him with any of the recorded persons bearing this common name. He may have been a learned cleric since all of the poems are based on Latin sources.
4. #Ælfric (955?-1020?)
[Dark Ages] A monk of the late Old English period who wrote prolifically, often on linguistic matters. Apart from his Catholic Homilies and Lives of the Saints we have a Latin grammar with glossary which was compiled in English. His Colloquium was intended to improve knowledge of Latin among his pupils. Ælfric worked as a monk in the Benedictine monastery of Winchester and later at Eynsham (near Oxford) where he became abbot around 1006.
5. #Alfred, King (849-899)
[Dark Ages] The most famous of Old English kings, called ‘Alfred the Great’. He was a West-Saxon and assumed the leadership of his community in 871 and was immediately confronted by difficult military engagements with the Vikings who were pressing south. Alfred was also concerned with the reform of monastic life and had a number of translations made which are importants monuments of (early West-Saxon) Old English.
6. #Bede, The Venerable (673?-735) [Dark Ages] English monk and historian. Bede was born in Northumbria and became a monk at Jarrow where he remained for the remainder of his life. Bede is known to posterity as the author of Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum ‘Ecclesiastical history of the English people’ which is the main historical source for the Old English period. He was an accurate and reliable observer and compiler of historical information and it is to him that we know of when and how the initial Germanic invasion of Britain took place.
7. #Wulfstan ecclesiastical figure and writer in late Anglo-Saxon England. Bishop of London from 996 to 1002 and then archbishop of York from 1002 to 1023), while in part simultaneously bishop of Worcester from 1002 to 1016), Wulfstan was prominent in high political circles. He formulated the late law codes of King Æthelred (r. 978–1013, 1014–1016) and those of King Cnut (r. 1016–1035), and he has been credited with a role in turning the latter from Viking invader to model Christian Anglo-Saxon ruler. Wulfstan wrote an extensive body of homilies in which he deploys a distinctive rhythmical prose and characteristic wording and phrasing. He signed six homilies and the Latin version of one law code with the nom de plume Lupus, Latin for wolf; other works can be attributed to him based on his distinctive prose style and through manuscript associations. .
8. #Alcuin, (born c. 732, in or near York, Yorkshire, Eng.—died May 19, 804, Tours, France), Anglo-Latin poet, educator, and cleric who, as head of the Palatine school established by Charlemagne at Aachen, introduced the traditions of Anglo-Saxon humanism into western Europe. He was the foremost scholar of the revival of learning known as the Carolingian Renaissance. He also made important reforms in the Roman Catholic liturgy and left more than 300 Latin letters that have proved a valuable source on the history of his time.
9. #Aldhelm, (born c. 639—died c. 709), West Saxon abbot of Malmesbury, the most learned teacher of 7th-century Wessex, a pioneer in the art of Latin verse among the Anglo-Saxons, and the author of numerous extant writings in Latin verse and prose.Aldhelm was trained in Latin and in Celtic-Irish scholarship by Malmesbury’s Irish founder and went on to study at the famous school at Canterbury, where he was exposed to continental influences. He read widely in Latin poetry and prose, secular as well as sacred; he learned Greek; he followed the arithmetic and astronomy of his day; and he experimented with various forms of poetic metre. About 675 he became abbot of Malmesbury, where he remained, carrying on a threefold career, as monk and priest, as encourager of learning, and as Latin poet. In 705 he was consecrated bishop of Sherborne. He was also a popular vernacular poet, though none of his Old English verse survives.