Readers today approach the Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf with cultural preconceptions very different from those expressed by the author of this poem. This essay hopes to enlighten the modern reader regarding the customs and values from the time of the poem’s composition.
Beowulf makes reference to Ingeld and his wife and the coming Heathobard feud:
in that hot passion
his love for peace-weaver, his wife, will cool (2065-66)
This is a rare passage, for Anglo-Saxon poetry rarely mentions romantic feelings between spouses. In fact, one’s marital status was even considered insignificant. For example, with the hero himself the poet never mentions whether he is married or not. On the other hand, feelings between men are presented frequently and with surprising intensity. Consider Beowulf’s farewell from Hrothgar and Heorot:
Then the good king, of a noble race,
great Scylding prince, held that best thane
round the neck and kissed him; his tears ran down,
streaked his great beard. Wise in his age,
he expected two things, but one the more strongly,
that never again would they look on each other
as in this brave meeting. That man was so dear
that he could not withhold those deep tears;
fixed in his heart by the bonds of thought,
a deep-felt longing for the beloved man
burned in his...
... middle of paper ...
...ld English days.
From the above it’s obvious that abundant evidence amply demonstrates that Beowulf truly reflects an Anglo-Saxon culture which is so much different from anything modern readers are used to.
Chickering, Howell D.. Beowulf A dual-Language Edition. New York: Anchor Books, 1977.
Cramp, Rosemary. “Beowulf and Archaeology.” In TheBeowulf Poet, edited byDonald K. fry. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1968.
Robinson, Fred C.. “Differences Between Modern and Anglo-Saxon Values.” In Readings on Beowulf, edited by Stephen P. Thompson. San Diego: Greenhaven Press,1998.
Collins, Roger and McClure, Judith, editors. Bede: The Ecclesiastical History of the English People; The Greater Chronicle; Bede’s Letter to Egbert. New York: Oxford University Press, 1969.
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