Write a note on Anglo-Saxon Pagan Lyric Poetry

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      Though Anglo-Saxon poetry was predominantly of a heroic epic character a few poems of more or less lyric nature have survived- Widsith, Deor's Lament, Wanderer, The Seafarer, The Wife's Complaint, The Husband's Message and The Runed Burg The poems along with Beorwulf, The Battle at Finnsburh, Waldere are Pagan in origin because they were brought by the Saxons from original continental home. These were unwritten and were sung by the minstrels. Later they were written and some Christian elements were infused in them.

Anglo-Saxon Pagan Lyric Poetry
Anglo-Saxon Pagan Lyric Poetry

      These lyrics grew out of and in connection with great epic cycles. The professional scope and minstrels sometimes thought about themselves in a subjective manner, tagged short speeches on to the end of larger epics. Consequently, these lyrics are in the nature of personal poetry and a general, elegiac note pervades all of them except Widsith, They begin with a description of experience from the poet's own life, mostly of suffering and sorrow and end with conventional conclusion about the vanity of worldly things and the inexorability of fate. Stern yet sombre, they thoroughly reflect the Anglo-Saxon national temperament. Their general outlook is Pagan and dark though in most of them a later hand has interpolated a Christian consolatory verse as an epilogue.

      The Ruined Burg is a complaint written on the ruin of a town. It is a series of monotonous laments. The Wife's Complaint is the lamentation of a woman who has been banished by her lover. In The Husband's Message, we find a love sending the message of his love by carving songs upon a piece of wood. The Wanderer is a song of friendship. It contains a philosophical note at the end. The Seafarer is the most original and beautiful of these poems. It has two parts -the second part is mostly obscured by the introduction of an allegory. This poem is modern in sentiment and it glorifies romance and adventure.

      Widsith is probably the oldest Anglo-Saxon poem. It depicts the adventures of an unknown traveller who has visited many courts and described them. So it tells us something about the life of contemporary courts. It contains language which shows much remoteness to old English. In Deor's Lament the poet speaks of a man who has been suddenly thrown out of employment by his masters. He is a minstrel and so he gives expression to his sorrowful feelings in beautiful language. There is a philosophic note here and its poetical value is very much limited. Wulf and Eadwacer is another monologue which expresses the intense passion of a woman for her out loved lover. It is a poem of passion Eadwacer may be her hated husband or atleast the man with whom she is forced to live.

      These poems reflect the main aspects of Anglo-Saxon life- their love of personal freedom, easy response to Nature, Pagan attitude, faith in weird, reverence for women folk and a certain pessimistic attitude to life. Deors Lament, the Seafarer, the Wanderer, the Wife's Complaint, the Ruined Burg are elegies. But The Husband's Message. Widsith are not elegies. However, all these poems are lyrics.

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