Dear's Lament: Old English Poem - Summary

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      Deor's Lament is an old English poem of forty-two verses, divided into stanzas. Its date is uncertain, but it may be classed chronologically with Beowulf. It is included in the Exeter Book.

Deor's Lament

      In Dear's Lament, the poet speaks of a man who has been suddenly thrown out of employment by his master and has been supplanted by another minstrel, Heorrenda. He is also a minstrel and so he gives expression to his sorrowful feelings in beautiful language. He consoles himself by considering the misfortunes of others. Each stanza ends with the refrain: "That passed; this also may." There is thus a philosophical note in the poem. Its seven sections make a well-knit whole. In the first five sections, the poet mentions as many pieces of adversity that befell other; each section gives us a new victim (or victims), but ends with the same formula of consolation. The sixth section speaks of the misfortune of mankind in general. In the seventh section, the poet mentions a misfortune of his own. This sixth section sums up, the theme of the poem and seems appropriate enough as a concluding passage. The last section may be considered as an afterthought on the part of the poet. The theme of Deor does not lie outside a scop's traditional range, though the treatment shows marked originality. It may be said that Deor as it stands cannot plausibly be dated earlier than the ninth century and may have been composed as late as tenth.

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