Widsith: Old English Poem - Summary and Analysis

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      Widsith is a poem of 143 lines in old English. It is named after its hero. It is an early poem on the scop. It is included in the Exeter Book.

      Widsith, a wandering minstrel who has visited many courts speaks of his travels and the king he has heard of. He pretends that he was in Italy with Aelfwine and with the king of the Goths, who gave him a rich bracelet. This he handed over to his lord who gave him land, his father's heritage. The poem gives an idea of the wandering minstrel who went from court to court, singing the praises of the princes from whom they received or expected gifts. Thus the poem tells us something about the life of contemporary courts. The author makes it clear that his hero was Composer as well as performer. Widsith sings in mead-hall about his own experiences and he composes and sings a poem in praise of his patroness, Queen Ealhhild (Lines 99-102).


Critical Analysis
      The poem consists of a prologue (9 lines), a speech by Widsith (125 lines), an epilogue (9 lines). The relationship between a scop and his royal patron comes out in the epilogue of the poem. It contains language which shows much remoteness to old English. Widsith is plainly no historical figure but a typical scop who is excuse for bringing together names famous in history and legend. The poem may belong to the seventh century or even to an earlier date. It was elaborately edited by R. W. Chambers in 1912.

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