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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 66 pages of information about Elene; Judith; Athelstan, or the Fight at Brunanburh; Byrhtnoth, or the Fight at Maldon; and the Dream of the Rood.
The similarity of thought in the personal epilogue (II. 122 ff.) to the epilogue of the ELENE (II. 1237 ff.) is striking, and they may be compared by the curious reader.  The translation is made from the Grein-Wuelker text (Vol.  II., pp. 116-125), with emendations from others, as seen in the notes.  All can agree with Kemble (Codex Vercellensis, Part II., p. ix) that “it is in some respects the most striking of all the Anglo-Saxon remains, inasmuch as a departure from the mere conventional style of such compositions is very perceptible in it.  It contains some passages of real poetical beauty, and a good deal of fancy.”  Brooke says (op. cit., p. 443):  “This is the last of the important poems of the eighth century.  It is good, but not very good.  The older part, if my conjecture be right, is the best, and its reworking by Cynewulf has so broken it up that its dignity is much damaged.  The shaping is rude, but the imagination has indeed shaped it.” ten Brink says (p. 53):  “Cynewulf himself has immortalized this vision in a poem, giving utterance to an irrepressible emotion, but still exhibiting the delicate lines of a beautifully designed composition.”  The other Germans are usually so taken up with technical and mechanical questions that they leave no room for aesthetic considerations.  Whether Cynewulf wrote the poem or not,—­and the probabilities favor his authorship, though we may not hesitate to say with Morley, “I don’t know,”—­it is certainly the work of a gifted Christian poet, who reverences the cross as the means of the redemption of mankind.

This brief Introduction will, it is hoped, be sufficient to interest the reader in the accompanying translations of some of the finest pieces of Old English poetry that remain to us from the eighth, ninth, and tenth centuries.  The earlier period was the golden age of Old English poetry in the Northumbrian dialect, which poetry, there is good reason to think, was copied into the West-Saxon dialect, and it now remains to us only in that form; for, when the Northmen harried Northumbria, destroyed its monasteries, massacred its inhabitants, and settled in its homes, manuscripts perished, and the light of learning in Western Europe was extinguished.  It is sufficient to recall King Alfred’s oft-quoted lament, in the Preface to his translation of Pope Gregory’s “Pastoral Care,” to realize the position held by Northumbria in respect to culture, and when learning was restored in Wessex by the efforts of the king himself, and poetry again revived, it shone but by a reflected light.  Still we should treasure all that remains, and the Old English language should be at least as well known as Latin is now, and should occupy as prominent a position in education and general culture.  Until that millennial period arrives, translations of Old English poems may not be without service.


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