Themes and Values of the Old English Period during the middle Ages

Themes and Values of the Old English Period during the middle Ages

Literature has been in existence for a long time though the subject has been prone to so much change. However, it only a few manuscripts which are available due to problems associated with preservation of written materials. Some texts have been destroyed and others were never preserved due to various problems. It has been divided in to different periods characterized by different themes and forms of writing. The old English period which lasted up twelfth century was characterized by invasion of Roman and occupation of Britain, the Anglo Saxon Conquest and the Norman Conquest which took place in1066. There are different types of works which were present during that period which are inclusive but not limited to riddles, bible translations, chronicles, sermons, hagiography, epic poetry and legal works. There are some works of the era which have remained to be popular even to date like the poem titled Beowulf and the Caedmon’s hymn (Beowulf Para 4).

Literature which was written during that time remains to be among the oldest written in the vernacular languages. The drop of the Latin literacy was among the main contributor of the literature shifting to English. This was due to the fact that at that particular time, Christians and church officials wanted to write in a language that the majority could read. History records that there are about four hundred manuscripts of the old English literature although it is barely less than two hundred which are major. Although they are very costly due to their historical value, their aesthetic nature also contributes to the same. There is so much concerning the old English literature of the Middle Ages but this essay shall mainly focus on the major themes and values of the same.

As highlighted earlier in the introductory part, there are major themes which were present during the old English period. Although there were many forms of writing, poetry was the major form of writing during that particular period. Heroic values were among the major values which were portrayed in the old English literature which is contained in four manuscripts. This was due to the fact that a lot of the tribes were being led by kings. Servant hood was also a major value since kings always had servants who were responsible for serving them. Battles were also a major occurrence and all the people who were able to fight and win the battle were often rewarded with gifts and treasures by their lords. There are many more themes and it is important to focus on the major works to be in a position to identify and understand them.

Beowulf is one of the heroic poems which were among the major works of the old English literature. The poem which is found in the Nowel Codex narrates a story of a legendary hero by the name Beowulf who is the major character.  Although it is not very clear, there is a high probability that the story originates from Scandinavia since it is set there. The poem illustrates a battle between Beowulf and three enemies. The first enemy was Grendel due to the fact that he was attacking the resident warriors of the king of Danes.  The other enemy is the mother of Grendel and an anonymous dragon. Although Beowulf managed to fight some battles in his life, he was wounded during the last battle and after his death he was buried in Geatland by his tribes men (The Battle Of Maldon Para 2).

The poem illustrates major values and themes which are inclusive of heroism, generosity, loyalty, helpful fame and glory to mention just a few. Beowulf is a hero since he is a king who leads his people and seeks revenge for the harm that has been done against his people.  He can be described as a good man since he is focused at fighting evil in the society.  Loyalty is also a value which is exhibited since Beowulf is loyal to his friends, family, members, the chieftain, Christians as well as to his tribe. Servitude and allegiance is also well displaced in the story of Beowulf since his the story describes a loyal relationship between him and his warriors. In addition, as highlighted earlier, he honored his servants’ with gifts and presents once they won the battle which they had to try their best to become victorious (Beowulf Parsa 6).

Caedmon’s hymn is a yet another text of the old English literature and displays some of the themes and values which were present during that particular time. It is the second best attested poem of the old English literature that was written during the Anglo-Saxon period. The poem which is the most complicated text is also an example of poems which have been recorded in German language. It is an ecclesiastical history of the English people and is generally the stories of the saints which are meant to testify about God miracles (McGrath pp. 126). Although there are many themes which are illustrated in the poem, glorious and praise is just one of the themes since it is praise to God and focuses mainly on Gods creation.

The Dream of the Rood is one of the significant and major poems in English language of the old English literature especially due to the fact that it is a dream vision poem. There is a high probability that it was written in the eighth century despite the fact that the exact date is not known. Its framework is established by the dialogue between the Dreamer and the Rood. The author of the poem described the attributes of cross, Christ and God through the use of different phrases and words without spoiling the meanings of the same. The poem has got three parts and starts with the vision of the cross as described by the dreamer.  The second part is a monologue of Rood meant to describe crucifixion and the last part describes the decision of the dreamer to search for the salvation of the cross.

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