WULF AND EADWACER

[This poem is very obscure and has been interpreted in various ways. It is found in the Exeter Book immediately preceding the Riddles, and the old view was that it was a riddle itself. By doing some violence to the text the solution Cynewulf was found, and this led to the theory that Cynewulf was the author of the Riddles. These conjectures are now discredited, and the poem is generally believed not to be a riddle at all, but a dramatic monologue such as Deor and The Wife's Lament. This view was first stated by Henry Bradley in 1888. Attempts have been made to connect the poem with Teutonic and with Norse legend but nothing has been proved. The main features of Bradley's view are as follows: The speaker is a woman, and apparently a captive in a foreign land. Wulf, whom she longs for, is her outlawed lover, and Eadwacer probably her tyrannous husband. There are difficult words and phrases in the text and any translation must be regarded as tentative. Like Deor the poem is remarkable for its use of a refrain.]

. . . . . .

Is to my people as if one gave them an offering.
Will they feed him, if he should feel want?
It is not so with us.
Wulf is on an island, I on another;
Closely begirt is that island with bog;
Cruel men are there on the island;
Will they feed him, if he should feel want?
It is not so with us.
I waited for my Wulf with far-wandering yearnings,
When it was rainy weather and I sat weeping.
When the warlike man wound his arms about me,
It was pleasure to me, yet it was also pain.
Wulf, my Wulf, my yearnings for thee
Have made me sick, thy rare visits,
A woeful heart and not want of food.
Dost thou hear, Eadwacer? Our cowardly cub
Wulf shall hear off to the wood.
They can easily sunder that which was never joined together,
The song of us two together.

-83-

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Anglo-Saxon Poetry
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Introduction v
  • Contents xiii
  • Beowulf 1
  • Finnesburh 63
  • Waldhere 65
  • Widsith 67
  • Deor 71
  • The Wanderer 73
  • The Seafarer 76
  • The Wife's Lament 79
  • The Husband's Message 81
  • Wulf and Eadwacer 83
  • The Ruin 84
  • Charms 85
  • Genesis 95
  • Exodus 112
  • Daniel 121
  • Christ and Satan 127
  • Juliana 165
  • The Fates of the Apostles 178
  • Andreas 181
  • Elene 211
  • The Dream of the Rood 235
  • The Phoenix 239
  • Physiologus 252
  • Guthlac 256
  • The Soul's Address to the Body 280
  • Doomsday 284
  • Riddles 289
  • Gnomic Poetry 309
  • The Arts of Men 316
  • The Fates of Men 318
  • Judith 320
  • The Battle of Brunanburh 327
  • The Battle of Maldon 329
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