GENESIS

[This was formerly thought to be one poem and to be the work of Cædmon We now know that there are two poems and that probably neither was written by Cædmon. Genesis (A), probably written early in the eighth century by a monk in one of the northern English monasteries, begins with a prologue about the war in heaven, and then goes on to paraphrase the Book of Genesis (chaps. i-xxii). The writer follows, as a general rule, the biblical narrative very closely. His object is to give a faithful rendering of the story in English, not to write good poetry. One example of independent and stirring writing is the account of the capture and rescue of Lot. The translator remembers the old heroic poetry and echoes its phrases, and is not content to stick to the quiet biblical story (Genesis xiv. 1-16). In the middle of Genesis (A) are over six hundred lines, now known as Genesis (B), or the Later Genesis (probably ninth century). In 1875 the great German scholar Sievers showed that these lines differed from the rest of the Genesis poem in metre, style, and vocabulary, and, indeed, from any Old English poetry. His theory was that Genesis (B) was a translation of a lost German original. This theory was confirmed in 1894 by the discovery in the Vatican of part of the German poem. How Genesis (B) came to be interpolated in the other poem we do not know. The subject of the Later Genesis is that of Paradise Lost. The passionate and defiant character of Satan revealed, as in Milton, by his speeches, and the dramatic treatment of Eve's temptation, make the poem one of the most remarkable things in our literature. There is no evidence that Milton knew the poem, but it is not impossible. The manuscript was in the middle of the seventeenth century, in the possession of the scholar Junius. He and Milton were in London at the same time, but we do not know that they ever met. The resemblances between the work of Milton and that of his unknown predecessor are very striking.]


A

IT is very right for us to praise with words and to love in our hearts the Lord of heaven, the glorious King of hosts. He is fullness of power, Head of all exalted creatures, Lord Almighty. Beginning or source was never wrought for Him, nor shall an end come now for the Lord everlasting, but for ever in high majesty He shall be mighty above the thrones of heaven. Righteous and strong, He has ruled the realms of the sky; far and wide they were established by God's power for the children of glory, for the keepers of souls. The companies of angels felt gladness and joy, radiant bliss, towards their Creator. Great was their happiness. Servants in glory worshipped the

-95-

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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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