ELENE

[The story of St Helena's discovery of the Cross must have appealed to Cynewulf and his contemporaries not merely because it dealt with matters of interest to all Christians, but also because it was a tale of strange adventure in a distant land.]


I

WHEN in the course of years two hundred and thirty-three winters had been duly told off in the world since mighty God, the Glory of kings, the Light of the righteous, had been born in the world in human form,1 then was the sixth year of Constantine's rule, since he, the battle prince, was raised up to be army leader in the kingdom of the Romans.2 The protector of his people, valiant with the shield, was gracious to men. The prince's kingdom increased under the heavens. A true king was he, the war-guardian of men. God made him strong with glories and with powers, so that to many men throughout the world he became a delight; a scourge of the nations when he took up arms against his foes. Battle was offered him, the tumult of war. The people of the Huns and the glorious Goths gathered their hosts; the warlike Franks and Hugas set out; men were bold, ready for battle. Spears shone, woven mail-coats; with swords and shields they raised up the battle standard. Then were heroes plainly assembled and gathered together. The host of people went forward. The wolf in the wood howled a song of battle; he hid not the battle secret. The dewy-feathered eagle raised up its song in the track of the foemen. Hastily over the strongholds sped the greatest of armies with their hosts to war, the greatest the king of the Huns could anywhere summon to battle from his neighbouring warriors. The mightiest of armies went forth; the footmen were strong in their troops, so that the spear-warriors, staunch-hearted, encamped with the clamour of a multitude in a strange land on the Danube, hard by the surging water. They purposed to overcome the kingdom of the Romans, to plunder it with their

____________________
1
What is really meant is the two hundred and thirty-third year since the Cross was buried.
2
A.D. 312.

-211-

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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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