CHARMS

[The Charms preserve much superstition and folklore. In them Christian and pagan elements are curiously mingled. They show how the old beliefs and customs were gradually overlaid and transformed by the new faith. The Church won men away gradually, not abruptly. The clergy themselves were often credulous. Pope Gregory, in giving advice to the English missionaries, recommended them not to destroy the old temples, but merely the idols. Holy water should be sprinkled in the old places of worship and altars and relics placed there, 'that the nation, seeing that their temples are not destroyed, may remove error from their hearts, and knowing and adoring the true God, may the more familiarly resort to the places to which they have been accustomed.' Later the attitude towards heathen practices became less conciliatory, and laws were passed against the old usages. The Charms are difficult to date. They are preserved in manuscripts of the tenth century or later, but the passages in them untouched by Christian beliefs are probably among the oldest lines in the English language.]


FOR A SUDDEN STITCH

[This charm offers considerable difficulty. The first part describes the attack of the spirits which cause the pain. The exorcist hears and sees them from where he stains under the safety of his shield. He calls upon the pain to leave the sufferer by repeating the formula, 'Out, little spear, if herein thou be!' The exorcist has three retaliatory measures -the arrow, the knife forged by the smith, and the spears wrought by six smiths. Then having driven the pain forth he proceeds to heal the wound by naming its situation and author. Perhaps each formula is accompanied by application of the salve the ingredients of which are given at the beginning of the charm. Finally the pain is banished to the mountain. The last line is a final direction to the exorcist. The knife, it would seem, is to be used on a dummy representing the evil spirits.]

FEVERFEW and the red nettle which grows through the house and plantain; boil in butter --

Loud were they, lo! loud, when they rode over the hill,
Resolute were they when they rode over the land.
Fend thyself now, that thou mayest survive this violence!
Out, little spear, if herein thou be!
I stood under the targe, beneath a light shield,
Where the mighty women made ready their strength
And sent whizzing spears;

-85-

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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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