GUTHLAC

[St Guthlac ( 673?-714) was of Mercian stock. After a military youth he became a monk at the age of twenty-four, and after some time spent in devotion and study he felt the desire to become a hermit. In 699 he took up his abode at Croyland in the desolate fen country of Lincolnshire, where he remained for fifteen years. He died in Easter week, 714 or 715, and according to his wish, was buried in his own little church. The body was later placed in a shrine, and over it Æthelbald, who became King of Mercia in 716, raised the building which afterwards became Croyland Abbey.

There are two poems in Old English on the life of Guthlac. Guthlac A was probably written during the lifetime of the saint or shortly after his death. It is probably based on oral tradition. Guthlac B follows the Latin Vita Guthlaci by Felix of Croyland.]


A

THREE are many ranks of men throughout the world under heaven who are numbered among the holy; accordingly we can rightly belong to any of them if we will observe the holy commands. A wise man may now enjoy the happiness of fortunate times, and yet have wishes for his spirit's course hereafter. The world is troubled, the love of Christ grows cold; many tribulations have arisen throughout the world, as long ago God's messengers declared in words and set it all forth by prophecy as now it comes to pass.

The world's abundance of all sorts grows old and all kinds of produce lose their beauty: the latter time of all seeds is less in power. Wherefore man need not look for recovery for this world, that it shall bring us fair delight to offset the afflictions which we now endure, before all the creatures which in six days He established shall come to an end, which now bring forth their kinds great and small under the heavens. This world is divided in parts. The Lord sees where they dwell who keep His law; every day He beholds the laws which He established by His own word fade and depart from the justice of the world. He shall find many; but few shall be chosen.

Some wish to bear the fame of good men by words, and perform not the works; earthly wealth, which shall depart from

-256-

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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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