23. THE SCOP
The stress alliterative verse of Anglo-Saxon poetry is clearly the product
of an oral court minstrelsy; it was intended to be recited by the scop
(in Old English: "jester, one who scoffs"), a professional entertainer
(poet and singer) also known as a gleeman. Many Scandinavian folktales
became a part of the well organized Anglo-Saxon world and body of folklore
and legend, and it was not long until "warrior-kings" had a
"singer", or scop who lived attached to their courts and recited
and sang a body of oral literature, particularly about the warrior-king's
glorious deeds. The scop was an itinerant minstrel who frequented the
halls of kings and chiefs and sometimes found continuous service with
one master. The scopas were the conservers of the Old English oral tradition
and they were makers of poetry as well as reciters. A number of them were
members of royal households, like the skalds (Scandinavian bards or court
singers). Few are known by name. One of the earliest surviving Anglo-Saxon
poems, Widsith ( far traveller), is the autobiographical record of such
a scop, who travels from court to court reciting his lays. The Beowulf-poet
gives a valuable portrait of the scop in Hrothgar's court, as we have
already seen. Hrothgar's scop was able to sing Beowulf's praises the day
following his defeat of Grendel. The scop's purpose was to honour his
noble patron or others who performed great deeds and to give praise and
blame where applicable. He was expected to remember stories from the past
and be able to sing them at any time. His job was to mentally and musically
recall and perform these stories because the pride of the tribe depended
upon a long genealogy of heroes. Moreover, by singing about heroes and
about those who acted in non-heroic ways, the scop defined the moral values
of his society, and his songs endorsed models of behaviour. The scop defined
his society's code of heroic behaviour: he praised those who lived according
to accepted social codes and criticized those who failed to perform according
to the expectations of the group they belonged to.
24. DEOR'S LAMENT
Deor's Lament is an Old English poem from the ninth or tenth century
and it is contained in the Exeter Book . It is composed of 40 lines divided
into seven unequal sections and containing a refrain repeated six times:
That evil ended. So also may this!. We do not know who was the poet that
wrote Deor's Lament and when. Nothing is known of the bard who names himself
Deor (line 35).This poet is mentioned nowhere else and nothing is known
of him except for the poem's implication that he was an exile.
"Weland knew fully affliction and woe"
1.Weland: (Wayland or Welund): the name means "maker"
or "workman," the smith of Germanic legend, a supernatural being
corresponding to the Vulcan of classical mythology. He had been captured
by Nithhad, set to work, and made lame to prevent his
1. This poem, almost unique in Anglo-Saxon poetry, uses a stanza division. How many stanzas is it divided into? (Quote the lines)
2. Are the stanzas of the
3. Each stanza is divided
by a repeated line. How many times is it repeated?
4. What is the term that define a phrase, a line or lines repeated at intervals during a poem and especially at the end of a stanza?
5. What is the genre used by the poet in this poem?
6. Look up the term elegy
in your glossary and see if this poetic form matches Deor's Lament. (Substantiate
7. Quote the phrases that describe Weland's condition.
8. Which line reveals Beadohild's brother murder?
9. How do we know that Beadohild was raped? Quote the lines and paraphrase them.
10. Looking up the word "elegy" you have seen that the mood of "Deor's Lament" is elegiac. Its genre is usually said to be that of a "consolatio", used both by ancient and pagan writers (which go back at least as far as Homer, Horace), and by Christian writers, (Boethius's De Consolatione Philosophiae, was translated into English in 890s by King Alfred the Great). Can you substantiate the above statement?
11. Consider the general mood of Deor's Lament and say if its a pagan or Christian poem. Substantiate your answer.
12. Consider the refrain and say what it function is.
13. Where does the poet draw his examples of misfortune from? Who are the characters he speaks of?