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Epics of All Religions

Epics of All Religions


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Published by: dwarkanath_g3075 on Feb 27, 2009
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Beowulf, the only Anglo−Saxon epic preserved entire, was composed in southwest Sweden probably before
the eighth century, and taken to England, where it was worked over and Christianized by the Northumbrian

It is variously attributed to the fifth, seventh, and eighth centuries; but the seventh is most probably correct,
since the Higelac of the poem has been identified with Chocilaicus of the “Gesta Regum Francorum,” a
Danish king who invaded Gaul in the days of Theuderic, son of Clovis, and died near the close of the sixth

The only manuscript of the poem in existence is thought to be of the tenth century. It is preserved in the
British Museum. Since 1837 much interest has been manifested in the poem, and many editions of it have
been given to the public.

Beowulf contains three thousand one hundred and eighty−four lines. It is written in alliterative verse. The
lines are written in pairs, and each perfect line contains three alliterating words,—two in the first part, and one
in the second.

The unknown writer of Beowulf cannot be praised for his skill in composition; the verse is rude, as was the
language in which it was written. But it is of the greatest interest to us because of the pictures it gives of the
everyday lives of the people whose heroic deeds it relates,—the drinking in the mead−halls, the relation of the
king to his warriors, the description of the armor, the ships, and the halls. The heroes are true Anglo−Saxon
types,—bold, fearless, ready to go to the assistance of any one in trouble, no matter how great the risk to
themselves; and as ready to drink mead and boast of their valor after the peril is over. In spite of the attempt to
Christianize the poem, it is purely pagan; the most careless reader can discover the priestly interpolations. And
it has the greater value to us because it refused to be moulded by priestly hands, but remained the rude but
heroic monument of our Saxon ancestors.

National Epics



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