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Texts and Times

Quiz [ignore the material in square brackets for the time beingjust do the numbered

1. Put the following into chronological order of arrival in the British Isles:
a. the Vikings
b. the Anglo-Saxons
c. the Romans
d. the Normans
[Wondrous is this stone wall, wrecked by fate;
the city-buildings crumble, the works of the giants decay
Bright were the city hall, many the bath-houses,
lofty all the gables, great the martial clamour,
many a mead-hall was full of delights
The place falls to ruin, shattered
into mounds of stone, where once many a man,
joyous and gold-bright, dressed in splendour,
proud and flushed with wine, gleamed in his armour
from the Old English poem The Ruin (tr. Crossley-Holland)]
[they sealed its doom by inviting in among them (like wolves into the sheep-fold), the fierce
and impious Saxons, a race hateful both to God and men, to repel the invasions of the northern
nations. Nothing was ever so pernicious to our country, nothing was ever so unlucky. What
palpable darkness must have enveloped their minds darkness desperate and cruel!
(from Gildas, The Ruin of Britain)]
[Never, before this,
were more men in this island slain
by the swords edge as books and aged sages
confirm since Angles and Saxons sailed over here
from the east, sought the Britons over the wide seas,
since those warsmiths hammered the Welsh,
and earls, eager for glory, overran the land.
(from The Battle of Brunanburh, trans. Crossley-Holland)]
[never before has such a terror appeared in Britain as we have now suffered from a pagan
race, nor was it thought possible that such an inroad from the sea could be made. Behold the
church of St Cuthbert spattered with the blood of the priests of God
(from a letter of Alcuin, Archbishop of York)]
2. In which century was Christianity brought to the Anglo-Saxons?
a. eleventh
b. eighth
c. sixth
d. tenth
3. Who was Bede?
a. a nun
b. a monk
c. King Alfreds favourite horse
d. King Alfreds mother
the life of man on earth] seems to me like the swift flight of a single sparrow through the
banqueting-hall ... In the midst there is a comforting fire to warm the hall; outside, the storms
of winter rain or snow are raging. This sparrow flies swiftly in through one door of the hall, and
out through another. While he is inside, he is safe from the winter storms; but after a few
moments of comfort, he vanishes from sight into the wintry world from which he came. Even
so, man appears on earth for a little while; but of what went before this life or of what follows,
we know nothing ]

4. In which century did King Alfred the Great (of cake-burning fame) reign?
a. ninth
b. eighth
c. sixth
d. tenth

5. What was Alfred worrying about when he burned the cakes?

a. premature balding
b. the Vikings
c. his favourite horse
d. his piles
[Therefore it seems better to me, if it seems so to you, that we should also translate certain
books, which are most necessary for all men to know, into the language that we can all
(Alfreds Preface to his translation of Pope Gregorys Pastoral Care)]
6. How many manuscripts containing Old English survive today?
a. 17
b. over 100
c. 53, plus 3 individual charred pages
d. over 500
[Brother Edward you do wrong to forsake the English customs which your fathers followed
and to love the customs of heathen men who begrudge you life, and by such evil customs
thereby make it clear that you despise your people and your forefathers, when to their shame
you dress in Danish fashion with bared necks and blinded eyes At their feasts these country
women will often drink, and even eat, in privies it is a disgraceful act and great folly and
ignominious disgrace that anyone should ever be so ill-mannered that he fill the mouth with
food above and at the other end
(from a letter to Brother Edward, trans. Swanton)]
[If a mans hair fall out, make him a salve; take great hellebore and vipers bugloss, and the
lower part of burdock, and gentian; make the salve from that plant and from all of these, and
from butter on which no water has come.
If a man be insufficiently virile, boil the same herb in milk; then you will excite it. Again, boil in
ewes milk: water agrimony, alexanders, the herb called Fornets palm, so it will be as he most
[A young man came along where he knew her to be
standing in the corner of the hall. He went right up to her,
a lusty bachelor, lifted up his clothes
with his hands, thrust something stiff
under her girdle as she stood,
and has his way. Both of them shuddered.
The warrior was in a hurry, his goodly servant
was useful at times. Yet he, the strong one,
tired every time sooner than she did,
wearied of the business. Under her girdle
began to grow what often good men
love in their hearts and pay good money for.
(A riddle, trans. Cavill)]

7. King Cnut (Knut, Kntr) was from

a. Norway
b. Sweden
c. Denmark
d. Iceland

8. In which century was Cnut king of England?

a. eighth
b. tenth
c. eleventh
d. fifth

[My tongue, leaden with grief, lies Blackness? How quicken the breath?
Listless, will not stir to song. Rain in my sad heart and rain
No poem moves in my mind, Drenching the land. And the lash
My heart is heavy with tears. Of wind on water. On Nains
So many tears! Such sadness! Rocks the sea splinters and howls
All my thoughts are dark with death. (from Egill Skallagrmsson, Sonatorrek
How can I breed song from such Wreck of sons, trans. John Lucas)]

9. Which of the following were women allowed to do in Anglo-Saxon England?

a. command armies
b. hold land
c. sell land
d. divorce
I draw these words from my deep sadness, harsh strongholds overgrown with briars;
my sorrowful lot. I can say that, a joyless abode. The journey of my lord so
since I grew up, I have not suffered often
such hardships as now, old or new. cruelly seizes me
I am tortured by the anguish of exile I am never able
This cavern is age-old; I am choked with to quiet the cares of my sorrowful mind,
longings. all the longings that are my lifes lot.
Gloomy are the valleys, too high the hills, The Wifes Lament, trans. Crossley-Holland

10. Which famous novelist was a professor of Anglo-Saxon?

a. Ian Fleming
b. J. R. R. Tolkien
c. Roald Dahl
d. C. S. Lewis

11. How many film adaptations of Beowulf are there?

a. twenty-three
b. seven
c. one
d. five
[The Geat woman who cries out in dread as the flames consume the body of her dead lord
could come from Rwanda or Kosovo; her keen is a nightmare glimpse into the minds of people
who have survived traumatic, even monstrous events and who are now being exposed to a
comfortless future. We immediately recognise her predicament and the pitch of her grief and
find ourselves the better from having them expressed with such adequacy, dignity and
unforgiving truth.
From Seamus Heaneys Introduction to his translation of Beowulf

On a height they kindled the hugest of all

funeral fires; fumes of woodsmoke
billowed darkly up, the blaze roared
and drowned out their weeping, wind died down
and flames wrought havoc in the hot bone-house,
burning it to the core. They were disconsolate
and wailed aloud for their lords decease.
A Geat woman too sang out in grief;
with hair bound up, she unburdened herself
of her worst fears, a wild litany of
nightmare and lament: her nation invaded
enemies on the rampage, bodies in piles,
slavery and abasement. Heaven swallowed the smoke.
Heaneys translation of Beowulf, ll. 315062