The Earliest English Poems

The Earliest English Poems

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Anglo-Saxon poetry was produced between 700 and 1000 AD for an audience that delighted in technical accomplishment, and the durable works of Old English verse spring from the source of the English language.

Michael Alexander has translated the best of the Old English poetry into modern English and into a verse form that retains the qualities of Anglo-Saxon metre

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Overview

Anglo-Saxon poetry was produced between 700 and 1000 AD for an audience that delighted in technical accomplishment, and the durable works of Old English verse spring from the source of the English language.

Michael Alexander has translated the best of the Old English poetry into modern English and into a verse form that retains the qualities of Anglo-Saxon metre and alliteration. Included in this selection are the "heroic poems" such as Widsith, Deor, Brunanburh and Maldon, and passages from Beowulf; some of the famous 'riddles' from The Exeter Book; all the "elegies," including The Ruin, The Wanderer, The Seafarer, The Wife's Complaint and The Husband's Message, in which the virtu of Old English is found in its purest and most concentrated form; together with the great Christian poem The Dream of the Rood.

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780140445947
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
01/28/1992
Series:
Penguin Classics Series
Edition description:
Revised
Pages:
192
Sales rank:
797,073
Product dimensions:
5.07(w) x 7.78(h) x 0.45(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Read an Excerpt

Riddle 25

I'm the world's wonder, for I make women happy
- a boon to the neighbourhood, a bane to no one,
though I may perhaps prick the one who picks me.

I am set well up, stand in a bed,
have a roughish root. Rarely (though it happens)
a churl's daughter more daring than the rest
- and lovelier! - lays hold of me,
rushes my red top, wrenches at my head,
and lays me in the larder.
She learns soon enough,
the curly-haired creature who clamps me so,
of my meeting with her: moist is her eye!

Swings by his thigh a thing most magical!
Below the belt, beneath the folds of his clothes it hangs, a hole in its front end,
stiff-set and stout, but swivels about.

Levelling the head of this hanging instrument,
its wielder hoists his hem above the knee:
it is his will to fill a well-known hole that it fits fully when at full length.

He has often filled it before. Now he fills it again.

Meet the Author

Michael Alexander has retired from the chair of English Literature at the University of St Andrews. For Penguin he has translated The Earliest English Poems (now The First Poems in English) and Beowulf. These verse translations have sold over half a million copies in Penguin, for whom he has also edited Beowulf and The Canterbury Tales: The First Fragment.

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The Earliest English Poems 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Ruthven More than 1 year ago
Many people are not familiar with Anglo Saxon (Old English) literature beyond Beowulf. That is very unfortunate because this literature is very rich and entertaining. Ranging from the heroic tales of Germanic traditions, to Christians hymns, to fun riddles from the Book of Exeter, this collection is a great way to step into Old English writing and culture.