Ⅰ. Historical Background（历史背景）
(1) The Celts were the earliest ones who settled in the British Isles and they came here about 600 B.C.
(2) From 55 B.C. to 407 A.D. the Roman Empire took control over the British Isles.
(3) About 450 A.D., due to the occupation of the British Isles by the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes and their settlement in England, the Celts had to leave for Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
(4) Around 500 A.D., the legendary Celtic King Arthur made his name in his struggle with Cerdic who established the Wessex kingdom.
(5) In the early fifties of the 8th century, the Danes, or the Vikings threatened to take over the ruling of originally the eastern coast of England and then the whole land of it.
(6) In the later part of the 9th century, King Alfred, the Great of Wessex (849～899), in collaboration with the Anglo-Saxon kings, repelled the intruders.
(7) In the early 11th century, the Danes, after controlling the whole England for 23 years, were driven away. But in l066, the Duke of Normandy, as the leader of the subjects from Normandy in northern France, invaded England and took control of it.
Ⅱ. Northumbrian School and Wessex literature（诺森伯兰流派和西萨克斯文学）
There were two highlights in the development of the Anglo-Saxon literature.
(1) The first highlight was the Northumbrian School, centering on the monasteries and abbeys in the kingdom of Northumbria. A closely relevant figure was Caedmon. He lived in the 7th century and rewrote the biblical stories in the form of verse. The Venerable Bede (673～735), a monk, is also a highly respected figure of this school. His works were written in Latin and he earned the title of “Father of English History” by The Ecclesiastical History of English People.
(2) In 871 Alfred was crowned king of Wessex. He promoted the development of English literature in the following three aspects. Firstly, some educational books written in Latin were translated into West Saxon dialect. King Alfred himself is said to have translated the history by Bede. Secondly, Alfred helped push ahead with the writing of The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, which covered the history from Caesar’s conquest to major events until 1154. It carries significant historical value as well as literary value. Thirdly, he was a pioneer in the intelligible style of the Anglo-Saxon prose.
Ⅲ. Anglo-Saxon poetry（盎格鲁-撒克逊诗歌）
About 30, 000 lines of Anglo-Saxon poetry, including the long epic poetry Beowulf, some religious poems, heroic poem and elegies, have been preserved. The first one is Widsith. Maldon is the latest one and it centers on the battle of Maldon. The best known one is Beowulf.
(1) About the Poem（关于诗歌）
Beowulf, written in the Wessex dialect, is an Old English epic poem consisting of 3,182 lines. It is preserved in a manuscript that dates back circa 1000 and is believed to have been composed between 700 and 750. There is no evidence of a historical Beowulf, but some characters, sites, and events in the poem can be historically verified. And these materials came from the native lands of the Anglo-Saxons.
Beowulf opens in Denmark, where King Hrothgar’s splendid mead hall, Heorot, has been ravaged for 12 years by nightly visits from an evil monster, Grendel, who carries off Hrothgar’s warriors and devours them, because he was disturbed by the sound coming from the hall. Young Beowulf, nephew to King Hygelac of the Geats, arrives with fourteen companions. He receives a warm reception and promises to kill the monster even at the cost of his own life. Grendel comes in the evening and swallows one of Beowulf’s companions. In the fierce duel with the monster, Beowulf wins by tearing one arm and a shoulder off the monster. The monster flees away but dies finally. Hrothgar awards a lot of gifts to Beowulf.
In the evening, Grendel’s mother comes to seek revenge for the murder of her son and took away Hrothgar’s favorite aeschere. Beowulf goes to search for the monster together with his followers. He jumps into a pool and finds a cave beneath the sea, where he fights with the monster and finally wins the duel with the help of the magic sword in the cave. He takes back the heads of two monsters and gains a lot of rewards from Hrothgar. Then he returns to the Geats. The next year witnesses the death of King Hygelac dies and then his son succeeds to the throne but is soon killed in battle with the Swedes. Beowulf is elected king and does well for fifty years.
Then a runaway slave steals part of the treasure guarded by a dragon that is irritated and destroys the land with fiery breath. Beowulf is very old now, but he determines to kill the dragon in person and goes there with the company of twelve people. He goes down to the mound of treasure alone, leaving his companions outside. There he shows great courage when fighting against the dragon. But the sword fails him and leaves him in danger. One of the companions, Wiglaf, comes to help him and injured the monster. After killing the dragon with a knife, Beowulf dies from heavy injury, leaving his order about his funeral. After Wiglaf announces the king’s death, people visit the battlefield and take away the treasure. They discard the dragon into the sea and bury Beowulf’s remains in a pyre. The epic ends with people bewailing Beowulf’s demise and paying tribute to his feasts as a king.
Like Homer’s Epics, Beowulf presents the legendary hero’s adventurous experiences. Beowulf is a courageous fighter, a good conductor, and a lover of honor and he is determined to serve his country and people. As a hero who defeated the devil at the cost of his own life, Beowulf’s sturdiness, bravery and selflessness stand out in this poem.
(4) Artistic Features（艺术特征）
① Old English poetry differs from later poetry mostly in the technical structure. Each line is broken into two parts by a caesura which means a pause, especially for sense, usually near the middle of a verse line; ② Apart from alliteration, figurative language were employed by minstrels to enhance the beauty of daily things; ③Repetition and variation can be frequently seen in Old English poetry, in which many different words usually convey the same meaning.
共有 0 条评论