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Desiring to be known: The diction of glory and fame in Old English literature

Dissertation
Author: Jack R. Baker
Abstract:
The diction of glory and fame in Old English literature reveals to us the intricacies woven into this theme. Here we look at three words, dom, lof , and hlisa , which offer us particular insights into the Anglo-Saxon desire to be known. Dom , or fame of the head, is shown to be the sort of glory and fame that an individual receives through the rational assessment and pronouncement of his deeds as good by another individual or group. Lof , or fame of the mouth, will be identified as the joyful verbal pronouncement by an individual or group that another's deeds are worthy of praise, and thus worthy of imitation. Hlisa , or fame of the ears, will be connected to the aural reception of one's deeds as honorable. This word is employed nearly exclusively by King Alfred and his circle of writers and Ælfric of Eynsham. Particular attention will be given to Ælfric's use of the word to describe the glory and fame of his saints. The study will provide a linguistic analysis of each word as well as a literary analysis of the contexts in which the words appear. To facilitate the literary analysis, we will provide a framework of terminology that looks at secular, syncretic, and Christian moments of glory and fame. In the end, we conclude that the nuanced uses of different glory and fame words throughout the Old English corpus demonstrates the way in which the Anglo-Saxons engaged and expressed their desire to be known.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Page LIST OF TABLES ............................................................................................................. ix LIST OF FIGURES ............................................................................................................ x ABSTRACT ....................................................................................................................... xi CHAPTER 1: THE THEME OF GLORY AND FAME IN OLD ENGLISH LITERATURE .................................................................................................................... 1 Introduction ..................................................................................................................... 2 Chasing after the Ghosts of the Pre-Christian................................................................. 7 The Theme of Glory and Fame ..................................................................................... 12 Perspectives on the Theme of Glory and Fame ............................................................ 17 The Anglo-Saxons: Their Worldview and Glory and Fame ......................................... 22 Methodology and Definitions ....................................................................................... 28 Chapter Summaries ....................................................................................................... 34 CHAPTER 2: REASONABLE RENOWN: DŌM OR FAME OF THE HEAD .............. 43 Introduction ................................................................................................................... 43 Definitions of OE dōm .................................................................................................. 44 OE dōm in the Corpus ................................................................................................... 50 OE dōm: Scholarship .................................................................................................... 54 Conclusion .................................................................................................................... 65 CHAPTER 3: A LITERARY ANALYSIS OF OE DŌM ................................................ 67 Introduction ................................................................................................................... 67 Literary Analysis ........................................................................................................... 68 Maxims I & II ................................................................................................................................................. 68 Beowulf ........................................................................................................................................................... 75 The Wanderer ............................................................................................................................................... 91 Judith ............................................................................................................................................................. 103 Conclusion .................................................................................................................. 120 CHAPTER 4: SINGING PRAISES: LOF OR FAME OF THE MOUTH ...................... 122 Introduction ................................................................................................................. 122 Definitions of OE lof ................................................................................................... 123 OE lof in the Corpus ................................................................................................... 125 OE lof: Scholarship ..................................................................................................... 126 OE lof: Literary Analysis ............................................................................................ 136

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Prose Occurences ..................................................................................................................................... 136

Page

Beowulf ........................................................................................................................................................ 140 Widsith ......................................................................................................................................................... 149 The Seafarer ............................................................................................................................................... 153 Conclusion .................................................................................................................. 156 CHAPTER 5: LISTENING FOR FAME: HLĪSA OR FAME OF THE EARS ............... 158 Introduction ................................................................................................................. 158 Definitions of OE hlīsa ............................................................................................... 159 OE hlīsa in the Corpus ................................................................................................ 167 OE hlīsa: Scholarship ................................................................................................. 174 OE hlīsa: Literary Analysis ........................................................................................ 175 The OE Boethius ....................................................................................................................................... 175 Ælfric’s Catholic Homilies ..................................................................................................................... 184 Ælfric’s Lives of Saints ........................................................................................................................... 190 Saints Agnes, Agatha, Thomas, and Martin ....................................................... 196 Miles Christi........................................................................................................ 199 Saint Oswald ....................................................................................................... 203 Conclusion .................................................................................................................. 206 CONCLUSION ............................................................................................................... 208 BIBLIOGRAPHY ........................................................................................................... 212 VITA ............................................................................................................................... 229

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LIST OF TABLES

Table Page

Table 1: Occurrences of dōm in OE corpus 51 Table 2: Occurrences of lof in OE Corpus 125 Table 3: Occurrences of hlīsa in OE Corpus 168

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LIST OF FIGURES

Figure Page

Figure 1: The Thematic Structure of Glory and Fame 15 Figure 2: Specific Occurrences of hlīsa in OE Corpus 169 Figure 3: Who’s Using hlīsa? 170

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ABSTRACT

Baker, Jack R., Ph.D., Purdue University, May, 2010, “Desiring to Be Known: The Diction of Glory and Fame in Old English Literature.” Major Professor: Shaun F. D. Hughes.

The diction of glory and fame in Old English literature reveals to us the intricacies woven into this theme. Here we look at three words, dōm, lof, and hlīsa, which offer us particular insights into the Anglo-Saxon desire to be known. Dōm, or fame of the head, is shown to be the sort of glory and fame that an individual receives through the rational assessment and pronouncement of his deeds as good by another individual or group. Lof, or fame of the mouth, will be identified as the joyful verbal pronouncement by an individual or group that another’s deeds are worthy of praise, and thus worthy of imitation. Hlīsa, or fame of the ears, will be connected to the aural reception of one’s deeds as honorable. This word is employed nearly exclusively by King Alfred and his circle of writers and Ælfric of Eynsham. Particular attention will be given to Ælfric’s use of the word to describe the glory and fame of his saints. The study will provide a linguistic analysis of each word as well as a literary analysis of the contexts in which the words appear. To facilitate the literary analysis, we will provide a framework of terminology that looks at secular, syncretic, and Christian moments of glory and fame. In the end, we conclude that the nuanced uses of different

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glory and fame words throughout the Old English corpus demonstrates the way in which the Anglo-Saxons engaged and expressed their desire to be known.

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CHAPTER 1: THE THEME OF GLORY AND FAME IN OLD ENGLISH LITERATURE

Ne sorga, snotor guma. Selre bið æghwæm þæt he his freond wrece þonne he fela murne. Ure æghwylc sceal ende gebidan worolde lifes; wyrce se þe mote domes ær deaþe; þæt bið drihtguman unlifgendum æfter selest. (Beowulf ll. 1384-89) 1

Hwæt forstod þonne ðam betestum mannum þe ær us wæron þæt hi swa swiðe wilnodon þæs idelan gilpes and þæs hlisan æafter heora deaðe? (The OE Boethius I:18.282.122-24) 2

Ða cidde se hælend him & cwæð adumba. & ga of þisum men. & se unclæna gast hine slitende & mycelre stefne clypiende him of eode; Þa wundredon hi ealle swa þæt hi betwux him cwædon. hwæt ys þis. Hwæt is þeos niwe lar. þæt he on anwealde unclænum gastum bebyt. & hi hyrsumiað him. & sona ferde his hlisa to galilea rice; (Mark 1:25-28) 3

1 “Sorrow not, wise one! It is always better to avenge one’s friend than to mourn overmuch. Each of us shall abide the end of this world’s life; let him who can bring about good judgment before death—that is best for the unliving man after he is gone.” All subsequent quotations of Beowulf are taken from Frederick Klaeber, Klaeber’s Beowulf, ed. R. D. Fulk, Robert E. Bjork, and John D. Niles, 4th ed., Toronto Old English Series 21 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2008). All translations of Beowulf, unless otherwise noted, are my own.

2 “What did it benefit then the best men who were before us that they so greatly sought the vain glory and fame after their death?” (II:29). The Old English Boethius: An Edition of the Old English Versions of Boethius’s De Consolatione Philosophiae, ed. Malcolm Godden and Susan Irvine, 2 vols (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009). Citations are to volume, chapter, page, and line number. Translations are from the second volume of The Old English Boethius and are cited by volume and page number. 08

Fall

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Introduction

This is a study of the diction of glory and fame in a body of literature that is at once beautifully and frustratingly diverse, wherein reside tales of dragon slaying warriors and self-sacrificing saints. The Old English 4 corpus is often recognized and lauded for its heroic literature—a literature that seems to promote an ethic focused on heroic, individual deeds and the way in which these deeds affect one’s community. This ethic is often referred to as the heroic code 5 of the Anglo-Saxons—a code that should probably be applied only to the literary heritage of this people rather than to the historical—and has been described as a pagan or secular ethic to various degrees in the last century of scholarship. 6

3 “Then the Savior chided him and said, “Be silent, and go out of this man.” And the unclean spirit, tearing him and with a great voice, left him. Then they all wondered so that they said amongst themselves: “What is this? What is this new law, that he—in power—commands unclean spirits, and they obey him?” And immediately his fame went into the kingdom of Galilee.” Walter W. Skeat, The Gospel According to Saint Matthew and According to Saint Mark (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1970). I am following the reading of the left column in Skeat’s work, MS Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, No. CXL. I have also maintained the lack of capitalization and lack of standardized punctuation. My translation does, however, standardize punctuation. All translations of the Gospels, unless otherwise noted, are my own. It should be noted that R. M. Liuzza’s comparatively recent edition of the OE Gospels is also a reliable and useful version of these texts. R. M. Liuzza, The Old English Version of the Gospels, 2 vols., Early English Text Society, o.s. 304, 314 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994 and 2000). However, I have chosen to cite Skeat’s edition because it provides several different versions of the Gospels and presents them side by side for comparison, while Liuzza only provides a single version of the texts. As J. R. R. Tolkien remarks about this so called heroic code, “of pagan 4 Henceforth, “Old English” will be abbreviated OE. 5 General discussions of Anglo-Saxon heroism and the so called heroic code can be found to varying degrees in E. B. Irving, Jr., “Heroic Role-Models: Beowulf and Others,” Heroic Poetry in the Anglo-Saxon Period: Studies in Honour of Jess B. Bessinger, ed. Helen Damico and John Leyerle, Studies in Medieval Culture 32 (Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Publications, Western Michigan University, 1993), 347-71, Katherine O’Brien O’Keeffe, “Heroic Values and Christian Ethics,” The Cambridge Companion to Old English Literature, ed. Malcolm Godden and Michael Lapidge (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 107-25, G. N. Garmonsway, “Anglo-Saxon Heroic Attitudes,” Medieval and Linguistic Studies in Honour of Francis Peabody Magoun, ed. Jess B. Bessinger and Robert P. Creed (London: Allen Unwin, 1965), 139-46. 6 For example, we need only look to the scholarly debate surrounding Beowulf and its composition. For a useful chronological review of this scholarship (from 1840-1993) see Edward B. Jr. Irving, “Christian and Pagan Elements,” A Beowulf Handbook, ed. Robert E. Bjork and John D. Niles (Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, 1997), 175-92. This dissertation will be looking at the literary representations of themes in OE texts with only minor reference to pertinent historical notes.

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‘belief’ we have little or nothing left in English. But the spirit survived.” 7 The expanded passage we find in Michael D. C. Drout’s 8 …of this idea we have nothing left in English. Its spirit only survives. Far more definite, indeed clearly explicit, is the idea of lof or dóm—the noble pagan’s desire for the merited praise of the noble, a desire which is not, of course, peculiar to northern pagans. For if this limited immortality of praise naturally exists as a strong motive together with detailed heathen practices and beliefs, it can also long outlive them. It is in fact the natural residuum when the pagan gods fade, whether unbelief comes from within or from without. edition of the text further fleshes out Tolkien’s argument: 9

Tolkien’s assessment that pagan practices (social structures, rituals, worldviews, etc.) were likely the first thing to go when societies began to be Christianized takes on important meaning when we consider that there is a body of OE poetry that can essentially be classified as secular. Perhaps the emphasis on the heroic is owing to the fact that, though these societal structures are often replaced, certain aspects of the old culture are preserved and continue on in the new culture—what Tolkien calls the “natural residuum.” Indeed, in post-conversion Anglo-Saxon England this “strong motive” or desire for immortality, often manifest through the praise of one’s deeds, does linger on. This lingering secular desire for immortality does much to explain why we have so many texts that seem (at least to the modern reader) to encourage a sort of smorgasbord approach to belief systems in which an author could compose a single poem by placing both Christian and non-Christian themes and motifs side-by-side. Thus, it appears that a reader could experience (without contradiction to one’s worldview) a text like Dream of

7 J. R. R. Tolkien, Beowulf: the Monsters and the Critics, Sir Israel Gollancz Memorial Lecture 1936 (London: Oxford University Press, 1936), 38. 8 ———, Beowulf and the Critics, ed. Michael D. C. Drout, Medieval & Renaissance Texts & Studies 248 (Tempe: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2002). 9 Ibid., 130.

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the Rood—where Christ is cast as a drihten who ascends the cross like a Germanic warrior primed for battle. Despite the melding of these disparate belief systems, we can note from Tolkien’s comments above that he did not find this literary mixing of beliefs to be an accident; nor did he believe it a successful endeavor to seek to uncover which portions of OE texts were truly pagan and which ones were not. The truth is, there simply are no extant pre-Christian texts connected to the Anglo-Saxons. In fact, most scholars now agree that this is often an exercise in futility; 10 Nevertheless, though the pursuit to find moments of historical paganism have been mostly abandoned, the “combination of pagan and Christian elements has seemed a problem demanding clearer resolution.” for the most part (and especially with OE poetry) we now often attempt to say things only about the literature itself and not about the historical accuracy of this or that portion of a text. 11

10 On the topic in general, see E. G. Stanley, “The Search for Anglo-Saxon Paganism,” in Imagining the Anglo-Saxon Past (Woodbridge: D. S. Brewer, 2000), 1-110 (Rev. ed. of a monograph published in 1975). Though scholars seem to go back and forth on how we should read a text like Beowulf—is it, for instance, a post-heroic poem that is both Christian and secular, or is it an essentially secular heroic poem with Christian interpolations throughout? For the former view, see James W. Earl, “Beowulf and the Origins of Civilization,” Speaking Two Languages: Traditional Disciplines and Contemporary Theory in Medieval Studies, ed. Allen J. Frantzen (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1991), 65-89. For the latter view, see Michael D. Cherniss, Ingeld and Christ: Heroic Concepts and Values in Old English Christian Poetry (The Hague: Mouton, 1972). Though pagan and Christian themes do indeed exist side by side in many texts (and to what extent is certainly debatable), few scholars now attempt to trace the seemingly pagan moments back to a pre-Christian origin—nor shall I. Following his own advice, Edward B. Irving, Jr. attempts to offer just such a resolution by addressing the infusion of Christian and so called pagan elements in Beowulf by delineating the various ways in which scholars have employed the term “pagan” in the last century to discuss particular elements of the poem. He identifies “at least three different senses in discussing this problem [i.e., the 11 Irving, “Christian and Pagan Elements,” 177.

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combination of pagan and Christian elements]: the literal, the vestigial, and the ethical.” 12

The first sense (the literal) is described by Irving as the “most precise” because it makes reference to the “actual practices and beliefs of pre-Christian religion in which Germanic peoples participated.” 13 These are those moments in poems like Beowulf in which the religious rituals of a secular culture are present—e.g., Beowulf’s funeral pyre (ll. 3134- 82), the funeral of Scyld (ll. 26-52), etc. 14 The second sense (the vestigial) is “less clearly defined” and is probably the least significant in terms of what it might add to scholarship on OE poetry. Irving calls this sense “fossil paganism, where an expression we can now identify as originally pagan has been preserved in a poetic formula that may well have lost such specific meaning.”

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This is the branch of Anglo-Saxon studies that so often sought (and sometimes still seeks) to identify historical traces of paganism within OE Literature. An example of this would be R. D. Fulk’s argument that a scene in Beowulf is derived from a secular myth: the mysterious landing of Scyld Scefing by boat and his departure, at his death, by the same means. 16

12 Ibid.

13 Ibid. For a general account of pagan Germanic religions see John D. Niles, “Pagan Survivals and Popular Belief,” The Cambridge Companion to Old English Literature, ed. Malcolm Godden and Michael Lapidge (Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 126-41, and Gale R. Owen-Crocker, Rites and Religions of the Anglo-Saxons (Newton Abbot: David & Charles, 1981). 14 For an important study of Anglo-Saxon paganism based upon factual evidence (especially funeral rites as evidence) see David Raoul Wilson, Anglo-Saxon Paganism (London: Routledge, 1992). His study differs from others in that it makes a concerted effort to avoid back-projecting from Scandinavian sources onto Anglo-Saxon culture. However, since it avoids turning to Scandinavian sources by concentrating on Anglo-Saxon evidence, it is a rather slim book. 15 Irving, “Christian and Pagan Elements,” 178. 16 R. D. Fulk, “An Eddic Analogue to the Scyld Scefing Story,” Review of English Studies 40 (1989): 313- 22.

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The third sense (the ethical/moral), according to Irving, is the one that “has caused the most argument.” 17 This sense has perhaps led to the most debate because it involves an analysis and reading of texts in which both Christian and secular ideals seem to coexist. The difficulty here is that two seemingly disparate worldviews have been coalesced—almost seamlessly—into a single piece of literature. 18 For instance, in The Wanderer we experience both the secular ethical code—one that emphasizes “the warrior code of the aristocracy, celebrating bravery, loyalty, and generosity, with the hero finding his only immortality in the long-lasting fame of great exploits carried out in this world” 19 At one moment, we experience the heroism of Beowulf as he pursues glory and fame as the summum bonum; at the next, we learn in the OE Boethius that this same temporal pursuit of glory and fame is frivolous, rarely reaching or lasting beyond the boundaries of one’s own community. So, what are we to think of the Anglo-Saxons and their proclivity (at least in their literature) to represent glory and fame with such —and the Christian, which begins and concludes the poem with reference to God and the eternal comfort he offers the weary Wanderer. It is on this third sense of paganism (the ethical/moral) that this study intends to dwell, because it is often in the yoking of secular and Christian themes that we experience one of the most perplexing yet captivating aspects of Anglo-Saxon literature: the struggle to articulate the changing theme of heroism. The manifestations of this struggle are evident throughout OE literature—but none is as poignant and problematic as the expression of glory and fame.

17 Irving, “Christian and Pagan Elements,” 180. 18 I will argue in Chapter 3 that the presence of secular and Christian themes and worldviews in The Wanderer and other poems is, in fact, one of their salient characteristics—not the accident of poor poets. 19 Irving, “Christian and Pagan Elements,” 180.

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ambiguity? This study intends to answer this question in part by investigating three glory and fame words—dōm, lof, and hlīsa—that demonstrate the Anglo-Saxons’ awareness of such ambiguity and its potential literary effect in a text. Before we look at these individual words, we must discuss the presence of secularism in OE literature and its attendant debates, which will lay the groundwork for our analysis of the representation of glory and fame. Therefore, what Tolkien’s comments above offer us—taken in tandem with Irving’s assessment of the scholarly debate surrounding paganisms—is a starting point for discussing the clear presence of certain themes (glory and fame, revenge, the desire for wealth) that appear to be contradictory to Christianity—the religion adopted by the Anglo-Saxons after the inception of their conversion by St. Augustine in 597 c. e. 20

Chasing after the Ghosts of the Pre-Christian

We begin with a brief overview of some of the intricacies evident in the relationship between pagan and Christian ethics in OE literature because doing so will reveal some of the difficulties that face this study. Indeed, much of the scholarly discussion concerning this relationship rests upon the fact that there are actually no extant OE texts that we can point to as pre-Christian—i.e., texts written before the conversion by authors unaffected by Christian beliefs. As noted above, there is the desire by some to identify portions of

20 Though the conversion is officially recognized as beginning in 597 c. e., Bede tells us that missionary attempts—though mostly unsuccessful—were made earlier. What is more, the conversion of England was certainly not completed in 597 c. e. For a recent treatment of the political, religious, and literary import of the conversion, see Catherine E. Karkov and Nicholas Howe, Conversion and Colonization in Anglo-Saxon England, Essays in Anglo-Saxon Studies 2 (Tempe: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2006).

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certain texts as pagan/pre-Christian. 21 Yet, one of the difficulties of doing such lies in the fact that it attempts, however loosely, to survey a period stretching from pre-history through the Roman occupation and up to the subsequent invasion by the Normans. Such a vast span of time makes any sort of sweeping or ecumenical claim about any aspect of that society nearly impossible—and possibly foolish. According to E. G. Stanley, this desire to identify paganisms in Anglo-Saxon literature is a pursuit that has its misguided origin in the nationalistic tendencies of 19 th century German scholars who sought to establish the supposed purity of the language of their Germanic ancestors by claiming that within this literature they were able to discover unadulterated ideals that are free from the polluting influence of Christianity. This process, called “disintegration” by Stanley, is described thus: “poems held to be pagan (among them Beowulf, the Old English elegies, and the Gnomic Poems) were freed from what were thought Christian accretions, the genuine was freed from the spurious.” 22 Jacob Grimm believed that the moment Christianity began to infiltrate the art of Germanic poetry and prose, its freedom and connection to the people was lost.

Full document contains 247 pages
Abstract: The diction of glory and fame in Old English literature reveals to us the intricacies woven into this theme. Here we look at three words, dom, lof , and hlisa , which offer us particular insights into the Anglo-Saxon desire to be known. Dom , or fame of the head, is shown to be the sort of glory and fame that an individual receives through the rational assessment and pronouncement of his deeds as good by another individual or group. Lof , or fame of the mouth, will be identified as the joyful verbal pronouncement by an individual or group that another's deeds are worthy of praise, and thus worthy of imitation. Hlisa , or fame of the ears, will be connected to the aural reception of one's deeds as honorable. This word is employed nearly exclusively by King Alfred and his circle of writers and Ælfric of Eynsham. Particular attention will be given to Ælfric's use of the word to describe the glory and fame of his saints. The study will provide a linguistic analysis of each word as well as a literary analysis of the contexts in which the words appear. To facilitate the literary analysis, we will provide a framework of terminology that looks at secular, syncretic, and Christian moments of glory and fame. In the end, we conclude that the nuanced uses of different glory and fame words throughout the Old English corpus demonstrates the way in which the Anglo-Saxons engaged and expressed their desire to be known.