Sunday, July 17, 2016

Initial Impression of 'Deor'



Image of OE manuscript.


Fundamentally, Deor is about the attempt to reconcile loss. It’s six stanzas communicate a different extrapolation of negativity; in order: Weland and his exile, the death of Beadohild brother, the legendary love of MÓ•thild, the rule of Theodric, the cruel Goth king Ermanaric, and finally, the speaker himself, Doer, who once a scop (or, said again, a bard) was replaced by a more talented poet and reciter. With each stanza concluded by the mantra “That passed away, this also may”, what we see in this short but flowing poem is the considerations of someone grappling with severe self-doubt and confusion.

                Kevin Crossley-Holland, translator of the Doer poem, remarks that “[the poet] reminds us of the poet, or scop, was a crucial member of a tribe or society; he was its living memory” (3, The Anglo-Saxon World: An Anthology). Crossley-Holland also remarks that the final line of each stanza “is the only surviving Old English poem to use stanzas for artistic ends.” Truly, to earnestly appreciate this text, one needs to understand how fortunate we, as contemporary readers, are to have even this small poem survive. For, if this is the only such manuscript of which we know, then the fact that here exists a repeating line simply for creative reasons—whether aesthetic or emotional—to the author is of important note. After all, modernity is replete with seemingly trivial artistic gestures; however, upon one’s deeper probing, these trivial gestures blossom into the cornerstone of the piece.

                To sum up his thoughts on the poem, Crossley-Holland intones that “The poem can therefore be read as either an active expression of hope and intention or as a stoical recognition that everything, even the worst, passes away in time.” The fact of the matter is that we simply do not know what the speaker intends since we do not know enough about the time in which he lived. After all, he mentions several kings (Theodric and Ermanaric) which we know little about while knowing nothing at all about Maethild the Great.  So, in the end, Doer goes the way of many other poems and histories of the Anglo-Saxon period: something to keep in mind for future reference, something to preserve as part of the English cultural heritage.

Works Cited
Crossley-Holland, Kevin. The Anglo-Saxon World: An Anthology. Oxford: U.P., 2009. Print.

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