Wednesday, July 27, 2016

'The Battle of Brunanburh' Initial Impressions

*sniffles* "That's who beat me up, My lord!" "Then we shall make them pay, Eric; we shall make them pay dearly; never again will they give an Englishman an Indian burn!"

If there is one thing that tenth century texts do not espouse then it is nationalism. As a concept, nationalism didn’t emerge until after the hundred year’s war; even then, it would take longer to truly implement and normalize as an idea for the common folk to internalize. So what is interesting about The Battle of Brunanburh is that what we may call proto-nationalist sentiment bathes the text.

                As Kevin Crossley-Holland notes, it “looks beyond the immediate context to speak of [the] king, this poem is concerned from first to last with king and country” (6 The Anglo-Saxon World: An Anthology). The poem is simple in that it simply escribes the defeat of the Norse king Anlaf and Constantine, King of the Picts during a battle in the north-west of England. But the poem is complex in how it presents said information; as it is heavily concerned with king and country, one sees repeated references to the homeland of the invaders as well as the defenders virtues, what their defending and why it is important. While it may not be perceptible right off the bat what makes this poem different, upon a closer reading one is bound to notice seeming anachronisms that almost appear as though they do not belong in the usual corpus of tenth century texts.

                But, of course, such moments do belong as this text was merely ahead of its time in its ideological formation. Everything written here is by a visionary, of sorts, and indicates that Anglo-Saxon England had a diverse range of thought and philosophy. Even so, however, I did not find this poem very engaging. It was a bit off for me. I rarely like nationalistic moments of fervor, so this text was simply something that in the hit or miss category, was a miss.

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