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Poems and Chronicles

Old English literature was written in Anglo-Saxon (old English) from the second half of 5th century to time of the Norman conquest in 1066. It includes different genres: epic poetry, chronicles, riddles, translation of Bible from Latin, stories about the lives of saints and sermons. The most important are the epic poem Beowulf, the Angle-Saxon Chronicle and poem Caedmon’s Hymn from 7th century. There are two types of Old English poetry: the heroic pre-Christian and Christian.
Old English poetry was oral and anonymous. The poets were called scop, he entertained the noblemen in halls (often accompanied by a harp). They are important to shape a common cultural identity. The poetry is divided into two complementary modes: epic and elegiac.
originally the Anglo-Saxon poetry was oral and based on memorization (from mouth to mouth) until in the 11th century it was written by the church clerks who fixed its form.


the most important formal aspects of Anglo-Saxon poetry were stress and alliteration, that is the repetition of the same initial consonant sound. Each line was divided into two halves by a break or caesura and had 4 stresses.


One peculiarity of Anglo-Saxon literature is the riddle, a linguistic guessing game. They are generally in the first person.

Old english prose

old English prose first appeared from the 9th century to 12th century. Prose was written in Latin before the reign of King Alfred, who decided to translate many books from Latin into Old English. The Anglo-Saxon chronicle was probably started in the time of king Alfred. Old English literature survived the Norman conquest of 1066 to 14th century, but when the monasteries were destroyed (during Reformation), the manuscripts were sent to the antiquarians and scholars.
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