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"HOME" IN OLD ENGLISH POETRY

Anita R. Riedinger
Neuphilologische Mitteilungen
Vol. 96, No. 1 (1995), pp. 51-59
Published by: Modern Language Society
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/43346054
Page Count: 9
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"HOME" IN OLD ENGLISH POETRY
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Abstract

This essay examines the concept of "home" in Old English poetry. While the importance of the hall has been long noted, other, more common, structures have been all but overlooked by scholars. Everywhere in the background of most OE poems there lies, in often the most profound kinds of ways, the concept of "home." This paper examines that concept throughout the OE poetic corpus, especially as it expresses itself in Old English poetic formulas and themes. Poems touched on include Exodus, Battle of Maldon, Beowulf, Fates of the Apostles, Genesis A, Riddle 29, The Wife's Lament, and more. There are at least fourteen synonyms for "home" in OE poetry: éðel, eard, geard, oern, bold, reced, cnósl, cýpp, worðig, wíc, eodor, hof hús, and hám. Some - like éðel, eard, and geard - are often associated with a geographical setting, a home-land. Others refer primarily to an actual building - like oern, bold, and reced -, or to a simple enclosure - as in eodor, hof, and hús. And a few specifically associate themselves with family, as do cnosl, cýpp, and éðel. These fourteen synonyms recur as simplexes about 650 times; they also recur as elements in 116 different compounds. To the characters of Anglo-Saxon poetry, all could, and usually did mean "home," whether that home was on earth, in heaven, or in hell. This essay examines many of these words in context, demonstrating that this ubiquitous concept was used to define some of life's most important moments, such as marriage, birth, death, victory and defeat.

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