Sunday, July 26, 2009

For Those Not At ISAS....

I share your pain. I too wish I could be there this year. Oh, well.

While we await reports from bloggers on the ground, I hope to get an honest-to-goodness conversation going on here. As I go through the Beowulf exercise, two trends have captured my curiosity:
  1. The preponderance of three-word alliterative clusters in Beowulf. There's a boatload of these, and I'm just surprised that I never noticed them before. Here's a sample from fitt 15:
    haten hreþe heort (line 991)
    folmum gefrætwod fela (992)
    fyrendædum fag on fleam (1001)
    medoful manig magas (1015)
    beforan beorn beran beowulf (1024)
    helmes hrof heafodbeorge (1030)
    stod sadol searwum (1037-8)
    hordweard hæleþa heaþoræsas (1047)
    Surely, these clusters have been discussed (and have a cool name), but I don't know any references offhand. It's a terrific feature of the verse. As I think more about it, I am not sure why I should be surprised. Perhaps it's the three-in-a-row feature that strikes me: this just seems hard to do for an extended period of time, yet it's everywhere.

  2. The word hilde (usu. war or battle). In fitts 14 and 15, we had strange things happening about this word. In 14, the word comes at the end of one sheet and again at the top (line 986 in most editions). Is this an inadvertent repeat, a scribal error? OK, but then why would one instance not have been erased? Is there any plausible, sensible reading for double hilde? In fitt 15 (at line 1039 in editions), hilde seems to be the the first part of a compound, hildesetl, but there's a point right after the hilde. I don't recall ever before in the poem seeing a point between two elements that could be joined into a word. Is there something unique about hilde, or are we merely noticing some screw-ups around a common word?

Information? Leads? Shall we converse? I realize that I should be doing my own homework on this, and I will. Nevertheless, it would be nice to know if others thought these things were as cool as I do.


theswain said...


It'd be helpful to have either line numbers or leaf numbers for quicker reference on the hild questions.

My kneejerk response after a quick look at a couple editions is simply that this is a scribal error...the scribe makes more than a few in the course of the poem. But if you give me more info so I don't have to spend lots of time trying to find the references, that'd be helpful.

The alliteration issue, if I've understood what you're asking correctly, is simply a feature of Old English poetry--but then I'm not sure I understand exactly what you mean.

Jon Myerov said...

Done. Thanks for the requests. I should have been more aware of what others would need to engage with my post.

By the way, I read your post on the Ruminate and I'm sorry things didn't work out. FWIW, I hope you land something really kick-ass, and soon.

theswain said...

Hi Jon,

Thanks for reading and thanks for the good wishes!

Re: line 986, I did some checking and in my view, its a scribal error, repeating the word. The "Klaeber Fourth Edition" editors agree having in their excellent apparatus: "986b hilde at foot of fol 151r wrongly repeated on fol 151v". Apparently not an error Scribe B caught in Scribe A's work or if he did catch it didn't think it worth correcting.

Re: 1039, I think its just another scribal error since it separates an obvious compound and comes in the middle of the line. I can't think of other examples right now, but it seems to my memory that this isn't the only place with an odd punctus in the poem.

Places to check: if you have access to the Electronic Beowulf, they may have something. My frequent first ports of call on Beowulf questions are the appropriate chapters/essays in either Andy Orchard's _A Critical Companion to Beowulf_ or in Bjork and Niles _A Beowulf Handbook_ as well as checking various editions. The Fourth Klaeber seems to make that last step much easier now, I have to say, though they don't have anything on that line.

Also, if you're interested, over on the Heroic Age links page under bibliographies and under Beowulf I have a couple bibliographies on Beowulf as well as some other works that might be of interest.