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Exploring Old English Poetry

The model of an Old English king as warrior-poet - King David from the eighth-century Canterbury Vespasian Psalter [British Library

with Dr Sam Newton

at Tranmer House, Sutton Hoo (map)
on Saturday 29th September, 2007

A guide to the earliest surviving English verse and its tales of wonder, wisdom, heroism, and romance.

Today we explore some of the earliest surviving English poetry, both in the original language and in translation. We shall chart thus some of the tales of heroism, history, romance, wonder and wisdom – including the riddles - preserved in Old English manuscripts. We shall also experiment with the relation of this early verse to music, using a replica of the Sutton Hoo hearp or lyre.

Hitherto will our sparkeful Youth laugh at their great grandfathers’ English, who had more care to do well, than to speak minion-like, and left more glory to us… than we shall do by our forging anew words, and uncuth phrases. Great verily was the glory of our tongue before the Norman Conquest…(William Camden [1551-1623], Remains Concerning Britain, ed. R.D.Dunn [Toronto 1984], p.27.)

Provisional Programme
  10.00 Coffee on arrival  
  10.15 The Old English Language:
A starter session intended to acquaint participants with the old language using familiar texts such as The Lord’s Prayer.
 
  11.15 Coffee  
  11.30 The Word-Hoard of Verse:
An introduction to the ancient genre of English poetic art using and passages of heroic and elegiac verse and a replica hearp
 
  12.30 Lunch break  
  14:00 The Old English Riddles:
A look at the genre of riddles in the context of Old English wisdom poetry.
 
  15:00 Tea break  
  15:15 The Forgotten Verse of Early England:
An attempt to assess something of the wealth of lost tales.
 
  16:15 Close  

About Dr Sam Newton

Dr Sam Newton is an historian who has lectured widely around the country and as well as contributing to many television and radio programmes. In 1993 he published his first book, The Origins of Beowulf and the pre-Viking Kingdom of East Anglia, now in its fourth print run. His second book, The Reckoning of King Rædwald, was published in 2003. He is also a Director of Wuffing Education and regular Time Team historian.

Some suggestions for further reading
(useful but not essential)

Alexander, M., The Earliest English Poems (Penguin Classics 1966)
Alexander, M., Old English Literature (Macmillan 1983)
Garmonsway, G., The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (Dent 1953, 1975)
Mitchell, B., An Invitation to Old English and Anglo-Saxon England (Blackwell 1994)
Heaney, S., Beowulf: A New Translation (London 1999)
Mitchell, B., An Invitation to Old English and Anglo-Saxon England (Blackwell 1994)
Mitchell, B., & F.Robinson, A Guide to Old English (Blackwell 1986-2001)
Mitchell, B., & F.Robinson, (eds), Beowulf (Blackwell 1998)
Newton, S., The Origins of Beowulf and the pre-Viking Kingdom of East Anglia (Brewer 1993-2004)
Newton, S., The Reckoning of King Rædwald (Redbird 2003)
Pollington, S., Wordcraft: a concise dictionary and thesaurus, modern English to Old English (Anglo-Saxon Books 1993)
Shippey, T.A., Old English Verse (London 1972)
Swanton, M, Beowulf (Manchester 1978)
Whitelock, D., Sweet's Anglo-Saxon Reader (Oxford 1967)

Bookings

Please phone or email to check the availability of places and then send the application form and a cheque for £38, payable to Wuffing Education to:

Wuffing Education,
4 Hilly Fields,
Woodbridge, Suffolk IP12 4DX
(tel : 01394 386498)

Email cliff AT wuffingeducation.co.uk
(replace 'AT' by '@' in order to send email - we used 'AT' to avoid spam robots automatically sending us emails)
Website www.wuffingeducation.co.uk

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