The Theme of Mutability in Old English Poetry

The Theme of Mutability in Old English Poetry

Lee, Sung-Il

Medieval English Studies, vol. 8 (2000)


There is a poetic fragment contained in the Exeter Book, that treasury of Old English poetry, which the students of Old English have been referring to as “The Ruin.” The present condition of its manuscript does not allow us even to guess how long the poem was. Arranged in verses after prosodic scheme, the text is clear up to line 12; the ensuing six lines are undecipherable. With the off-verse of line 18, the work resumes textual clarity, till it reaches the on-verse of line 42, after which the manuscript becomes illegible again. The condition in which the manuscript has been preserved is such that one cannot even presume how long the poem initially was or what the rest of the work was about. The common appellation of the work,“The Ruin,”is based on the content of the extant text of the work, of course; but this title ironically becomes applicable to the state in which the work has been preserved.

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