A Christological reading of The Ruin
Raimondo Murgia (Tallinn University)
TRAMES: A Journal of the Humanities & Social Sciences, Vol. 14 Issue 2 (2010)
The foremost goal of this work is to put forward a Christological interpretation of The Ruin, an old English poem found in the Exeter Book that has been catalogued by critics among the Old English Elegies. Comparisons with the Bible will uphold my design, which pivots on the image of Christ as a cornerstone. I shall undertake an allegorical reading, thus I recall that ambiguity and mystery are present in the etymology of the term allegory, which is roughly glossed from the Greek αλλος ‘other’ and γορεία ‘speaking’. More specifically, the term occurs in the Oxford English Dictionary (Simpson & Weiner 1989) as extended metaphor. The author might wish to disguise the meaning of his text thus challenging the reader to disclose it. I hereby accept this challenge.
By a twist of fate, The Ruin has come down to us in such a damaged state that I would take the liberty of describing this poem by the polyptoton ‘ruined’. Albeit hyperbolic, this adjective perfectly suits the parchment where the text appears, because it has been affected by serious burn damages. As a result, large parts of the poem are beyond recovery. However, we can recover those features from the text that permit to count it among the Old English Elegies. Since it is beyond the scope of this work to carry out a palaeographical or codicological analysis of the manuscript and to conjecture about what is lost, the poem will be considered from a semantic point of view.