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Mood of Anglo-Saxon Literature

In: English and Literature

Submitted By brlovejoy
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Dorothy L. Sayers once said “Death seems to provide the minds of the Anglo-Saxon race with a greater fund of amusement than any other single subject” (BrainyQuote). Sayers is a well respect writer, translator and literary critic and she managed to summarize the mood of Anglo-Saxon literature quite well.
Death is a common subject in Anglo-Saxon literature. It has deep roots in their culture and history. This common topic gives Anglo-Saxon literature a mood of despair. Often death was not the end for these people. Their name lived on through stories and epic tales, but this fact does not dilute the over whelming sensation of sorrow and loss in Anglo-Saxon literature. It only provides a way of coping with it. Death is a complex subject in Anglo-Saxon culture. It is highlighted quite nicely in the epic poem, Beowulf. Beowulf is the strongest of men. Hrothgar describes him as “that in the grasp of his hand that man renowned in battle has the might of thirty men” (Beowulf 333-335). He has risked his life multiple times to show how truly noble and courageous a man he can be, but the thanes still thought,
“Not one of them believed he would see / day dawn, or ever return to his family / and friends, and the place where he was born; / they well knew that in recent days / far to many Danish men had come to bloody ends in that hall (Beowulf 602-608).” Even in the presence of the greatest of warriors, the people still fear Grendel and believe Beowulf will just become another meal for this ferocious beast. The details in this passage drive home the point that these people live a dismal life. In addition, it portrays a mood of despair. The word "bloody" highlights the passage because these Danish men didn't just die. They meet a bloody end in a place of joy and comradery. "The Wife’s Complaint" portrays the mood differently. In Beowulf, the characters could often find solace from all the death and poverty at the bottom of a cup. In "The Wife’s Complaint" there is no such solace. “I feel in the wind / that the man dearest to me detests me” (26-27). There is nowhere for this woman to turn, and in Anglo-Saxon culture one “did not speak, of splitting the wedlock” ("The Wife’s Complaint" 13). She is stuck were she is, with little hope of things ever getting better. She is driven by revenge and the hope that her husband feels everything she feels, that he suffers just as much as she suffers. She is fueled by revenge and hatred and this bitter attitude plays a major role in defining the mood of the piece. The mood of Anglo-Saxon literature is often dismal and in "The Wanderer", it is put bluntly; “In the earth-realm all is crossed; / Wierd’s will changeth the world. / Wealth is lent us, friends are lent us, / man is lent us, kin is lent; / all this earth’s fame shall stand empty” (107-111). The overall mood of the passage is dismal, just like the others, but the topic of Wierd comes up. Wierd is the Anglo-Saxon word for fate, and fate plays a very strong role in Anglo-Saxon literature. There was little consistency in their lives and they never knew if they were coming home again. They had to have faith that their family would be there tomorrow because nothing was permanent in their world. Earthly possession meant less to Anglo-Saxon's because they knew that they could be dead tomorrow and their possessions would mean nothing. This morbid belief enforces a mood of despair at the root of their culture. Anglo-Saxon’s have very complex literature. With every aspect telling a different story, painting a different picture, but the mood is clear. Considering the time period these people lived in, they didn't live good lives. With death as a common theme, these pieces of literature reflect a mood of despair. A mood the Anglo-Saxon's couldn't escape. They tried to quantify their loss with fate, but they will forever be remembered as a society that embraced death rather than fight it.

Works Cited
"Dorothy L. Sayers Quotes." BrainyQuote. Web. 9 Oct. 2012.…...

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