The Tale of Beowulf by anonymous Anglo-Saxon poet

The Tale of Beowulf by anonymous Anglo-Saxon poet


Beowulf is the oldest surviving epic poem from the Old English canon originating between 521 AD and 1026 AD. Authorship is unknown thus attributed in this edition to “an unknown Anglo Saxon poet.” Scholars continue to hotly debate single authorship versus communal authorship or transcriptions over time of orally transmitted legend. Likewise, it is also unknown the exact location in England where the poem was composed. The Nowell codex (likely the first “written” copy of Beowulf) containing the first 85 pages of Beowulf is believed to originated in an unknown West Saxon Kingdom and is attributed to the transcription of two scribes. What is know that the oldest surviving manuscript is actually “untitled.

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Allegorical intent is also hotly debated among scholars. There are as yet identified writing or other indicators to the importance of Beowulf in the Saxon kingdoms. Likewise, there are no indicators of propagation of the poem during the Middle English period (circa 1100 – 1500). Reemergence of Beowulf can be however traced back to the late 18th and 19th century making it a “near modern” poem. Again at the time of it’s composition and subsequent centuries Beowulf remained in a literary “time capsule.” We may never know if the original allegorical intent was Christian, Teutonic hero mythos or even political commentary pertaining to one of the Saxon kingdoms.

Beowulf endures because it is a foundational English literary work that demands continuous study. Beowulf continues to influence English literature and works of popular fiction through the millennia. Concepts such as epic poetry, alliteration, accentual verse, metaphor, imagery, enjambment are all present in this work. Moreover, deeply human realities such as treachery, valor, fate, divinity (blurring the lines between the old testament and pagan imagery) and the erosion of vitally brought about by old age - are all present. In short Beowulf is a keystone of English literary studies and we sincerely hope that you enjoy this edition.