Thursday, September 24, 2009

How Old English Stuff Becomes New

One honking big hoard of gold and silver items has just been announced in England. The contents are dated to the seventh century, the age of Bede. "Experts said that the collection of more than 1,500 military artefacts, including helmets, sword pommels and sword hilt ornaments possibly looted on the field of battle 1,400 years by a victorious warlord, is unparalleled in size and may have belonged to Saxon royalty," according to a description with a video at Timesonline. The BBC reports the story here, and there is currently a mass of photographs on Flickr. (That incomparable online resource for this is provided to us by Dr. Stuart Brookes, University College, London, via ANSAXNET.) Hilary Attfield sent me the incredibly rich Daily Mailsite.

My first take on all of this, beyond what is said in the sources I've given you, is that the prevalence of Latin inscriptions, all from the Bible insofar as I can see now, seem to have talismanic purposes at the same time that they assert those Christian warrior notions of "God as my shield, etc." For those teaching Beowulf and who adhere to the notion that the poem is from the period of this hoard, here is further material cultural comparanda; for us late daters, it confirms what the poet tells us of heirloom swords and shaky Christianity of the poet's ancestors, to the degree that this poem is about English culture, having been written in English, although it engages no English folks in it, excepting a passing reference to Offa of Mercia who was known throughout Europe.

For those who aren't teaching or reading in the Old English period, try to imagine how a parallel discovery would open discussion in your own area of study.

No comments:

Post a Comment