, Volume 66, Issue 4, pp 614–621 | Cite as

Some alliterative misfits in theBeowulf MS

  • Paul B. Taylor
  • R. Evan Davis


Comparative Literature Historical Linguistic 
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  1. 1.
    The Freudian Slip: Psycho-analysis and Textual Criticism (London: New Left Review Editions, 1976).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    The well-known instance of Auden's “every port has its name for the sea” mistransmitted Auden's manuscript “every poet. . . .” Neither Auden nor critics have argued that an “original intent” should be preserved.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    N. F. Blake reviews cogently (The English Language in Medieval Literature, London: Methuen, 1977, Chapter III, “The Editorial Process”) scribal handling of a text and concludes that scribes change more freely than editors normally admit, and thus make few copying mistakes. They render what makes sense to them rather than recopy a strange form (pp. 77–78).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    In line 2473a, Thorkelin transcribesrid for the missing portion. Grundtvig emends towid to make a C-verseofer wid wœter. However, the line is a regular A3-verse without the alliteration, if we accept a lack of stress on the adjective. There may be virtue in stressing the width of the water barrier between Swedes and Geats, but such a stress is an interpretation, not a “restoration,” as Wrenn calls it in his note to the line.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    A. J. Bliss, “Single Half-Lines in Old English Poetry,”Notes and Queries, 216 (1971), 442–49, argues that half-lines with one stressed syllable are allowable, and so emendation to add a second stressed syllable is unnecessary.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    This is a questionable emendation, suggested first by Bugge, and followed by all modern editors. The original MSwolde fela ða lige forgyldan makes perfect sense sincewolde hasbeorges hyrde in line 2304 as subject. The line would then translate as “he wished then very much to repay with flames.” The emendation “inverts”laða as a variant subject to alliterate withlige, but distorts a clear MSf to do so.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Albert H. Marckwardt and James L. Rosier,Old English Language and Literature (New York: W. W. Norton, 1972), p. 209n., note that scribal omission of initial letters is relatively infrequent. They citeChrist 615a,is forhis, as an example, but one can easily provide an argument that the prosodic pattern of the verseœt is upstíge provides a phonological context in which theh ofhis would be lost in oral performance, and this loss could easily be transferred from a scribe's ear to hand.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    “Ecgtheow,”Studies in Heroic Legend and in Current Speech, ed. Stefan Einarsson and Norman Eliason (Copenhagen: Rosenkilde and Bagger, 1959), pp. 110–11.G andw are common phonological reflexes in Old and Middle English, e. g. Wawain/Gawain and Wærmund/Gærmund.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    See Richard W. Bevis, “Beowulf: A Restoration,”ELN, 2 (1965), 165, who calls thehondléan forms here “as good or better” than the emendation.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    The Metre of Beowulf (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1958), p. 45.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    The Interpretation of Old English Poems (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1972), p. 102.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Despite Greenfield's questioning of the emendation, he accepts it, interpreting theun- as “the intensive particle rather than the negative,” but notes, however, “we may even retain the manuscriptHun-=‘giant’” (p. 106).Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    “Reðes ond Hattres,Beowulf 2523,”MLN, 71 (1956), 551–56.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    “Emendation of Oreðes ond Attres,”MLN, 72 (1957), 323–34. See also Stevick, “ Emendation of Old English Texts: 2523,”MLQ, 20 (1959), 339–43.Reðes is perfectly normal for “enmity, hate.”Hattres is not, apparently, a regular form, though it looks like a derivative ofhát, “heat.”Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Pope, p. 326.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Wolters-Noordhoff 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul B. Taylor
    • 1
  • R. Evan Davis
    • 1
  1. 1.Dept. of EnglishUniversity of GenevaGeneva 4Switzerland

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