, Volume 99, Issue 1, pp 143–150 | Cite as

The Meter of Widsith and the Distant Past

  • Eric WeiskottEmail author


In a recent article in this journal, Leonard Neidorf argues for a seventh-century date for the Old English poem Widsith, while countenancing the possibility that one portion of the poem was composed before the migration of the Angles and Saxons to Britain (adventus Saxonum). The present article disputes the possibility of a pre-adventus date for this and other portions of Widsith. Metrical considerations tend to contradict such an exceptionally early dating, with ramifications for the categorization and interpretation of the poem as a whole. After reviewing the pertinent metrical evidence, this article argues that the available metrical form of Widsith is the essential feature by which the poem, whenever and wherever it was composed, can be recognized as ‘the poem’ in the first place. This article concludes that Widsith is not an ancient poem from a pan-Germanic distant past, but an encyclopedic Old English poem that turns inherited vocabulary to its own rhetorical purposes.


Widsith Meter Old English Pre-Old English Adventus Saxonum Liedertheorie 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Boston CollegeChestnut HillUSA

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