A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature/Cynewulf

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Cynewulf (fl. 750). -- Anglo-Saxon poet. He was probably a Northumbrian, though sometimes thought to have been a Mercian. His poems, and some others, more or less doubtfully attributed to him, are contained in the Exeter Book and the Vercelli Book. The poems which are considered to be certainly his are the Riddles, from hints and allusions in which is derived nearly all that is known of him, or at least of the earlier part of his life, which appears to have been that of a joyous and poetical nature, rejoicing in the beauty of the world. His next poem, Juliana, the legend of a virgin-martyr, indicates a transition in his spiritual life; sorrow and repentance are its predominant notes, and in these respects another poem, St. Guthlac, resembles it. In the Crist (Christ), C. has passed through the clouds to an assured faith and peace. The Phœnix, and the second part of Guthlac, though not certainly his, are generally attributed to him. The Fates of the Apostles and Elene (the legend of St. Helena) are his; the Andreas and The Dream of the Roode are still in some respects the subject of controversy. In several of the poems the separate letters of C.'s name are introduced in a peculiar manner, and are regarded as an attesting signature. Juliana, Crist, The Apostles, and Elene are thus said to be signed. The Exeter and Vercelli Books are collections of ancient English poems, and they are named from the places where they were found.