Page:Beowulf (Wyatt).djvu/16

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viii
BEOWULF.

truth of what he himself says: “It is often very difficult, if not impossible, to decide whether the scribe intended one or more words.”

Several things are obvious from a perusal of the above passages:—

(1) That the lines of the MS. do not correspond with the verse-lines of the poem.

(2) That the punctuation of the MS. is meagre and unreliable.

(3) That proper names are not written with capital letters. On the other hand, the first word after a full-stop is not infrequently written with a capital.

(4) That vowel-length is not marked as a rule.

(5) That one word is sometimes written as two or even three words, and that two words are sometimes written as one word.

(6) That hyphens are unknown to the scribes.

(7) It would seem that the scribes were mere copyists, not writing from memory nor from dictation, and that sometimes at least they did not understand what they were copying.

It is impossible to illustrate, by the quotation of passages like the above, the divergences of the MS. in the method of writing and spelling the same word. One or two illustrations must suffice. The word ond, “and,” is written in full only three times, in ll. 600, 1148, 2040. Elsewhere it is represented by the symbol ⁊. The word ondlong occurs in the form “⁊langne” (acc. m.) in l. 2115, “andlongne” (acc. m.) in l. 2695, “ondlonge” (acc. f.) in l. 2938. The word mon-cynn occurs as “mancynne” (dat.) in l. 110, “moncynnes” (gen.) in l. 196, “mon cynnes” (gen.) in l. 1955. These are only a few examples of the inconsistencies with which the MS. teems.