Portal:Old English literature

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Old English

This portal will direct you to works in Old English.


Beowulf manuscript.
First page of 'Beowulf' in the Nowell Codex

The four poetic codices[edit]

Almost all surviving Anglo-Saxon poems are preserved in four main manuscripts. Poems are thus listed by manuscript.

Nowell Codex[edit]

The Nowell Codex contains both prose and poetry, with a supposed theme of monstrosity and the exotic.

Junius Manuscript[edit]

The Junius Manuscript contains reworkings of three Books of the Old Testament into Old English epic poetry, as well as Christ and Satan, which inspires rather from the New Testament.

Vercelli Book[edit]

The Vercelli Book is a compendium of poems and homilies found in Vercelli, Italy. It was perhaps left there by an Anglo-Saxon pilgrim on his way to Rome.

  • Andreas, the story of Saint Andrew's rescue of Saint Matthew from a city of cannibals
  • The Fates of the Apostles, by Cynewulf, a mnemonic for remembering what happened to the Apostles after the Ascension
  • Soul and Body I, a dialogue between the soul and the body
  • The Dream of the Rood, the crucifix gives a first-person account of Christ's crucifixion
  • Elene, an account of Saint Helena's journey to find the True Cross
  • Homiletic Fragment I - as the title suggests, a fragment of homiletic writing in poetic form.

Exeter Book[edit]

The Exeter Book contains a large number of poems, and has its own subportal.

The Metrical Charms[edit]

These are poems from various manuscripts apparently used to ward away various illnesses and afflictions. These are numbered according to the Sacred Texts Archive (https://sacred-texts.com/neu/ascp/index.htm).

1. For Unfruitful Land
2. The Nine Herbs Charm
3. Against a Dwarf
4. For a Sudden Stich
5. For Loss of Cattle
6. For Delayed Birth
7. For the Water-Elf Disease
8. For a Swarm of Bees
9. For Loss of Cattle (2)
10. For Loss of Cattle (3)
11. A Journey Charm
12. Against a Wen

Other poems[edit]

Below is a list of any other Anglo-Saxon poems uploaded to Wikisource:

A number of poems may also be found within the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.


Alfredian prose[edit]

After his victory against the Vikings, Alfred the Great instigated a number of legal, ecclesiastical and educational reforms in the Kingdom of Wessex. Among these was his project of translating and adapting into Old English a number of Latin works he regarded as "most necessary for all men to know." [1]. These were:

Alfred is said to have commissioned the following work:

Alfred is also responsible for the following compositions:

  • The Will of King Alfred
  • The Domboc (lit. "Book of Judgement"), his law code

Works by Ælfric[edit]

Other works[edit]

See also[edit]

Parent portals[edit]