Business Do you have any questions about the course? How is the book situation?
Write in Your Notebooks What is your definition of “consolation”?
From American Heritage Console (verb) = “To comfort in time of grief, defeat, or trouble; solace.” So consolation = solace. In short, although stuff is bad, there is hope too.
Factoid Deor’s name means “bold,” noble,” “excellent,” as well as “the deer” and “the wild animal.”
Thus “Deor’s Lament” is his consolation: –On the one hand, the poem recounts bad stuff in life. –On the other, it proposes a particular kind of consolation.
Our Job Is Twofold First, we need to figure out what happens in “Deor’s Lament”—the events that are chronicled. Second, we need to figure out what the consolation is. Read the poem out loud.
What Happens Weland (a magician mentioned in Beowulf) is crippled and forced to serve Nithad. Weland then avenges himself on Nithad by killing his sons and raping his daughter, Beadohild. Then Weland escapes—perhaps by flying. His consolation: revenge and escape. Beadohild gets pregnant. She is sad about the pregnancy and about her brother’s death, but her son grows up to be a hero (her consolation).
Lines 13-15 Two possible interpretations: –If Hild = Beadohild, then the lines look at the rape from her father’s perspective. –Folk story: Hild is King Hogni’s daughter, whom Hedin seduces before they marry. In one version, Hedin dies in battle, and Hild conjures him nightly.
Connection Between Stanzas The Heodenings (last stanza) are Hedin’s people. Twofold point: –Hild and Deor both suffer their respective troubles. –The stanzas connect: Hedin may be the king whom Deor mentions in line 37.
Next Details Theodoric ruled the Maerings for 30 years, but now he is dead—a good thing. Eormanric –a savage and tyrranical king of the Goths—was eventually overthrown.
Transition So far we have a mixture of those who suffer and those who inflict sufferings. Now, in the next stanza, the poet generalizes about humankind. His message is this: God gives some “wealth and honor” and others “a burden of woe.”
Deor’s Own Situation Heorrenda has usurped Deor’s favored position in the Heodenings’ court. His lamentation over his own problems comes last to create suspense. Many others suffered. Deor did too.
Question What kind of consolation do you find in “Deor’s Lament”?
Possible Answers Insofar as Deor consoles himself, the poem serves as consolation for others. God is said to be in charge. Hope lies in stoicism. The wheel of fortune turns: if life is bad, just hang on—it will get better.
The Refrain “That evil ended. So also may this!” “That evil” = the one just described. “So also may this!”: –Not Deor’s problems with his job. That has already ended. Presumably Deor, the scop, has a new job! –“this” must refer to something else.
What Might “this” Refer to? Perhaps some new problem, something other than losing his job to Heorrenda. Or perhaps the poem is meant as a general consolation for anyone in a bad situation.
Write in Your Notebooks What is the moral of this poem? Express its point in a single sentence. If you see multiple morals, write multiple sentences.
Some Possibilities Woe and wealth are both from God, who knows what is best for us. Earthly troubles come to an end. Be patient; problems won’t last forever. Remember that many others have suffered and overcome difficult situations; you can too.
Genre: Two Possibilities If Deor is a fictional character (a speaker or persona), then the poem is a kind of dramatic monologue, a form that we will see again in our study of the Victorian period. Charm: –A literary statement designed to produce a desired effect. –Based on primitive belief in words’ power to control events. –Its elements: A story + a command or request –For example: As X, so Y. “That evil ended. // So also may this!”
Example of a Charm Christ went on a horse, A horse broke his leg, Christ went down, He made whole the leg. As Christ made whole that, May Christ make whole this….
Final Point It is possible that a historical Deor was a well known escaper of misfortune, someone who would have been appropriate for the poet’s message of cheerfulness and hope. If so, then “this” refers to problems in a wider context—or to some problem in a lost work, of which “Deor’s Lament” was originally a part. “Deor’s Lament” may have been written to charm away a problem whose identity has been lost.
Clarification The Deor who speaks is a fictional character. But there may also be a historical Deor on whom that character is modeled.
Another Consolatio “The Wanderer” = an elegiac consolatio: lamentation + consolation.
Factoid The poem was originally untitled and unpunctuated. These features are the additions of modern editors.
Write in Your Notebooks What other title might you give to the poem?
A Few Possibilities “Mutability” “Thoughts of an Exile” “The Exile’s Consolation” “The Grace of God” “Man Alone”
Other Helpful Terms Ethopoeia: an imaginary monologue spoken by a fictitious human character. Ubi sunt: Latin, where are they?
Optional Reading Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy “The Seafarer”: another poem about sea travel in ancient Britain
First Questions What is the dramatic situation in the poem? What actions are described? What is the setting?
Second Question Do you find elements of Anglo-Saxon heroism in the poem? –Comitatus? –What is the problem with this? Proverbs 29:11: “A fool gives full vent to his anger, / but a wise man quietly holds it back.”
Third Question Work with a partner for 5 minutes to outline the poem. What sections emerge? –Pay attention to the verse paragraphs. –Also notice first vs. third person. How would you label each section?
A Possible Outline 1-7: Introduction 8-25: Wanderer’s self-description (first person) 26-51: Further description (third person) –26-34: Memory of good times –35-44: Dream –45-51: Hallucination 52-79: Wise man’s perspective on life 80-92: Ubi sunt? The transience of earthly things 93-102: Fate rules; everything will fail 103-end: Moralizing ending about God
Alternatives Arising from the Outline The poem explores different responses to life’s hard knocks. What are they? What are the possible consolations here? –First, –Second, –Third,
Suggested Answers First, pagan self-sufficiency: investing in the temporal world Second, wisdom: understanding that the temporal world offers no consolation Third, faith in God: a more genuine consolation for life’s transience and hard knocks
Controversy #1: Speakers Lack of punctuation in the original makes it extremely difficult to tell who is speaking. Our version is a modern editor’s interpretation. Question: How many speakers do YOU think are in the poem? Make an argument for each of the following: –One speaker: –Two speakers: –Three speakers:
Possible Answers One speaker: One poet who writes the whole poem in different voices, perhaps someone who has gone through all three stages (pagan, classical, Christian) Two speakers: A pagan speaker and some kind of classical wise man who finally realizes that God > Fate Three speakers: A pagan, a wise man, and a Christian (perhaps the poet)
The Point To Remember We can never know how many speakers there are in “The Wanderer.” The important thing is to realize that the different voices or attitudes culminate in Christian affirmation (and thus in consolation).
Controversy #2: “Dream Sequence” Do you critique it positively or negatively— and why? Here’s the sequence: –Memory –Dream –Hallucination
Reserve Reading “‘The Wanderer’ and the Psychology of Sailing”: http://0- dacus.winthrop.edu.library.winthrop.edu/eReserves/engl 203f-1.pdfhttp://0- dacus.winthrop.edu.library.winthrop.edu/eReserves/engl 203f-1.pdf Dr. Fike: “The critical consensus has been that waking from a dream of his former life drives home the enormity of the wanderer’s loss and emphasizes the need to change from a gold-driven comitatus relationship, which he still seeks, to wisdom and faith. What appears real to the unconscious mind is fleeting illusion to our waking selves, with deepened despair as the result” (78). In other words, the dream sequence--like the pagan mindset that it conveys--is a dead end.
My View Page 81: “Being alone on a wintry sea in a small open boat, not as a sportsman in summer…but as a castaway, signals the same extreme vulnerability to altered states of consciousness experienced by modern singlehanders. …the conditions of a small boat voyage on the open sea—constant rhythmic movement, monotonous sound, and isolation, acting together as a nautical analogue to the sensory-deprivation chamber—make the content of the unconscious extraordinarily available to conscious perception.”
More Page 87-88: “…the dream sequence…reflects not only a stage of material attachment that the lone wanderer must overcome on his way to wisdom and faith but also a transitional phase between old pagan ways and the secular wisdom of the wise man. …the dream sequence is a hinge between having a lord and realizing that all earthly things pass away, rather than a static state that the wanderer must overcome—false imagery on the way to the truth of Christ. The wanderer’s friends comfort him while he is still receptive to their positive presence, but they take their leave at the moment of his greatest fatigue when physical and mental extremity have opened him to the development of wisdom. … The wanderer’s waking contact with his unconscious mind helps him transcend his old heroic values and embrace wisdom.”
In Short Page 91: “…God uses the wanderer’s hardship to break down the dead ends endorsed by the conscious mind, so that he develops a state of receptivity in which wisdom’s proper perspective on worldly things leads to happiness in our ‘heavenly Father’ (108).”
Point The dream sequence is DYNAMIC. It is a positive hinge, not a reminder of a dead end, as previous critics maintained. Dream and hallucination enable personal growth. This expanded state of consciousness complements the religious faith he later achieves. END