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Prince of life, why hast thou forsaken me'; and I, tormented for three days, now cry, ‘Joy-giver of souls, let me yield up my life. Moreover, thou didst promise that not a hair of our heads should be lost, nor sinew or bone lie on swathe; and now my locks lie driven through the land, my sinews are cramped, my blood is spilled — death is dearer than this lifecare.”
Weep not,” answers Christ, “thy wretchedness. This is not too hard for thee. Nothing of my word shall fail. Look on thy track where thy blood has gushed out.” And the champion looked back, and lo, he saw blowing bowers rise, laden with blossoms, where he had poured out his blood! The fourth night now comes, and Christ is still present with his servant. The trial is closed, the triumph has begun. “No longer,” Jesus cries, “shalt thou suffer sorrow."
Then rose the hero, nor was his beauty now spoiled, nor a fringe of his garment unravelled, nor a hair of his head loosened. He was whole as before.
The fourth division, which tells of the glory of the saint, begins with a few personal remarks about the poet's treatment of his subject. The only thing in it which reveals character is a certain touch of proud humility, mingled with the selfconsciousness of an artist. “ I have already told of the saint's deeds, but far beyond my powers goes on the well-known history: a man of fuller insight than I may tell it all; yet I may give a few more words of the song.” This is nothing more than an introduction to the new canto. There is none of that sentimental personality in it which, had Cynewulf written the poem, he would have certainly introduced, once he had begun, as the poet does here, to speak of himself. I cannot fancy the writer of the individual passages in the Christ, the Elene, and the Juliana holding his tongue under these circumstances. But it is just about as much personality as an imitator of Cynewulf would be likely to practise.
We find Andrew now, to return to the poem, on the plain near the city wall where two huge upright stones stand beaten by the storms, and these are the two tables of the Law. To one of them he speaks, and bids it let bubble forth from its base overflowing, wide-sweeping waters, a weltering ocean, for the death of these wicked men. The Stone behaved well; there was no delay; it opened, and a torrent flooded the plain. And the poet seizes his opportunity. A great flood, slaughtering men, is what an Englishman loved to describe. He does it well, but some of his metaphors are too fantastic for good art. I do not think that Cynewulf would have used them, but I
give them in a note 'just because, from a literary point of view, they point to a poet who had left the quietude of Cynewulf behind, and was striving after odd and strange effects. The power shown is vigorous, but it is strained, and we may make the same criticism concerning the whole of this interesting and attractive poem. The constant use of phrases borrowed from Beowulf, from Cynewulf himself, the effort to be specially heroic in description, to import more of the heathen elements of Saga into a Christian song than even the Elene dared to do
- the use of strange words, even the elaborate invention of words - point to a poet who was departing from a temperate style, and suggest, if they do not prove, that he wrote at a time when Cynewulf was growing old. If this be true, it puts us again in mind of the fantastic poets who imitated and followed the true Elizabethans, who retained much of the strength and imagination of the great time, but who chose to develop the artificial rather than the natural elements in the work of their predecessors. Yet the writer of the Andreas has one power Cynewulf had not, inventiveness in incident; and it was a thing sorely wanted in Anglo-Saxon poetry. Moreover, the fault I find with him had, I may say, only begun. It is not carried far, and had we more work from his hand, he would perhaps have purged himself from it when he had grown older. The fault is a fault of youth as well as of age. It belonged to Coleridge, to Byron, to Browning, to Tennyson, when they were young
And now air and earth and fire join in the wrath which falls on the folk and the town. The yellow waters waxed more and more and men fled to the caves, but a mighty angel there forstood them, and sprinkled gleaming fire over the burg. The beating sea and torrents roared, the fire-flakes flew, the flood boiled with waves, and in the houses rose the lay of sorrow; many a death-song was sung. Through the tremulous air the roarings of the flame flung themselves upon the walls, and still the waters greater grew. And one cried out, “ 'Tis our unrightness to the stranger that brings this doom. Let us set him free.” And Andrew knew the mind of the folk was changed; wherefore he bade the stream-faring be still, and
i The Stone "splits and the foaming billows cover the land, as when the mead is spilled after a feast. The fated sank in the deep; the war-charging of the waters swept them away. This was a bitter beer-feast. No delay made the cup-bearers, the attendant thegne. From break of day there was drink enough prepared for every one of them.” The whole of this comparison of the Flood to a drinking feast is detestable. Fortunately it stands alone. But it reveals the sensationalist who is searching for violent effects.
the storms rest about the stony hills. The earth dries under his feet. Then a fearful cavern is cleft in the hill and the fallow flood is engulfed, yet not the waters alone, but fourteen eminent villains therewith. This settled the strife, and all cry out “ Hear Andrew, he is a messenger of the true God.” So the apostle prayed, and all the young folk who had been drowned arose alive. They were baptized, and a church was built on the spot. The nobles and their wives were then christened, and a bishop chosen, Plato by name.
“Now I am going,” cries Andrew, “ to find a ship.” So great is their sorrow that God speaks again to his servant. “Stay yet seven days in this city, Refuge of warriors” God takes the heroic note “confirm them in the faith and then depart.” So he did, and the poem ends with the picture of the departure, such as the poet might have drawn after reading Baeda's description of the departure of Ceolfrid from the shores of Tyne. 1712. Then by the Nesses of the sea they brought
The eager warrior to his wave-wood home,
With angel hosts our Ætheling, our King." 1 Thus ends the Andreas, a poem full, I think, of attractive charm.
Connected with this poem by its imitation of heroic sagas, and by transference of their phrases to Christianity and its saints; and connected with Cynewulf by, at least, an imitation of his manner, is the Descent into Hell which is in the Exeter Book. This is but a fragment, but it has inspiration. Some have thought that it may have formed a portion of the Christ of Cynewulf. As it stands, I do not see that we can,
1 I have put this last passage also into blank verse, though I have not translated it before, for it may serve, together with the others, to show how easy it is to put the short epic line of the English poets into that modern metre. But I am glad to abandon it, for it has not to my ear any more likeness to the real music of Anglo-Saxon verse than the stately march of gorgeous cavalry has to the gallop of a troop of guerillas.
without violence, insert it into the Christ. It has its own careful beginning, and were it not broken off, it would no doubt have had its careful end, for the fragment suggests a large and thoughtful composition. It is true it supplies a part of the history which is wanted in the Christ. But the story of the descent into Hades did not, it seems, any more than the Resurrection which is also left out, form a part of the plan of the Christ. The simplest and most probable conjecture is that this is a separate poem, the end of which we have lost, on this favourite subject. Wülker says, also, that there is no trace in the Christ of any use of the pseudo-gospel of Nicodemus, and that there are traces of its being used in this Descent into Hell. This would agree on the whole with Ten Brink's view that the poem was written some time after the Christ. During that time Cynewulf might have become acquainted with the gospel of Nicodemus.
There is no positive proof that Cynewulf was the author of this piece, but every one almost has felt that it belongs to him. It has all the manner of the first part of the Christ, the same trick of dialogue, the same choric outbursts, the same lofty note of poetic
praise. There is a passage in which the poet apostrophises Gabriel, Mary, Jerusalem, and Jordan, which is almost parallel with a passage in the Christ, and of a kind which stands alone in Anglo-Saxon poetry. It has the very cry of Cynewulf in it. Nevertheless, I cannot think that the poem is contemporary with the Christ, but rather with that time in Cynewulf's life in which, wholly at peace about his salvation, he felt himself free to use elements introduced from heroic Saga in his poetry, as he has done in the Elene. Indeed, in this Descent into Hell
, the imitation of the war-poem is more remarkable than in the Elene. The women who go to the tomb are Ætheling women. Christ's tomb and death are the tomb and death of an Ætheling. He is himself the joy of Æthelings. He is the victory child of God. The Patriarchs are noble. Even the soldiers are heroes. The women wail over the corse of Jesus as the English wailed over their Kings. John the Baptist is a great captain, and he welcomes Jesus into the Burg of Hell as a Norse captain would welcome his King in the hour of victory. The poem is full of triumphant passages. Here is one
17. At the dawning of the day
Stood the singing joy of hosts
down a troop of angels came:
round the Saviour's burg. 1 and the Ætheling's corse
1 That is, round his tomb.
Took the sprite of life! Shivered all the earth,
Spoke exulting. This is the full Saga note. It is even more remarkable when Christ sets forth on his expedition to hell and breaks down the gates of the burg. I have already used the passage33. On his war-path hastened then the Prince of men,
Then the Helm of Heaven willed the walls of Hell
Down the hinges dashed, inwards drove the King his way ! All the exiles throng to see him - Adam, Abraham, and the rest — the high-fathers of the world, hosts of noble women, uncounted multitudes. But of the great deeds done John the Baptist saw the most. He beheld “how the gates of hell, that darkness had garmented so long, gleamed in the glory of Christ's coming; and when he saw it, the great Thegn rejoiced. Greeting, he welcomed the King,” and his long speech takes up the rest of this fragment, and breaks off in the midst. It is of an excellent quality, written, I think, to be sung, at least in parts, as a choric hymn. The whole
is worth a separate study by some careful scholar.
Of the same fine quality, but not built in an heroic mould, is the Phønix, which we may, and with much more certainty, allot to Cynewulf. It is the last of the longer poems, and when we have gone through it, there is nothing left, save the Dream of the Rood, of any literary importance. The Phoenix is in the Exeter Book and runs to 677 lines. Its source is a Latin poem on the same subject attributed to Lactantius, and the Latin lines are printed under the Anglo-Saxon text by Thorpe in his edition of the Exeter Book. The writer leaves his original at verse 380 and composes the story of the Phoenix into a Christian allegory of the Resurrection. This is the second part, and he has used in it the writings of Ambrose and Baeda. As long as he draws on the so-called Lactantius poem he follows it, in Cynewulf's fashion, sometimes expand
1 The burghers of hell here are the Old Testament saints, the "spirits in prison.”