«Van Renterghem, Aya (2014) The Anglo-Saxon runic poem: a critical reassessment.MPhil(R) thesis. Copyright and moral ...»
Van Renterghem, Aya (2014) The Anglo-Saxon runic poem: a critical
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SCHOOL OF CRITICAL STUDIES
COLLEGE OF ARTS
UNIVERSITY OF GLASGOW
Since the early twentieth century, doubts have been raised about the authenticity of the runic poem as printed by Hickes. Scholars noticed similarities with another runic alphabet in the Thesaurus, copied from MS Cotton Domitian A. IX, and began questioning if all the information exhibited in the Thesaurus edition had in fact been present in the original manuscript, MS Cotton Otho B. X. The aim of this thesis is to reassess the material and investigate some of the assumptions upon which these doubts are based.
I provide the necessary historical contextualisation and a framework for the subsequent investigation through a study of the poem’s publication history and the information supplied in catalogue descriptions predating the fire. This is supplemented by an overview of the scholarship on the poem and a detailed explanation of the authenticity debate.
I consider the runic poem in its most basic form, as a runic alphabet, and compare its runes and rune-names with the other Anglo-Saxon runic material collected in the Thesaurus. The aim of this comparison is to determine whether the text has been modified or supplemented by any of its editors, if there are in fact correspondences with the runic alphabet from Cotton Domitian A. IX, and if so, whether and how this has had an impact on the perception of the runic poem. I also seek to investigate the existence of a runic standard for manuscript runes by comparing the form of the runes in the various alphabets of the Thesaurus, and applying David Parsons’ theory of standardisation. Finally, I compare these results with the conclusions of the authenticity debate in order to determine their impact, and establish how both the results and the reasoning behind them can contribute to the discipline of manuscript runology.
1 Table of Contents
List of tables
1. Linguarum veterum septentrionalium thesaurus grammatico-criticus et archæologicus
1.1 George Hickes and the origins of the Thesaurus
1.2 Humfrey Wanley
1.3 Runic scholarship
2. Cotton Otho B. X
2.4 Number of leaves
2.5 Provenance and history
2.6 Cataloguing discrepancies
3. Scholarship on the runic poem
3.1 The first edition
3.2 Editions of the runic poem
3.3 Critical reception
3.5 Genre and categorisation
3.5.1 Runica manuscripta
3.5.2 Old English poetry
3.5.3 Alphabeta runica
4. The runic poem as a runicum alphabetum
4.1 The comparison
4.1.4 Form variations
4.1.5 Alphabets versus fuþorcs
4.2 Wanley as a runologist
Acknowledgement First of all, I would like to thank my supervisor, Dr Kathryn A. Lowe, for her enthusiasm, help, and the numerous corrections and suggestions.
Secondly, I am grateful to Mr. K. A. Goudie, for the endless support, the patience and willingness to listen to my ideas, the proof-reading, and the shoulder to cry on.
Thirdly, I am indebted to my parents, who encouraged and believed in me, and never objected to the late night Skype calls. Their proof-reading and suggestions were extremely helpful.
Finally, thanks go to my colleagues at the department, for their incessant reassurance, and to Mr Goudie and Ms Brown for their help with some of the logistics.
In chapter 22 of his Grammatica Anglo-Saxonica & Moeso-Gothica, George Hickes allots a full page to a text which according to him ‘quamque vix antea & ne vix observatam, nedum publici juris factam, plane quasi ab omnibus doctis spectatu dignam’.1 The text consists of twenty-nine short stanzas of Old English verse, accompanied by three columns of respectively twenty-nine rune-names, thirty-seven Anglo-Saxon runes, and thirty Latin letters.2 He notes the origin of the text at the top of the page: MS Cotton Otho B. X. This text would later become known as the Anglo-Saxon or Old English runic poem.
For the purposes of this dissertation, it will be referred to as the runic poem.
The runic poem is not the only one of its kind, and is often studied in conjunction and in comparison with the Norwegian and the Old Icelandic runic poems.3 Occasionally, the Abecedarium Nordmannicum, a compilation of runes, rune-names and German words, is also mentioned in this context, though more as a predecessor to these works than as a genuine runic poem.4 These texts form part of the runica manuscripta tradition, the collective term used for manuscripts which contain runes. In Britain, this tradition came into existence in England after the epigraphical runic alphabet was no longer in use at the end of the ninth century.5 The runes used after that date appear only in manuscripts, hence the name, alongside forms of the Latin alphabet. They are generally subdivided into six types: additional letters, abbreviations, reference marks, short notes, alphabets and G. Hickes, H. Wanley, Antiquae literaturae Septentrionalis Libri Duo (Oxford: [Oxford University Press], 1703-05) [which, although previously barely noted at all, much less brought into the public jurisdiction, we deem it, as deserving of examination by all learned men]. Translation by M. Halsall, The Old English Rune Poem: a critical edition (London: University of Toronto Press, 1981), p. 24.
See figure 1 in the Appendix.
See A. Bauer, Runengedichte. Texte, Untersuchungen und Kommentare zur gesamten Überlieferung, Studia Medievalia Septentrionalia, 9 (Vienna: Fassbaender, 2003), pp. 113-61 and pp. 163-206 for editions of these poems.
Bauer, pp. 58-76.
R. Derolez, Runica Manuscripta (Brugge: Tempelhof, 1954), pp. lvi-lvii.
fuþorcs,6 and runic poems.7 In the English tradition they continued to be copied into manuscripts until the thirteenth century.
Due to the Cottonian fire in 1731, which destroyed most of Cotton Otho B. X, Hickes’s edition became the only source for the poem. The study of the runic poem becomes thus also a consideration of Early Modern printing and editing, and it is necessary to consider the runic poem as a product of the scholarship of this period before analysing any of its separate aspects. The focus of this dissertation is on the first edition, and the aim is to investigate its authenticity and the influence of the editors on the runic material.
Consequently, the background to its publication and runic knowledge of its editors are of great interest. A summary of this information is often present in most editions, but remarkably few scholars have considered the impact of the editors, or the context in which the poem was published. This is the subject of this dissertation.
The runic poem has been discussed in many contexts, but most scholars have focused on the Old English verse or the poem’s literary qualities. The runic material itself receives a fairly limited and unimaginative treatment in most discussions: it is noted that the runes are Old English, the rune-names, their meaning and Germanic background are discussed, and infrequently a remark is made upon an uncommon rune-form. Additionally, only few publications concentrate on the poem’s first appearance in print, in spite of the fact that it is the only source for the work. Those scholars who have written on the Thesaurus edition do so almost exclusively in order to contribute to the authenticity debate started by Hempl in 1903. Hempl noted similarities between the runic poem and a fuþorc from MS Cotton Domitian A. IX, fo. 11 v, and claimed that Hickes borrowed elements from this manuscript and added them to the poem. He therefore concludes that Thesaurus edition is not a reproduction.
Charles Wrenn remarks in his article on Old English rune-names that over time the runic poem became an authoritative source for runes and rune-names and that it is often regarded as exemplary.8 This is remarkable, as the runic poem – as studied under modern scholarship – is problematic on many levels: the origin of the runes is disputed, not all The term ‘fuþorc’ indicates an Anglo-Saxon runic alphabet in its original sequence, which started with those six letters. The term ‘runic alphabet’ is used more generally, but in this dissertation indicates most commonly that the runes are alphabetised and follow the sequence of the Latin alphabet.
Derolez, pp. xxiv-xxvi.
C.L. Wrenn, ‘Late Old English Rune-Names’, Medium Aevum 1 (1932), p. 26.
values are correct, not every rune is transliterated, and some rune-names and rune-forms are uncommon or wrong. These shortcomings have all been noted by scholars, and potential reasons for them advanced, but an entirely convincing argument has yet to be presented.
René Derolez is the only scholar to have considered the runic poem purely as a runicum manuscriptum, but even his analysis is far from extensive. Apart from the fuþorc in Cotton Domitian A. IX, considered in the authenticity debate as a possible source for the runic poem, the runic material from the poem has neither been compared to any similar runica manuscripta, nor investigated in a broader context. In this dissertation I therefore intend to re-examine the runes and rune-names of the runic poem, and to compare them with the other fuþorcs and runic alphabets present in the Thesaurus. This analysis will be conducted against the background of the authenticity debate. This debate, based on Hempl’s article, is founded upon a number of assumptions with regards to the nature of the runic poem. I demonstrate, through examination of the poem in its wider context, that not all of these assumptions hold up under scrutiny.
I provide a general background and history of the runic poem, focusing on its first edition, before re-assessing the runic material in its most basic context: that of the runica manuscripta. The first chapter discusses the Thesaurus itself and the circumstances of the production of the runic poem in the eighteenth century. It provides short biographies of the two authors: George Hickes and Humfrey Wanley, and attempts to discover their knowledge of runes and influence on the poem on the basis of their work and correspondence.
In the second chapter, I supply a manuscript description of Cotton Otho B. X, using catalogues from before 1731 and secondary literature. This chapter discusses the dating, contents, material and number of leaves of the manuscript, taking into account the fact that the runic poem was written on a single folio, later attached to Otho B. X. The provenance receives a more extensive treatment, in which a number of theories are postulated. An additional section on the discrepancies between the two main catalogue descriptions is also included.
The third chapter focuses on the scholarship on the runic poem, and consists of two parts. The first discusses the editions in chronological order. How the poem is treated by its editors, and especially how the editions deviate from how the work was printed in the Thesaurus, are of particular interest here. A general description of the contents of these editions is also provided. Additionally, the first part contains an overview of the critical literature revolving around the aforementioned authenticity debate. In the second part the definition of a runic poem, and the origin of its denomination are investigated, followed by an overview of modern scholarship on the various aspects of the runic poem.
Subsequently, a new avenue of enquiry is proposed and arguments are presented for its usefulness.
The fourth and final chapter contains the analysis and comparison of the runic material included in the runic poem with the Anglo-Saxon runic alphabets and fuþorcs in the Thesaurus. The chapter starts by explaining the reasons for limiting the analysis to the Thesaurus material, and the parameters used in the comparison. The comparison follows, accompanied by a list of comments on varying rune-forms and incorrect transliterations.