«The Stanzas of the Old English Rune Poem Volume 1 of The OERP Book Second Edition By Gary Stanfield, 2012 Copyright 2012. Last revised: 30 May 2012 ...»
The Stanzas of the Old English
The OERP Book
By Gary Stanfield, 2012
Last revised: 30 May 2012 (date of copyright application). The author grants
permission to redistribute this book without charge as a whole copy with
attribution of authorship and without alterating nor translating the contents. The
author also grants permission to use any or all the translations in Appendix G,
“The Translations”, with attribution, and without editing nor translation (no derivatives).
Stanzas of the Old English Rune Poem by Gary Stanfield is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
The following is a suggested bibiographic listing: Stanfield, Gary G. 2012. The
Stanzas of the Old English Rune Poem. Kansas City, Missouri, USA. Available:
Page 1 Table of Contents TABLE OF CONTENTS
FIRST STANZA: THE SUPERSOUL CALLS
SECOND STANZA: EXCESS AND METTLESOMENESS
THIRD STANZA: GRASPING AND PAIN
FOURTH STANZA: RATIONAL CONSCIOUSNESS, SPEECH,WISDOM, AND BLESSEDNESS
FIFTH STANZA: MAKING PROGRESS IS A CHALLENGE..................82 SIXTH STANZA: PASSION AND ENLIGHTENMENT
SEVENTH STANZA: HONOR, BELONGING, AND BOUNDARIES....104
EIGHTH STANZA: GRIEFS, SORROWS, REVELS, AND RESOURCES
NINTH STANZA: FROM GLAMOUR AND TURBULENCE TO PEACEAND PRODUCTIVITY
TENTH STANZA: ADJUSTMENT, AWARENESS, ANDPERSPICACITY
ELEVENTH STANZA: BEAUTY, COLD, SLIPPERINESS, AND THEUNITING OF EXTREMES
TWELFTH STANZA: DEITY, EARTH, AND MANKIND
THIRTEENTH STANZA: UGLINESS, USEFULNESS, HAPPYADJUSTMENT
FIFTEENTH STANZA: LOWLY BUT HIGHLY RESISTANT..............205 SIXTEENTH STANZA: FAITH, INSPIRATION, AND PROGRESS.....218 SEVENTEENTH STANZA: CHARACTER AND RELIABILITY.........238 EIGHTEENTH STANZA: BEARING, SOUL, AND PRODUCTIVITY..252
NINETEENTH STANZA: NOBLE PERSONS, CONVERSATION, INNERCOMFORT
TWENTIETH STANZA: FRIENDS, CHEER, BETRAYAL, DOOM, ANDDEATH
ADDENDUM TO CHAPTER 20: COMPARISON OF TEUTONIC ANDBIBLICAL RELIGIONS
TWENTY-FIRST STANZA: CONFIDENCE, CONTROL, ANDENVIRONMENT
TWENTY-SECOND STANZA: THE HERO WHO PURSUED THE WAIN
TWENTY-THIRD STANZA: RIGHTS, DIGNITY, PROSPERITY, ANDHOME
TWENTY-FOURTH STANZA: WONDER, ENJOYMENT, ANDENLIGHTENMENT FOR MANKIND
TWENTY-FIFTH STANZA: VERSATILE VALUE AND CHALLENGE
TWENTY-SEVENTH STANZA: THE FANCY AND THE PROFOUND
TWENTY-EIGHTH STANZA: MUNDANE AND SPIRITUALAMPHIBIANISM
TWENTY-NINTH STANZA: THE END BUT NOT THE COMPLETION
POSTSCRIPT: AFTERLIFE ABODES IN TEUTONIC POLYTHEISM
APPENDIX A: THE OLD ENGLISH RUNE POEM IN EARLYMEDIEVAL FORMAT
APPENDIX B: METHODS
APPENDIX C: ANALYSIS OF THE LORE OF TÝR
APPENDIX D: LORE OF FREY / ING
APPENDIX E: WYRD
APPENDIX F: NON-EMPIRICAL MYSTERIES, MYSTICISM, ANDUSES OF THE OERP
APPENDIX G: THE TRANSLATIONS
APPENDIX H: ANGLO-SAXON PROSODY
APPENDIX I: LINE-BY-LINE METRICAL STRUCTURE OF THEOERP
Page 4 Page 5 Stanzas of the OERP, Introduction
IntroductionThe study of rune lore is, among other things, a study of wisdom poetry and religious mysteries, not merely a study of an ancient alphabet. To refuse to consider stanzas of the Old English Rune Poem as having metaphorical meanings is to insist that it is inherently superficial. To refuse to consider that the people of the Dark Ages might have been thoughful and philosophical enough to give us a work or art with profound multiple meanings is to condemn the poem to a level of artistic ordinariness. This is your invitation to consider otherwise.
A major conclusion of this study is that the Old English Rune Poem presents us with a complex layering of multiple meanings. At its more
levels, the poem is a discussion of at least one religion, although it just barely mentions religious topics at the explicit level.
J. R. Hall observed some time ago (1977) that whoever composed this poem “manages to suggest multiple aspects of the created world through wordplay and the use of comparison and contrast”. This is definitely true, but no one tried to bring all that out in print before the first edition of this book was published at the end of the Twentieth Century.
But there is a fundamental difference between the way Hall sees this piece of art and the view taken in this book. He emphasized “the realities that the runenames designate in shifting perspective”. As you will see, the rune names are not so important.
This book has numerous appendices because of the variety in the intended audience. Some readers will benefit from going directly to appendices after reading this introduction. Philologists are familiar with ancient sources, but many religious reconstructionists would be well served to start with Appendix A previous edition of this essay was published in The Rune (Stanfield, 1996b).
Page 6 Stanzas of the OERP, Introduction A, on editing an ancient document for use. Many non-philologist students of this poem will benefit even more from Appendix H (on prosody), since the analysis of the stanzas is quite technical. Radical scholarship is common in academe, but reconstructionists and those simply curious about the methods and analysis might want to read Appendix B (on methods used in this study).
The most important appendix is probably Appendix F. Religious mystery seems to be foreign ground to many students of rune poetry, especially in academic philology. Therefore Appendix F defines that kind of mystery and discusses mysticism. Also, Appendix F briefly describes how people could use the stanzas of the OERP to enhance wisdom or enlightenment, or simply to communicate with each other without regard to mysticism.
Realizing how it might have been used is part of understanding the poem. This is a wisdom and mystery poem. In addition to addressing questions we can pose and answer in words, the Old English Rune Poem allows meditations that give us information that we usually cannot adequately describe in words.
The OERP as Ancient Culture The study of rune poems shows clues to the philosophies of ancient Pagan Teutonic cultures. This particular poem presents a philosophy of religion, and therefore touches on some issues that are universal to all religions. The present author has been suprised that the stanzas at all levels of meaning are not very culture-bound.
Some students of this poem claim that they see it as Christian or as bowdlerized religion. There may have been some influence of Christianity upon Teutonic religion, at least in the handling of religious universals. This study shows that the poet(s) who made this particular work of art were aware of other religions, but this poem definitely expresses Pagan culture, albeit sophisticated Pagan culture or possibly a syncretized form of polytheism.
Teutonic Polytheism is not a medieval religion. It has its origins in premedieval times and it was never adjusted from tribal to feudal culture. Instead it was superceded and suppressed by syncretic Christianity. This helps explain why this religion is not so alien from a modern cultural perspective, for it is less authoritarian than some would expect.
Also, this poem does not present any part of the superstitions or magical thinking that was common in pre-Medieval or Early Medieval Ages. Modern people interested in soul travel, divinination, or magic may well find the OERP as here analyzed useful. But the poem per se seems -- at least from the present perspective -- to not address those topics.
But this poem does not necessarily represent every Anglo-Saxon’s version of polytheist or mixed religion from the Early Middle Ages.
Religion and Progressive Mysticism Following Buddhist scholar Ken Wilbur and various anthropologists, let us consider that every religion has two aspects. Each has an exoteric set of functions and an esoteric set (Evans-Pritchard, 1956; Geertz, 1966; Malinowski, 1926; Malinowski 1956: Chapters 7 and 8; Radcliffe-Brown, 1953; Stanner, 1962; Wolf, 1958; Wilbur, 2001).
One aspect (or group of aspects) includes a broad range of societal and individual-level functions. Religion makes the person more comfortable by providing certain services. It provides social cohesion, partly through physical symbols, mass liturgy, and the appearance of consensus. It provides explanations (mythic beliefs) that seem to say that everything is alright. It authorizes various governmental arrangements. It provides means of reducing Page 8 Stanzas of the OERP, Introduction tension: ceremonial magic, egoic petitioning prayers, ritual formulas, and amulets. In addition, the myths and religious doctrine can help resolve or “explain away” interpersonal or inter-community conflicts. This aspect of religion tends to be conservative on a personal and group level. But it can also authorize major social changes. It normally tries to make people behave with enlightment and compassion. It can provide fellowship and responsible good fun. The Old English Rune Poem warns against excessive emphasis on this aspect of religion but acknowledges its great value.
Page 9 Stanzas of the OERP, Introduction The OERP is ambiguious enough to allow the student to bring out some of that which is deep within and to find personal directions. Thus, study of runic lore can provide similar benefits as would study under a Zen master or treatment in some types of modern talk therapies or study of Rumi poetry (Barks, et al, 2004;
Kopp, 1972: 3-10). (Yet this particular body of lore might tend to seem less puzzling to an Occidental than would Oriental structures for seeking.) Osborn and Longland (1982: 79) indicate how metaphors we can find in the focal poem relate to progressive mysticism. They infer that in the OERP the terms for rich and noble indirectly refer to the “greater man” from the I Ching, the one who is “actively engaged in the struggle towards self-consciousness” and control. Likewise, the terms for poor and outcast persons refer to individuals who do not struggle to exert enlightened control, or who may have given up and resigned themselves to fate. They are referring to a distinction in characterological wealth.
Comparison to Other Ancient Rune Poems Four ancient rune poems have come down to us. The Old English Rune Poem probably dates from around 750-950. The other three poems are in Old Norse and Old High German. The Old Norwegian Rune Rhyme dates from the 1200’s.
It is based on a now-lost manuscript that was preserved in the Copenhagen University Library. The Old Icelandic Rune Poem dates from the 1400’s and is based on four manuscripts still preserved in another Danish library. In addition, there is the “Abecaedarium Nordmanicum” which dates from the early 800’s and has but a single verse. It seems to have been written by a Christian cleric to describe Norse religion, and it is too primitive for us to get much out of it at present. (See Dickins, 1915; Osborn and Longland, 1982: 17, 18; Page, 1998;
Thorsson, 1987: 93-105; 1993:15-27).
The Old Norse poems reflect a different system of mysteries than does the OERP, and the Old Norse poems seem more concerned with conduct of everyday life and less with conduct of religion. This point is reinforced by an Page 10 Stanzas of the OERP, Introduction addendum to Chapter 1, where the initial verses of each of three poems -- the OERP and the two Old Norse poems -- are compared. The chain of ownership of the Old Norse and Old English poems can be traced, but the trail does not go back far enough to indicate whether any of them was ever in a monastery.
Interpreting The OERP Good translation necessarily involves interpretation. The work of interpretation constitutes most of this book, and advances in thorough interpretation of the OERP are the main contribution of this study.
Interpreting this poetry outside of its native cultural context has some difficulties. These difficulties relate both to form (grammar, spelling, and phraseology) and content (what the words mean). They are addressed in the substantive chapters as they are encountered.
The interpretation methods used in this study involve attempts at perfect translations, examining key words for clues, and looking for complex organizations of meanings. In several chapters non-verbal aspects are also discussed, because they impact our impression of the words, and because the nonverbal communications are part of the originally intended message. The rune names are clues of no greater importance than other nouns in the poem.
“Perfect” Translations Thoroughness of translation is one of the important distinctions between this study and those that have provided bases from which to start. The translations of individual stanzas offered here are very thorough because interpretations are very thorough and vice versa.
In each chapter, the first translation into poetic form (Translation B) is an attempt at a rendition that presents all of the original content, verbal and nonverbal, by reproducing the objective structure of the original. The objective standards for this “perfection” are described in Appendix B, on methods.
Page 11 Stanzas of the OERP, Introduction Briefly, the standards were to match rhythm, alliterative pattern, and wordsense.