Printer Friendly

Caring for the dead in The Fortunes of Men.

Whether it is an effect of what was once called the "somber cast of the Teutonic mind" or of St. Benedict's dictum to "have death always before our eyes," the Old English poetic tradition seems unusually given to depictions of the indignities suffered by dead bodies. (1) A handful of verse texts nearly make this theme their exclusive subject. Aside from Soul and Body, with its lengthy and hideous account of worms ravaging a corpse, few yield to this distasteful tendency more than another poem preserved in the late tenth-century Exeter Book known variously as The Fortunes of Men, The Fates of Men, and The Fates of Mortals. Where its assemblage of tortured and abused bodies comes from is a matter that seems to have evaded much systematic investigation. Only a handful of articles and chapters have tried to make sense of the poem, and many of these, however meritorious, seem locked in old ways of thinking about early English verse, reliant as they often are on somewhat hazy notions of pan-Germanic prehistory. The present article questions the widely assumed disunity of Fortunes (itself an unfortunate outcome of the Germanist approach) and traces the poem's gruesome preoccupations to pastoral texts known to English audiences. Though it is customarily discussed in isolation from the so-called "soul-and-body tradition" and the intellectual climate from which it emerged, I hope to show why questions concerning the rise of this genre in England are probably not separable from those that have come to surround this fascinating (albeit very strange) poem. (2)

First, however, it will be necessary to consider somewhat closely the poem's peculiar structure. Fortunes begins with a lengthy catalog of usually fatal calamities, all of which are arranged in an order that seems likely to have been deliberate, but whose underlying logic is disputed by commentators? The poet first mentions the case of someone--presumably a child--who is eaten by wolves. (4) Next come references, in the following order, to starvation ("Sumne sceal hungor ahipan," translated by Bernard Muir as "hunger shall devour another" [5a]), death in a storm at sea ("sumne sceal hreoh fordrifan" [15b]), the lethal injury of a spear ("sumne sceal gar agetan" [16a]), and death by unspecified means in warfare ("sumne gud abreotan" [16b]).

At line 17 the character of these misfortunes appears to change. Now employing a more expansive mode of narration, the poet mentions a case of blindness, then the misery of one who has been lamed by crippling injuries to his sinews. (5) Next comes a grim narration of a person falling from a tree and meeting his death at the roots, followed by that of a "friendless" ("wineleas") man, presumably condemned to outlawry, who is unwelcome everywhere and obliged to live among alien peoples. (6) The poet goes on to describe one obviously punitive death by hanging ("sum sceal on geapum / galgan ridan" [33]), and another by burning, perhaps in a fire set deliberately. (7) The circumstances behind these deaths are left obscure as the poet dwells instead on descriptions of the body being consumed by birds or metaphorically consumed by fire. In the case of the hanging, the poet's language makes clear that the misery of this death, perhaps contrary to what we might expect, resides largely in the victim's inability to protect his corpse from hungry birds: Finally, before the poet shifts to narrating a series of happier fates, we arrive at a curious pair of episodes concerned with the consequences of drinking:
   Sumum meces ecg on meodubence
   yrrum ealowosan ealdor oppringed
   were winsadum bid aer his worda to hraed.
   Sum sceal on beore purh byreles hond
   meodugal maecga; ponne he gemet ne con
   gemearcian his mupe mode sine,
   ac sceal ful earmlice ealdre linnan
   dreogan dryhtenbealo dreamum biscyred
   ond hine to sylfcwale secgas nemnad
   maenad mid mupe meodugales gedrinc.
   (48-57)


[From one, an angry drunkard, the sword's edge will take away life on the mead-bench, while the man sits drinking: he was too hasty with his words. One man will, at beer-drinking, (become) drunk through the hand (instigation?) of a cup-bearer. Then he does not know how to govern his mouth with his mind in due measure, but shall quite miserably give up his life, (shall) suffer the worst evil deprived of joys, and men will name him a suicide, (will) lament with mouth the drinking of the drunk (one).]

It is plain that this catalog reflects a taste for gloomy subjects not shared by subsequent eras and perhaps peculiar to the Anglo-Saxon period. Nor is it impossible that this poem preserves to some extent some of the more harrowing sights that were known to early medieval people. Given material evidence that references to heafod-stoccas [head-stakes] in charter bounds indicate their use for the end implied by their name, it has recently been suggested that "executed and displayed corpses could be part of the landscape of ecclesiastical estates as well as lay ones" in late Anglo-Saxon England? That the poem offers an inventory of the real fates one might encounter at this time, perhaps based in relatively direct experience, is at least the most convenient way to account for its origins.

If this is not the solution preferred by the relatively few scholars who have discussed the poem, it is probably because the traditionalism of Old English verse appears to have made it an unwieldy instrument with which to record the realities of the time. Formulaic language and frozen phraseology seem often to have constrained poets to talk about the present in the idiom of the remote past. Even explicitly devotional poetry sometimes relies on units of discourse that predate the era of conversion and confront modern readers with what seem to be jarringly unorthodox depictions of Christ as a young warlord or descendant of Odin. (10) It is because of such formal constraints that scholarship has long been occupied with establishing the cultural provenance of various stock phrases and themes. However disagreeable the nationalist origins of this critical subfield may be, and however misguided some may find the reified notions of culture upon which it relies, the effort to establish a cultural taxonomy of Old English poetic texts and their component parts justly remains a significant area of scholarly interest--and, perhaps, an inevitable one, since the conservatism of Anglo-Saxon verse has allowed for little agreement on dating and thus stifled most attempts to consider poems in light of a specific historical context. (11)

Though specialists so engaged are now less likely than their nineteenth-century forebears to view their work as an effort to winnow the grain of authentic Germanic inheritances from the chaff of monkish interpolations, the skepticism toward Germanist methods that has taken hold elsewhere has yet to affect substantially the critical reception of Fortunes. (12) If an entry for the poem in the relatively recent Blackwell Encyclopaedia of Anglo-Saxon England gives any indication of the scholarly consensus, the dominant view is that the catalog of deaths and misfortunes "reflects a partially submerged memory of Germanic initiatory rites, possibly the residuum of an earlier pre-Christian poem." (13) Presumably this remark paraphrases claims made in 1991 by Karen Swenson in what remains the lengthiest discussion of the poem to date. Here Swenson argues that Fortunes "shows evidence of having been created through a process of accretion and interpolation" which conceals an "older core" of references to "Germanic ritual deaths." (14) If her claims at times seem to stretch conjecture to its limits, it should be said in their defense that they admirably fulfill expectations established by earlier scholarship in their effort to situate the poem within a (primarily Scandinavian) mythological context. (15) This critical tradition was kept alive in the decades prior to Swenson's study by scholars such as Neil Isaacs, who ranged as far as the Kalevala in search of analogues for the poem's seemingly inexplicable narration of a man falling to his death from a tree. (16)

Swenson's explanation of this passage attempts to resolve its difficulties by arguing that the death described therein is not accidental. According to Swenson, the person conventionally assumed to fall to his death "could well have hung on the tree, swinging like a featherless bird, until, bereft of soul, his corpse fell to the ground at the tree's roots." (17) Both the figure of the man falling from the tree and the literal description of hanging are redolent in her view of Germanic ritual death penalties if not of human sacrifice, which in the earliest period was hardly distinguishable from attempts to propitiate deities offended by unjust slayings and other offenses: "It is possible that the first description.., is of an older, more sacred type of hanging which, at some point in the past, merges with Odinic myth and ritual, while the second description is of a more clearly secular ritual." (18) Even the burning is tied to Germanic folk beliefs: "Fire has the advantage of destroying the body, making it unlikely that the person will walk after death... Burning [is] a measure to still a malevolent ghost, truly to annihilate the individual's force." (19)

In spite of the speculative nature of her claims, Swenson's study seems to have cemented the reputation of Fortunes as a poem based fundamentally in pre-conversion myths whose devotional themes are a mere superimposition. The presumptive underlying paganism of Fortunes has likewise helped to establish the poem's place in the tradition of Germanic catalog poems such as Havamal, a genre likewise characterized as having "roots reaching back into pre-Christian Germanic antiquity." (20) While such a classification provides Fortunes with a convenient literary context, it seems open to question whether the habit of reading Fortunes against the tradition of northern literature has done much to clarify the aims of its catalog. Nor has the Germanist consensus met with universal approval. Objecting to the "liminal, even shamanistic associations" imputed to the poem by these scholars, Victoria Thompson has recently suggested that "there is no need to situate [these incidents] outside normal expectation" since the poet is "intentionally bringing all of these terrifying fates into the realm of ordinary life." (21) A more fundamental problem, I would argue, is that the Germanist approach to Fortunes has left unremarked what would seem to be one of the poem's most characteristic and peculiar traits. To an extent that cannot be overlooked by those interested in making sense of the poem, its catalog features persons whose fate is not simply to die, but to be literally and figuratively consumed. The wolf not only kills but "eats" a young man; hunger "devours" a man; a hanged man's flesh is rent by birds and he can do nothing in defense of his disgraced corpse; flames shall "eat" ("fretan") a doomed man. This theme, maintained consistently throughout the initial catalog and presumably fundamental to its structure, seems present even in the possibly sardonic reference to the child's "young limbs" ("geongan leomu") prior to his being eaten by a wolf. Thompson is alone in drawing attention to how the poem dwells curiously "on the child's bodily rather than its spiritual life," and while she goes on to note that "the child has moved from being fed to becoming food itself," the thematic relevance of this episode to others in the catalog is something this author chooses not to explore in her wide-ranging study of pre-Conquest representations of mortality. (22) Undeniably, however, this is a poem that delights not simply in depicting death, but in seeing the living body as potential food either for animals or for destructive natural forces.

Such a pattern may well be explained away as further evidence tying the poem to the pre-Christian past, expressive as it seems of the same Germanic fatalism that most frequently found expression in the "beasts of battle" topos. (23) In Beowulf, for example, while the poet is content to leave ambiguous the specifics of the dispute between Finn and Hnaef, he spares us no details in his account of the funerary rites that follow, providing his audience with what Klaeber called "an accurate description of what might easily happen during the initial stage of the heating of the bodies by the funeral fire," but also representing the fire as figuratively devouring the dead:
      Hafelan multon,
   bengeato burston, donne blod aetspranc,
   lad-bite lices. Lig ealle forswealg,
   gaesta gifrost, dara de paer gud fornam
   bega folces; waes hira blaed scacen.
   (1120-1124)


[Heads melted, gashes burst: then blood sprang from the body's hate-bites. Of those war had taken there the fire swallowed all of both bands, greediest of spirits; their glory was gone.] (24)

The emergence of this topos in the quintessential heroic poem of Anglo-Saxon England would seem to suggest its Germanic ancestry and its relation to the "beasts of battle" theme. But as Barbara Raw has suggested, the theological environment of early medieval England enables no such neat distinctions between Christian and pagan tropes. Raw here suggests that although the raven and the wolf "are associated with the battlefield, where they predict a glorious fate," they sometimes emerge even in poems such as Beowulf as "impious desecrators of the human body, analogous to the worms and toads of Christian contemptus poetry such as Soul and Body F as they supply "the final degradation for the corpse on the gallows." (25) While Raw suggests an affinity between two themes usually held to be genealogically distinct, she does not go on to consider the possible roles played by attitudes toward death and burial in shaping the reception of these themes. Where Fortunes is concerned, this seems an especially profitable line of inquiry. Though their origins may reach back into pre-Christian mythology, it cannot have been irrelevant to the evolution of the "beasts of battle" and similar typescenes in England that the dread of being consumed was a potent theme in the Christian literature of late antiquity. As Caroline Walker Bynum argues, the horror with which early Christian writers anticipated the disintegration of the body after death influenced decisively the doctrines concerning bodily resurrection that arose in the early Middle Ages:

Increasingly, the hope of Christians lay in the promise that scattered bones and dust, marked in some way for their own bodies, would be reunited. It also lay in the conviction that every part, like every morsel of Christ's body eaten at the altar, was a whole. If a martyr was present in every minute bit of his dust, if he cured the sick and raised the dead, then both decay and partition could be overcome .... Eucharist is central to salvation because by digesting it we become indigestible to natural processes. In the theological literature of late antiquity, the fear that our self will perish is not expressed in elaborate metaphors (or natural philosophical discussion).., but rather in metaphors (and in technical treatments) of digestion and nutrition .... The literature of late antiquity throbs with fear of being fragmented, absorbed, and digested by an other that is natural process itself. (26)

The relevance of this "fear of being fragmented, absorbed and digested" to literature in Old English (and in the Exeter Book) is plain in the case of Soul and Body, a poem discussed in conjunction with Fortunes only by Raw, and too briefly to permit any substantial claims about the latter poem. That the theological basis of this theme was known to Anglo-Saxon audiences is likewise established by texts such as the Legend of the Seven Sleepers. Indeed, Thompson considers the Legend alongside Fortunes, but does not argue explicitly for their thematic relations. (27) Occurring in manuscripts of AElfric's lives of the saints, but not authored by him, the legend begins with scenes of atrocities committed against early Christians during the brutal Decian persecution. Decapitations and burnings are described with an attention to grisly detail heightened by the Old English translator's considerable embellishments of his Latin source. (28) This ostensibly prurient indulgence in gore is undertaken in the service of maintaining theological orthodoxy. Centuries after the persecution has ended, the exiled members of Decius's court awaken from a miraculous, death-like sleep to find themselves in a now-Christianized Ephesus. Those who should be long dead merely slept and are now available for Christians to see and touch. Decius, on the other hand, who had prescribed for the seven sleepers imprisonment in a cave "oddaet hi mid ealle dead forswelge" [until death altogether swallow them up] has himself, a "miserable man" ("earma"), endured a fate that was no doubt seen as emblematic of refusal to believe in the promise of resurrection: "ne furdon an ban naefde he mid odrum . ac toscaenede ofer eall lagon . and toworpene geond da widan eordan" [(he) had not even one bone (joined) with the others, but (they) lay everywhere broken to pieces and thrown about over the wide earth]. (29) That these two fates are held in opposition by the narrator is immediately relevant to the situation of the Christian Ephesians, as many now subscribe to the heresy that bodily resurrection is impossible: "Sume da yldestan gedwolmen saedon. paet menn of deade naefre arisan ne sceoldon. Sume hi cwaedon. paet se se lichama pe aene bid for-mogod and to duste gewend and wide to-sawon. paet he naefre eft togaedere ne come" [Some of the chief heretics said that men would never arise from death; some of them said that the body, which alone is corrupted and turned to dust and sown widely, would never come together again]. (30) The survival of the seven sleepers proves for the Ephesians and for the audience of the legend the absurdity of such claims.

The possible thematic parallelisms between Fortunes and texts such as the Legend of the Seven Sleepers, combined with the markedly Christian significance of the theme of the digestion and dissolution of the body, suggest that no early audience of Fortunes could have avoided seeing its catalog in light of contemporaneous burial customs: even members of the catalog who are not explicitly eaten are still denied access to a rite that offered assurances against being absorbed indifferently by nature. (31) Thompson suggests as much in her assertion that "these scattered, burnt, or devoured bodies are.., the opposite of the ideal constructed in the grave through the use of stones, charcoal and coffins." (32) By noting its sensitivity to the fate of the body that characterizes this period, Thompson's study seems to draw Fortunes into an explicitly post-conversion context. This is a sensible assumption that is worth expanding upon. The Beowulf-poet, after all, seems often to use the burning of the dead to illustrate the chasm separating his audience from their pagan ancestors. (33) The peculiar shock that such images may have held perhaps cannot be fully appreciated unless were are mindful of the extent to which Anglo-Saxon Christians, however paradoxical it may seem, were attached to their bodies and sought assurances from the Church that they would remain in one piece until the Judgment. Though orthodoxy among Anglo-Saxons (as elsewhere) demanded adherence to the view that the body, even if scattered and turned to dust at the end of time, would nonetheless be restored to wholeness, the evolution of burial customs in early England indicates a widespread desire for guarantees more tangible than those offered by theology. The custom of burial ad sanctos, in which one's proximity to the incorruptible relics of saints might assuage the dread of being digested by natural processes, was the norm in this period as elsewhere in Western Europe. Where relics were unavailable, burial in consecrated ground was preferred. (34) Thompson has noted elsewhere that even the construction of graves seems to have been informed by "a concern for the preservation of the body, perhaps an intuitive response to the idea that disease, death and decay are the punishment for sin, and therefore an intact body, like those of Cuthbert, Edmund, Edward and so many other Anglo-Saxon saints, has a better chance of salvation." (35)

The consolations of what would come to be known as Christian burial were, of course, routinely withheld by ecclesiastics in retaliation for various private and secular offenses. In what remains of the present article, I hope to show that the manner in which the Church came to assume control over burial has implications for some elements of the initial catalog that scholarship has overlooked. It will be best to begin with the closest thing to an interpretive crux in Fortunes: the significance of sylfcwalu in the concluding passage concerning the two drunks. It is strange that scholarship on Fortunes has for the most part been unwilling to entertain the notion that sylfcwalu here means what it does in prose: "suicide." Occasionally, the episode concerning the sylfcwalu is avoided entirely in what are otherwise comprehensive accounts of the catalog. In a broad summary of the Exeter Book's contents, Stanley Greenfield describes the discussion of drunkenness with which the first catalog concludes as referring to "one who, becoming drunk, cannot hold his tongue and loses his life thereby": whether the poet intends for us to understand sylfcwalu as a literal description of how the second drunkard meets his end receives no discussion. (36) A more recent general survey of Old English literature likewise refrains from any mention of the second drunkard. (37)

These omissions may express some dissatisfaction with the current state of scholarly opinion, as they do not restate the consensus view that the sylfcwalu is to be understood as having died in a drunken fight. The claim is, from one perspective, not without some merit. Many Old English poetic compounds become semantically estranged from their prose context when occurring in verse, and this circumstance alone permits the assumption that the same conditions might hold here as well. The matter would be settled if the resulting interpretation did not require us also to accept that Fortunes--otherwise a rare model of stylistic economy--spends ten lines telling the same story twice. Edwin A. Howard was the first to note that the standard reading of sylfcwalu makes lines 51-57 somewhat idiosyncratic, but subsequent scholarship seems not to have responded to his misgivings. (38) Indeed, Richard H. Dammers would go on to characterize explicitly both of the fates narrated in lines 48-57 as references to "death-dealing drunken brawls," in spite of the poem's silence about where or when the demise of the second drunkard occurs. (39) Swenson's account of the catalog, whose purpose was to demonstrate its reliance on a pre-Christian inventory of ritual slayings and thereby minimize both its unity and its ostensibly Christian argument, likewise refrains from any discussion of the incidents narrated in lines 48-57 except to say that these lines refer to "death in the hall." (40) Similarly, Thompson refers to the last two deaths as "alcoholism and provoking a fatal quarrel in the mead hall." (41)

Curiously omitted from the commentaries of Swenson and Thompson is Nicholas Howe's monograph of 1985, the only study to suggest that sylfcwalu should be understood in its literal sense. To assume such a meaning allows, according to Howe, for possibilities of formal coherence that are not typically recognized: the placement of the "despair[ing]" suicide as "the final figure in the catalog of human misfortune" occupying the first half of the text signifies an ostracism from "God and the community" more severe than that supposed in the preceding episodes. (42) It is clear from such remarks that Howe's implicit view of the poem's origins (Christian, homiletic) and its structure (a logically formulated catalog, with each member standing at a further remove from God's protection) is incompatible with those advocated by Isaacs or Swenson. Both of these scholars suggest the poem's indebtedness to traditional Germanic (and possibly pre-Christian) material for its list of misfortunes. Even Thompson argues that none of the deaths should be understood as having been "placed in a context of heavenly judgement": when the poet's language seems condemnatory (as in the episodes of the hanged man and the sylfcwalu), she maintains that "reputation is the focus in both these cases, not salvation." (43) Yet Howe finds the usage of sylfcwalu to be illuminated by an anonymous homily and generally seems to see the list as enumerating bad fates in ways that highlight, however ambiguously, their spiritual significance. (44)

Howe's arguments might have been widely adopted if not for a scathing review by Joseph Harris. (45) The latter's argument that the lines in question echo the admonitions of Old Norse gnomic verse regarding the hazards of beer-brawls is, as he acknowledges, indebted to an earlier essay by Geoffrey Russom concerning the background of The Gifts of Men. Here Russom contends that Gifts employs a traditional and Germanic inventory of themes and finds analogues for its episodes in a number of Scandinavian poems. (46) Harris's application of similar evidence to the drinking episode in Fortunes is the most comprehensive available, and I reproduce it below in its entirety:

In general lines 48-57 warn against drunkenness, its effect on the mind, and careless talk--the combination can lead to death. Not only are these ideas separately familiar from Havamal and Sigrdrifumal but so are the particular causal nexus: one function of the mind is to control speech (for example, Havamal 26); but drink numbs the mind (for example, Havamal 12-13; Fortunes 49a, 51-52); ungoverned speech does harm (cf. "hradmaelt tunga" of Havamal 29, 4 with "bid ter his worda to hraed," Fortunes 50b); wine steals wit, so one must beware of drunken talk (Sigrdrifumal 29); beer-talk and ale have brought many man harm, "sumom at bana, sumom at bolstofom," "to some death, to some disasters" (Sigrdrifumal 30). In this context, then, line 56, "ond hine to sylfcwale secgas nemnad," probably does not mean simply that the man was guilty of the sin of despair and suicide, as Howe believes (pp. 116, 122-24) .... In the context of the immediately preceding lines (48-50) and the Norse passages, a Havareal proverb seems an appropriate commentary: "tunga er hofuds bani" (73, 2) "the tongue is the slayer of [its own] head." (47)

The hypothesis that lines 48-57 offer two narrations of the same type of misfortune has yet to enjoy a better defense than Harris presents. Yet the assumption underlying Harris's analysis that the initial catalog in Fortunes consists of a series of gnomic statements, perhaps hortatory in nature, is not without possible counterevidence. Given the care with which the poet has woven the theme of consumption into the poem, the piling up of seemingly disconnected observations that is the hallmark of the gnomic genre seems not to be an element of this poem. As T. A. Shippey observed, its initial catalog begins and ends with displays of grief: the mourning of a mother for a child eaten by wolves (line 14) and for the ambiguous sylfcwalu with which the catalog concludes. (48) Exhortations of pity for conditions that the poet acknowledges are unavoidable would seem to make Fortunes a rather poor representative of a genre described by one scholar as consisting of "admonitions relating to human conduct... demand [ing] a course of action," and by another as offering "sententious generalization [s]." (49)

Moreover, it must be said that the literary tradition against which Harris and others read Fortunes does not explain everything about the meaning of sylfcwalu in this context. Old Norse verse, gnomic or otherwise, provides no analogues of which I am aware for the pairing of the first slain drunkard with one who becomes intoxicated at the instigation of another ("purh byreles hond"). Such collocations are, however, commonplace in the major penitentials, wherein sanctions against excessive drinking routinely accompany condemnations of those who encourage others to do the same. (50)

The harshness with which these sources condemn those who get others drunk also seems likely to be of significance. Those guilty of this offense are, somewhat curiously, penanced as homicides by the handbook attributed to Cummean; another early Celtic penitential refers to those who encourage others to drink as "slayer[s] of souls." (51) If Gregory of Tours's brief account of the Breton hermit Winnoch in his sixth-century Historia Francorum gives any indication of what is meant by such claims, they seem unlikely to have been mere figures of speech. Like the sylfcwalu in Fortunes, Winnoch is goaded by his companions into drinking excessively. Their doing so occasions his madness and ultimately his death by means that are never made clear:

Vinum vero tantum vas ad os poneret, quod magis putaretur libare osculo quam haurire. Sed cum eidem devotorum largitas frequenter exhiberet vas hoc plena licore, dedicit, quod peius est, extra modum haurire et in tantum dissolvi potione, ut plerumque ebrius cerneretur. Unde factum est, ut, invalescente temulentia, tempore procedente, a daemonio correptus, per inergiam vexaretur, in tantum ut, accepto cultro, vel quodcumque genus teli sive lapidem aut fustem potuisset adrepere, post homines insano furore discurreret. Unde necessitas exigit, ut catenis vinctus custodiretur in cellula. In hac quoque dampnacione per duorum annorum spacia debachans, spiritum exalavit.

[As far as wine was concerned, he would merely lift the cup to his mouth, appearing to touch it with his lip instead of drinking it. However, his followers were so openhanded in offering him goblets filled to the brim that he fell into the habit, which is a very bad one, of drinking immoderately, and he was often so far gone in liquor that on more than one occasion he was obviously drunk. The result of this was that, as time passed, his intemperance became worse and worse. He was possessed by a devil, and he became so imbalanced that he would pick up a knife or whatever weapon he could lay his hands on, sometimes a stone, sometimes a stick, and chase after people in insane fury. There was nothing for it but to chain him up and lock him in his cell. Condemned to this fate, he continued to rave for a couple of years, and then he gave up the ghost.] (52)

This episode seems worthy of consideration as an analogue for the peculiar situation with which the initial catalog of Fortunes concludes, offering to Howe's claim that drunkenness and suicide might signify the loss of God's protection some circumstantial support. If Howe leaves the relation of the other figures to the sylfcwalu with which the catalog closes somewhat unclear, his doing so probably reflects the constraints of scholarly tradition. His is among the most sophisticated of a long line of studies asserting the membership of Fortunes in the gnomic genre, though his understanding of the genre is substantially more informed by its variants in Latin literature. (53) Yet Howe's thesis that the sylfcwalu should be viewed as a culminating figure of damnation would seem to be confirmed in burial regulations that are unmentioned in his study. These canons, in turn, illuminate other members of the catalog and suggest their interrelatedness. So reluctant were canonists in this era to grant consecrated burial to suicides that the few normative statements surviving from before the Conquest routinely collocate those who die even accidentally in falls with those who purposefully take their own lives. (54) These same sources prescribe identical treatment for the bodies of those who have been executed or mutilated by judicial order.

Such provisions originate in the first Council of Braga, which stipulates that all who die violently without another's involvement, including those who fall as a result of negligence from a great height, receive along with those condemned for their crimes no prayers and no burial in consecrated cemeteries. (55) The requirement of the Braga council and its descendants that those "who are punished for their crimes" ("qui pro suis sceleribus puniuntur") be denied Christian burial seems particularly significant, since the Braga council does not appear to confine its judgment to those who are executed. The implication that denial of Christian burial would have been the rule for the mutilated as well as the executed would seem to be borne out by the recent excavations of numerous "execution cemeteries" throughout England. Skeletons found within these sites show evidence of both execution and non-lethal mutilations. (56) Some of the bodies found within these cemeteries date from as early as the seventh century, indicating that separate burial for wrongdoers was an established custom well before it is acknowledged in late royal legislation. The presence of such material remains would seem to be of considerable significance for the descriptions of mutilation and blinding in Fortunes. Though published scholarship on the poem has yet to make such a suggestion, these injuries may well have been understood by the poem's audience as having been deliberately administered; both are frequently-employed punishments for theft in later royal legislation. (57)

The foregoing discussion allows for a few conclusions to be offered with reasonable certainty. The concern of Fortunes with the fate of the post-resurrection body, apparently a matter of some topicality in the period under discussion, can reasonably be assumed on the basis of its repeated use of the theme of the consumption and dissolution of the body, a late thematically tied to the denial of Christian burial. This theme, as is established by the Legend of the Seven Sleepers and by numerous poems depicting the horrors of the grave, came to be emblematic of the worst fears of Christians in early England. That the poem's inventory of punitive deaths appears alongside the very sort of accidental death mentioned in the Council of Braga and its descendants--falling from a great height--seems integral to this theme given legislative and archaeological evidence that those who died in this way were excluded from Christian burial. Burning seems also to have been intended as a way of denying such consolations to the deceased and his or her kin. (58)

The presence of the suicide as the culminating figure in its catalog of fates likewise seems unsurprising. He has the least entitlement to what all of the figures mentioned in the catalog are presumably denied, whether as a result of circumstance or official sanction: burial in consecrated ground, and ultimately the prospect of being reunited with a body that had enjoyed some measure of protection from the defilement of putrefaction. While the poem's rhetorical force inheres largely in its skillful fusion of traditional and pastoral themes, it can probably be said that its prevailing outlook (as Barbara Raw seems to suggest) is little removed from the myriad of Old and Early Middle English poems that invoked the fragility of the body to move their audiences toward acts of piety. That the preservation of the body was the object of devotional practices may seem strange in our own era, whose religious outlook has largely been shaped by the Protestant reaction against saints' cults. But it must be acknowledged that, seen within this context, Fortunes appears to possess more structural coherence, and perhaps technical sophistication, than most published studies have been willing to acknowledge. At the very least, attention to the more immediate historical context of Fortunes discloses a catalog whose elements are so well integrated as to justify this poem's departure from the inventory of "gnomic" curiosities with which it has long been classified.

SUNY Brockport

NOTES

I am grateful to the two referees for Philological Quarterly for their insightful recommendations. Any errors that remain are, of course, my own.

(1) The sensibility of Old English literature is so characterized in at least one introductory college-level textbook of the early twentieth century, and examples could, no doubt, be multiplied: Reuben Post Halleck, History of English Literature (New York: American Book Company, 1900), 14; The Rule of St. Benedict, ed. Timothy Fry et al. (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1981), 182-83 (cap. IV): "mortem cotidie ante oculos habere."

(2) This is, of course, not a genre isolated to Anglo-Saxon England, though it is hard to deny that early English attitudes seem to have been especially hospitable to its development, yielding some of the most harrowing examples of the tradition. On its ancestry and its development after the Conquest, see Seth Lerer, "The Genre of the Grave and the Origins of the Middle English Lyric," MLQ58 (1997): 127-61.

(3) On the integrity of the catalog, see R. D. Fulk and Christopher M. Cain, A History of Old English Literature (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2003), 175: "One cannot help feeling that the pathos of the parents' sad misfortune was the inspiration for the poem, since the morbid collection of untimely ends seems insufficient motive. Yet some more purposeful control over the design is evidenced by the final fortune mentioned: one shall expend all his misfortunes in his youth and live to enjoy wealth and the mead cup in his family's embrace." Fulk and Cain are more willing than most who have commented on the poem to suppose that a prevailing theme might govern its assemblage of misfortunes. Modern editions of Fortunes are as follows: The Exeter Book, EETS nos. 104, 194, ed. and trans. W. S. Mackie (repr. Oxford U. Press, 1958), 2:26-31; The Exeter Book, ASPR III, ed. George Philip Krapp and Eliott Van Kirk Dobbie (Columbia U. Press, 1936), 154-56; Bernard J. Muir, ed., The Exeter Anthology of Old English Poetry, 2 vols. (U. of Exeter Press, 1994), 247-50. All quotations from Fortunes and other Exeter Book poems are from Muir's edition; translations of this and other Old English texts are my own unless otherwise indicated.

(4) "Sumum paet gegonged / on geogudfeore // paet se endestaef / earfedmaecgum // wealic weorped -- / sceal hine wulf etan, // har haeostapa; / hinsip ponne // modor bimurned. Ne bid swylc monnes geweald" [To some it happens (or will happen) in youth that the conclusion (of his life) comes (or will come) miserably to the wretched man--a wolf shall eat him, the grey heath-stepper; his mother then will mourn his journey hence. Such (things) are not under men's control], 10-14.

(5) "Sum sceal leomena leas / lifes neotan, // folmum aetfeohtan; sum on feoe lef, // seonobennum seoc, / sar cwanian, // murnan meotudgesceaft / mode gebysgad" [One shall, blind (lit., "without light") make use of life, (shall) grope (lit. "contend") with hands; one shall weak in walking, sick from sinew-injuries, lament his pain, (shall) mourn his fate, burdened in his mind], 17-20.

(6) "Sum sceal on holte / of hean beame // fiperleas feallan-- / bid on flihte sepeah, // laced on lyfte, / oddaet lengre ne bid // westem [more likely, "waestm"] wudubeames; / ponne he on wyrtruman // siged sworcenfero, / sawle bereafod, // feallep on foldan, / feord bip on sipe; // sum sceal on fepe / on feorwegas // nyde gongan / ond his nest beran,//tredan urigleast / elpeodigra, // frecne foldan; / ah he feormendra // lyt lifgendra, / lad bip aeghwaer //fore his wonsceaftum / wineleas haele" [One shall, in a wood, fall without feathers from a high beam--yet he will be in flight, will float in the air, until he no longer will be the tree's fruit, when he drops dead at the root, bereft of his soul, falls to the earth; his soul will be on its journey; another shall, of necessity, go on foot in far ways, 'and carry his food, walking along the dew-dampened track' (Muir's translation); he has few helpers who are alive. Everywhere the friendless man will be despised because of his wretchedness], 21-32.

(7) In cap. 6.7 of the code known IV AEthelstan (The Laws ofthe Earliest English Kings, ed. and trans. F. L. Attenborough [New York: Russell and Russell, 1963]), 150-51, burning for a female slave guilty of theft occurs among a series of brutal punishments prescribed for the unfree. Old English bael can mean both "fire" and "funeral pile"; see the entry inJoseph Bosworth and T. Northcote Toller, Ah Anglo-Saxon Dictionary (Oxford U. Press, 1898). Fulk and Cain assume "pyre": see A History of Old English Literature, 175.

(8) See lines 38-39: "NoSer he ley facne meeg / folmum biwergan // ladum lyftscealee" [He may not from that offense hold back the loathsome air-enemy"].

(9) The quotation is from Victoria Thompson, Dying and Death in Later Anglo-Saxon England (Cambridge: Boydell, 2004), 189; see also Dorothy Whitelock, The Beginnings of English Society (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1976), 144: "Hanging was the commonest form of execution, and a poem known as The Fates of Men gives a gruesome picture of a thief's body left hanging on the gallows. These were often placed on the boundary between settlements, and hence phrases like 'to the gallow tree' or 'to the old place of execution' are not infrequent in lists of boundaries of estates."

(10) That authentic "pagan survivals" are to be found in some Old English verse, albeit not as objects of enduring popular belief, is undoubtedly the case: for an example of how such connections may be argued for in the idiom of present-day scholarship (and an illuminating look at the less restrained attempts of nineteenth-century scholarship) see R. D. Fulk, "An Eddic Analogue to the Scyld Scefing Story," RES 40 (1989): 313-22. G. Ronald Murphy, The Saxon Savior: The Germanic Transformation of the Gospel in the Ninth Century "Heliand" (Oxford U. Press, 1989), 79, suggests that the author of the Heliand recasts the scene of Christ's baptism in such a way that he becomes "a new Woden."

(11) Fulk and Cain, History of Old English Literature, 198, complain about the dominance of Old English literary studies "by ahistoricizing, formalist approaches" and view this tendency as a direct consequence of uncertainty over dating; similar complaints are registered throughout John D. Niles, Old English Heroic Poems and the Social Life of Texts (Turnhout: Brepols, 2007).

(12) Where Beowulfis concerned, the development of this tradition of scholarship is sketched admirably in the bibliographical essays by Katherine O'Brien O'Keeffe ("Diction, Variation, the Formula"), and Edward B. Irving Jr. ("Christian and Pagan Elements"), in A BeowulfHandbook, ed. Robert E. Bjork andJohn D. Niles (Lincoln: U. of Nebraska Press, 1997), 85-104, 175-92.

(13) See Robert DiNapoli's entry in The Blackwell Encyclopaedia of Anglo-Saxon England, ed. Michael Lapidge et al. (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2001), s.v. "Fortunes of Men." A recently-published essay by the same author ("Close to the Edge: The Fortunes of Men and the Limits of Wisdom Literature," ed. Chris Bishop et al., Text and Transmission in Medieval Europe [Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars, 2007]), argues against the view of some scholars that Fortunes can best be read as a "versified sermon" (130) and is generally skeptical of the devotional aims some scholars have imputed to the poem. DiNapoli and I are in agreement about the limited usefulness of the "wisdom literature" category for the analysis of Fortunes, but my conclusions differ from his on many points. It should be said that the problems outlined in the present essay are of only passing concern in DiNapoli's, and his assessment of the poem certainly shows greater sensitivity to its literary qualities than any study of which I am aware.

(14) Swenson, "Death Appropriated in The Fates of Men," SP88 (1991): 126-27.

(15) Swenson, "Death Appropriated," 124, notes the argument of Alois Brandi that the second half of Fortunes is a later addition to a fragmentary "heathen" poem: see Grundriss der Germanischen Philologie, 2, 1, ed. Hermann Paul (Strassburg: Trubner, 1900), 1036-37.

(16) Neil Isaacs, "Up a Tree: To See the Fates of Men," Anglo-Saxon Poetry: Essays in Appreciation, ed. Dolores Warwick Frese and Lewis E. Nicholson (South Bend: Notre Dame U. Press, 1975), 374.

(17) Swenson, "Death Appropriated," 129.

(18) Swenson, "Death Appropriated," 131. Swenson argues here for the relevance of the nineteenth-century Sakraltheorie, a hypothesis popular among nineteenth-century Germanists holding judicial death penalties to have originated in human sacrifice. She does not mention an article documenting the collapse of this theory many decades prior to the appearance of her article: Kari Ellen Gade, "Hanging in Northern Law and Literature," Maal og minne (1985): 159-83.

(19) Swenson, "Death Appropriated," 132.

(20) This description of the genre occurs in Robert DiNapoli, "Gnomic Poetry," Lapidge, Blackwell Encyclopaedia, 210. Fortunes is classified as such in Larrington, A Store of Common Sense (Oxford U. Press, 1993), 139-32; Paul Cavill, Maxims in Old English Poetry (Cambridge: Brewer, 1999), 24) asserts that "The Gifts and Fortunes of Men, Maxims I and Maxims II are made up almost entirely of maxims."

(21) Thompson, Dying and Death, 191.

(22) Thompson, Dying and Death, 191.

(23) On the theme and its Germanic origins see Adrien Bonjour, "Beowulf and the Beasts of Battle," PMLA 72 (1957): 563-73; Thomas Honegger, "Form and Function: The Beasts of Battle Revisited," English Studies 79 (1998): 289-98; Jennifer Neville, Representations of the Natural World in Old English Poetry (Cambridge U. Press, 1999), 10, and the references cited there; Joseph Harris, "Beasts of Battle, South and North," Source of Wisdom: Old English and Early Medieval Latin Studies in Honour ofThomas D. Hill, ed. Charles D. Wright, Frederick M. Biggs, and Thomas N. Hall (U. of Toronto Press, 2007), 3-25.

(24) Beowulf and the Fight at Finnsburg, ed. Fr. Klaeber, 3rd ed. (Lexington, MA: Heath, 1950), 42-43.

(25) Barbara C. Raw, The Art and Background of Old English Poetry (New York: St. Martin's, 1978), 74.

(26) Caroline Walker Bynum, The Resurrection of the Body in Western Christianity, 200-1336 (Columbia U. Press, 1995), 108-12. Bynum mentions as an example of this tradition at least one Anglo-Saxon sculpture wherein Hell is depicted as a devouring mouth: see Bynum, Resurrection of the Body, 127. The theme is, of course, ubiquitous in the art and literature of the early and late Middle Ages.

(27) Thompson, Dying and Death, 188-90.

(28) These are considered at length in Thompson, Dying and Death, 189.

(29) Aelfric's Lives of the Saints, EETS 82 (vol. 1), ed. Walter W. Skeat (Oxford U. Press, 1881-1900), 506-7 and 516-17.

(30) Skeat, Aelfric's Lives, 510-11.

(31) This seems explicitly the case for the hanged man, who we are told at line 41 "blac on beame // bided wyrde" [black on the tree awaits (his) fate]. The poet may well be drawing attention to the fact that this is no fitting way to await the Judgment.

(32) Thompson, Dying and Death, 192.

(33) Klaeber, Beowulf and the Fight at Finnsburg, xlviii, classifies the several references to the burning of the dead in Beowulf as "heathen practices."

(34) On burial ad sanctos in England and Francia, see John Blair, The Church in Anglo-Saxon Society (Oxford U. Press, 2005), 60-65.

(35) Victoria Thompson and Christopher Daniell, "Pagans and Christians, 400-1150," in Death in England: An Illustrated History, ed. Peter C. Jupp and Clare Gittings (Manchester U. Press, 1999), 86.

(36) Stanley B. Greenfield, A Critical History of Old English Literature (New York U. Press, 1965), 200. The characterization of these lines is unchanged in an updated version: Stanley B. Greenfield and Daniel Calder, A New Critical History of Old English Literature (New York U. Press, 1986), 263.

(37) Fulk and Cain, History of Old English Literature, 175.

(38) Edwin J. Howard, "Old English Tree Climbing: Christ vv. 678-79," JEGP30 (1931): 152: "We of the twentieth century might hesitate to say that a man who was killed for talking too much while intoxicated had committed suicide (v. 50), but upon the whole, the methods of meeting death are those we would expect an Old English bard to list.... All these methods except one are ordinary ways of meeting death."

(39) Richard H. Dammers, "Unity and Artistry in The Fortunes of Men," American Benedictine Review 27 (1976): 467.

(40) Swenson, "Death Appropriated," 133.

(41) Thompson, Dying and Death, 191.

(42) Nicholas Howe, The Old English Catalogue Poetas (Copenhagen: Rosenkilde and Bagger, 1985), 122: "The fates of ll. 27-57 reveal for the first time the poet's concern with violations of divine order. Such misfortunes as lameness or death by starvation are morally neutral; they carry with them no necessary consideration of legal guilt or sinful intent. But the exile or the suicide, for example, are at the very least touched by these considerations. Each announces some breach with or breakdown of the accepted norms of social conduct and divine order. The most serious of these is the sylfcwale, for in his case there can be no extenuating circumstances such as one may imagine for the exile or the hanged man. By his act, he reveals the deepest despair known to Christians. Moreover, suicide represents an act of isolation, a cutting off of the self from God and community: In a poem concerned with the social order, as expressed in the comitatus, it is quite telling that the suicide should stand as the final figure in the catalogue of human misfortune." Howe's thesis should be distinguished from that of T. A. Shippey, Poems of Wisdom and Learning in Old English (Cambridge: Brewer, 1976), 11, also apparently unique, that the second drunkard "drink[s] himself to death, and so die[s] with particular irony and wretchedness."

(43) Thompson, Dying and Death, 192.

(44) "Eade mei pe mon fundan hu he hine seolfe amerre.ac we scole witan. pet nan seolf cwale pet is agen-sclaga ne cumed to godes riche" [Easily may a man discover how he may slay himself, but we should know that no suicide, that is slayer of himself, will enter the kingdom of God]. Old English Homilies and Homiletic Treatises, EETS o.s. 29, 34, ed. Richard Morris (Oxford U. Press, 1868), 103; quoted in Howe, Old English Catalogue Poems, 123.

(45) Joseph Harris, "Review of Nicholas Howe, The Old English Catalogue Poems," Speculum 62 (1987): 953-56.

(46) Geoffrey R. Russom, "A Germanic Concept of Nobility in The Gifts of Men and Beowulf," Speculum 53 (1978): 1-15.

(47) Harris, "Review," 954.

(48) The verb (maenan) can mean both 'to tell of, relate, declare' and 'to lament, mourn, complain'; see the entry in Bosworth and Toller, Dictionary. Shippey, Poems of Wisdom and Learning, 10, acknowledges the importance of mourning to the theme of Fortunes but does not acknowledge this particular instance in his study: "The most characteristic figure is ... the mourner. In line 14 the mother mourns her child ('bimurned'), in line 20 the cripple laments his own fate ('cwanian, murnan'), in line 46 again a woman weeps ('reoted') as she sees her son burning. In each case the activity of mourning is irrepressible but (as the poet does not bother to say) useless."

(49) See, respectively, Larrington, Store of Common Sense, 5, and Cavill, Maxims in Old English Poetry, 11.

(50) See, for example, the influential statements in the Penitential of Cummean: "[I.1] Inebriati igitur vino siue ceruisa contra interdictum Saluatoris ... si uotum sanctitatis habuerint, .xl. diebus curo pane et aqua culpam deluant, laici uero .vii. diebus. [II.2] Qui cogit aliquem humanitatis gratia ut inebriatur, similiter ut ebrius peniteat. [I.3] Si odii causa, ut homicida iudicetur" [Those who are drunk with wine or beer, contrary to the Savior's prohibition ... if they have taken the vow of sanctity, they shall expiate the fault for forty days with bread and water; laymen, however, for seven days. He who compels anyone, for the sake of good fellowship, to become drunk shall do penance in the same manner as one who is drunk. If he does this on account of hatred, he shall bejudged as a homicide] ; The Irish Penitentials, Scriptores Latini Hiberniae V, ed. and trans. Ludwig Bieler (Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1975), 112-13.

(51) The reference occurs in cap. 4 of the "Excerpts from a Book of David': "Qui uero effectu hodii seu luxuriae ut turpiter confundat uel irrideat ad ebrietatem alios cogit, si non satis penituerit, sic peniteat ut homicida animarum" [But one who under the influence of hatred or ofwantonness constrains others to drunkenness that he may basely put them to confusion or ridicule, if he has not done adequate penance, shall do penance as a slayer of souls]; Bieler, Irish Penitentials, 70-71.

(52) Gregorii Turonensis Opera, MGH Scriptores Rerum Merovingicarum I, ed. Bruno Krusch and Wilhehn Arndt (Hannover, 1885), 350 (8.34); Gregory of Tours, The History of the Franks, trans. Lewis Thorpe (London: Penguin, 1974), 468.

(53) On the organization of The Fortunes of Men, Raw asserts that "there is no over-all progression, but one or two themes provide a loose structure"; subsequently, however, she credits the poet with "control over the logical form by a providing a framework within which to read it" much vaguer than the one suggested in the present article. See Raw, Art and Background, 73-74. Complaints about the usefulness of the terra "gnomic" have circulated for some time. Shippey, Poems of Wisdom and Learning, 12, notes that "the main function of the word 'gnomic' is to place the Old English poems in a genre well-represented in Irish, Welsh, and Norse literature, and (perhaps most important for early users of the term) respectably familiar also from Greek. This categorization has not been entirely fortunate, for (as P. L. Henry said, 1966) the comparative approach 'has tended to promote the anatomy of the subject at the expense of the living organism and to deal in norms rather than in facts.'" Stanley Greenfield and Richard Evert, "Maxims II: Gnome and Poem," in Nicholson and Frese, Anglo-Saxon Poetry, 337-38, lament more pointedly the fact that "commentary on Maxims II has, generally, denied any aesthetic unity to the poem, and in so doing has itself achieved a unity tare in Old English criticism. Indeed, many of the poem's critics have discerned the hand of a monkish reviser at work upon heathen material." The authors go on to argue that the terra has needlessly inhibited consideration of the genres of supposedly "gnomic" poems, and ultimately suggest the limitations of its usefulness. A recent assessment of Maxims II in Fulk and Cain, History of Old English Literature, indicates the extent to which acceptance of the atomizing approach pursued by much earlier criticism of gnomic verse may be waning. The authors argue (plausibly, in my view) that Maxims II "assumes a recognizable structure, surveying what is natural and right in this world before leading to the next" (172), here paraphrasing the suggestions of earlier scholars.

(54) I am not sure whether Shippey, Poems of Wisdom and Learning, 10, means to say that the man who falls from a tree in Fortunes commits suicide when he describes him as "killing himself in a fall"; if so, he would be the only scholar I am aware of to make such a suggestion.

(55) "Be oam men pe hine sylfne ofslyho for hwylcere gymeleaste, 7 be pam men pe for his gyltum bid gewitnod. Se man [se] oe hine sylfne ofslyhcd mid waepne odde for hwylcum mislicum deofles onbringe, nis hit na alyfed paet man <for> swylcum men maessan singe odde mid aenigu m sealmsange paet lic eordan befaeste. paene ylcan dom man sceal don pam de for his gylta pinunga his lif alett" [Concerning the man who slays himself because of any negligence, and concerning the man who is punished because of his offenses. The man who slays himself with a weapon or because of any instigation of the devil, it is not permitted that one should sing masses for such men or commit their bodies to the earth with the singing of psalms. One shall enact the same judgment for him who leaves his life due to the torments (prescribed for) his crimes"]. Josef Raith, ed., Die Altenglische Version des Halitgar'schen Bussbuches (Hamburg: Henri Grand, 1933), 17-18. The Latin source of this passage (and the nearly identical passage based upon this one in the Handbook) occurring in the ninth-century penitential of Halitgar restates the first Council of Braga on accidental suicide: "De his qui sibi quacumque negligentia mortem inferunt, et de his qui pro suis sceleribus puniuntur ... Placuit ut hi qui sibi ipsis aut per ferrum aut per venenum aut per precipitium vel quolibet modo violenter inferunt mortem, nulla illis in oblatione commemoratio fiat neque cum psalmis ad sepulturam eorum cadavera deducantur ... Similiter et de his placuit qui pro suis sceleribus puniuntur" [Of those who slay themselves by means of whatever negligence, and of those who are punished because of their crimes ... Regarding those who slay themselves with an iron instrument or with poison or through (a fall) from a precipice or by whatever means violently bring death (upon themselves), let them be commemorated in no mass, nor shall their bodies be buried with the singing of psalms ... Let those be treated similarly who are punished for their crimes]. Patrologia Latina, ed. Jacques-Paul Migne (Paris: Garnier, 1844-91), 105 cols. 0618D-0682A.

(56) "A number of tenth- and eleventh-century cemeteries have been excavated in which the pathology of some of the deceased suggests that they had experienced bodily mutilation, which tenth-century law-codes also reveal to have been the punishment meted out to felons. These include a skeleton with an amputated forearm from a cemetery at School Street, Ipswich, an individual with the legs cut off at the knees and another with the arms cut off at Guildown (Surrey), and an individual at Bokerley Dyke (Dorset) from which the toes had been amputated, yet which displayed evidence for healing, demonstrating that this person lived for some time after the amputation." Dawn M. Hadley and Jo Buckberry, "Caring for the Dead in Late Anglo-Saxon England," Pastoral Care in Late Anglo-Saxon England, ed. Francesca Tinti (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2005), 129-30.

(57) Katherine O'Brien O'Keeffe analyzes in some depth the tendency of eleventh-century royal legislation to prescribe, ostensibly as a merciful alternative to death penalties, mutilations such as blinding and laming (by the removal of one"s feet rather than injuries to sinews) as punishments for theft. That these measures were applied seems to be established by hagiographical evidence. See Katherine O'Brien O'Keeffe, "Body and Law in Late Anglo-Saxon England," Anglo-Saxon England 27 (1998): 209-32. Certainly the catalog in Fortunes seems at times reminiscent of the punishments attributed to King Edgar's reign in Wulfstan's Narratio Metrica de Sancto Swithuno, datable according to Dorothy Whitelock "between 992 and 994." See Whitelock, "Wulfstan Cantor and Anglo-Saxon Law," Nordica et anglica: Studies in Honor of Stefan Einarsson, ed. A. H. Orrick (The Hague: Mouton de Gruyter, 1968), 83-85.

(58) See especially Catherine Karkov, "Exiles from the Kingdom: The Naked and the Damned in Anglo-Saxon Art," Naked Before God: Uncovering the Body in Anglo-Saxon England, ed. Benjamin C. Withers and Jonathan Wilcox (Morgantown: West Virginia U. Press, 2003), 215-16.
COPYRIGHT 2007 University of Iowa
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2007 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Jurasinski, Stefan
Publication:Philological Quarterly
Date:Sep 22, 2007
Words:9662
Previous Article:Editorial statement.
Next Article:The mimesis of time in Hamlet.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2021 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters |