OETG #1 – 11 October

OETG 2016-2017 is go! This week we welcomed many new faces to the group – including undergraduates, postgraduates, and students from beyond King’s. We also decided on the text for the year ahead… ‘The Panther’.

95v
Fol. 95v, The Exeter Book. c. The Dean and Chapter of Exeter Cathedral.

This week, we began working on the poem ‘in class’, working in groups to speed-translate (usually we translate at home then use the session to compare). This actually worked really well as a first meeting exercise, giving us the chance for plenty of conversation.

A couple of themes and concerns of the poem are already starting to jump out at us, even from lines 1-15a.

line 1-3

The poem starts as it goes on: obsessed with counting, recording, measuring. Three words for ways of knowing are in the first three lines: ‘unrimu’, ‘areccan’, ‘witan’. Discussion over these lines had us thinking about the ways that we tame the world, or animal; of trying to take into account the whole of God’s vast creation within language and poetry.

The concepts of knowing are developed into being able to speak about the world and creatures within it in lines 12-15:

lines 12b-15a

This creature is known in many ways: named a wild creature (deor), and ‘panther’, written about, and called the ‘lone stepper’. For the poem, it’s so important to reiterate the various names and measurable or memorable characteristics of this creature. But in the layers of description over description, name over name, the ‘panther’ seems to slip out of view.

The repetition of words and themes that begin in these first lines and weave all the way through the poem reminded us of the woven patterns of a sword, zig-zagging its way across the blade.

Image via Oxford Museums Service.http://www.oxfordaspiremuseums.org/blog/unearthing-anglo-saxon-pattern-welded-sword
Image via Oxford Museums Service.http://www.oxfordaspiremuseums.org/blog/unearthing-anglo-saxon-pattern-welded-sword

We’ll be meeting every fortnight to work our way through the rest of the poem. Have you translated the Panther before? Does this obsessive numbering and naming remind you of other Old English poetry? Write your comments or ideas below!

Fran, Organiser, OETG 2016-2017

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