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Crist (Old English for Christ), is the title given to a triad of Old English religious poems in the Exeter Book comprising a total of 1664 lines and dealing with Christ's Advent, Ascension, and Last Judgment. It was originally thought to be one piece completed by a single author, but the poem is now broken up into three parts:
The Exeter Book, Exeter Cathedral Library MS 3501, also known as the Codex Exoniensis, is a tenth-century book or codex which is an anthology of Anglo-Saxon poetry. It is one of the four major Anglo-Saxon literature codices, along with the Vercelli Book, Nowell Codex and the Cædmon manuscript or MS Junius 11. The book was donated to the library of Exeter Cathedral by Leofric, the first bishop of Exeter, in 1072. It is believed originally to have contained 131 leaves, of which the first 8 have been replaced with other leaves; the original first 8 pages are lost. The Exeter Book is the largest known collection of Old English literature still in existence.
Advent is a season observed in many Christian churches as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for both the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas and the return of Jesus at the Second Coming. The term is a version of the Latin word meaning "coming". The term "Advent" is also used in Eastern Orthodoxy for the 40-day Nativity Fast, which has practices different from those in the West.
The ascension of Jesus is the departure of Christ from Earth into the presence of God. The biblical narrative in Chapter 1 of the Acts of the Apostles takes place 40 days after the resurrection: Jesus is taken up from the disciples in their sight, a cloud hides him from view, and two men in white appear to tell them that he will return "in the same way you have seen him go into heaven." In the Christian tradition, reflected in the major Christian creeds and confessional statements, the ascension is connected with the exaltation of Jesus, meaning that through his ascension, Jesus took his seat at the right hand of God: "He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty." In modern times the Ascension is seen less as the climax of the mystery of Christ than as "something of an embarrassment", in the words of McGill University's Douglas Farrow.
It and Beowulf are the primary examples of Anglo-Saxon literature.
Beowulf is an Old English epic poem consisting of 3,182 alliterative lines. It is one of the most important works of Old English literature. The date of composition is a matter of contention among scholars; the only certain dating pertains to the manuscript, which was produced between 975 and 1025. The author was an anonymous Anglo-Saxon poet, referred to by scholars as the "Beowulf poet".
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Old English literature or Anglo-Saxon literature, encompasses literature written in Old English, in Anglo-Saxon England from the 7th century to the decades after the Norman Conquest of 1066. "Cædmon's Hymn", composed in the 7th century, according to Bede, is often considered the oldest extant poem in English, whereas the later poem, The Grave is one of the final poems written in Old English, and presents a transitional text between Old and Middle English. The Peterborough Chronicle can also be considered a late-period text, continuing into the 12th century.
Cædmon is the earliest English (Northumbrian) poet whose name is known. An Anglo-Saxon who cared for the animals at the double monastery of Streonæshalch during the abbacy (657–680) of St. Hilda (614–680), he was originally ignorant of "the art of song" but learned to compose one night in the course of a dream, according to the 8th-century historian Bede. He later became a zealous monk and an accomplished and inspirational Christian poet.
Solomon and Saturn is the generic name given to four Old English works, which present a dialogue of riddles between Solomon, the king of Israel, and Saturn, identified in two of the poems as a prince of the Chaldeans.
The Dream of the Rood is one of the Christian poems in the corpus of Old English literature and an example of the genre of dream poetry. Like most Old English poetry, it is written in alliterative verse. Rood is from the Old English word rōd 'pole', or more specifically 'crucifix'. Preserved in the 10th-century Vercelli Book, the poem may be as old as the 8th-century Ruthwell Cross, and is considered one of the oldest works of Old English literature.
Cynewulf is one of twelve Old English poets known by name, and one of four whose work is known to survive today. He presumably flourished in the 9th century, with possible dates extending into the late 8th and early 10th centuries.
The Junius manuscript is one of the four major codices of Old English literature. Written in the 10th century, it contains poetry dealing with Biblical subjects in Old English, the vernacular language of Anglo-Saxon England. Modern editors have determined that the manuscript is made of four poems, to which they have given the titles Genesis, Exodus, Daniel, and Christ and Satan. The identity of their author is unknown. For a long time, scholars believed them to be the work of Cædmon, accordingly calling the book the Cædmon manuscript. This theory has been discarded due to the significant differences between the poems.
The Wanderer is an Old English poem preserved only in an anthology known as the Exeter Book, a manuscript dating from the late 10th century. It counts 115 lines of alliterative verse. As is often the case in Anglo-Saxon verse, the composer and compiler are anonymous, and within the manuscript the poem is untitled.
The Blickling Homilies is the name given to a collection of anonymous homilies from Anglo-Saxon England. They are written in Old English, and were written down at some point before the end of the tenth century, making them one of the oldest collections of sermons to survive from medieval England, the other main witness being the Vercelli Book. Their name derives from Blickling Hall in Norfolk, which once housed them; the manuscript is now Princeton, Scheide Library, MS 71.
Christ II, also called The Ascension, is one of Cynewulf’s four signed poems that exist in the Old English vernacular. It is a five-section piece that spans lines 440–866 of the Christ triad in the Exeter Book, and is homiletic in its subject matter in contrast to the martyrological nature of Juliana, Elene, and Fates of the Apostles. Christ II draws upon a number of ecclesiastical sources, but it is primarily framed upon Gregory the Great’s Homily XXIX on Ascension Day.
Andreas is an Old English poem, which tells the story of St. Andrew the Apostle, while commenting on the literary role of the "hero". It is believed to be a translation of a Latin work, which is originally derived from the Greek story The Acts of Andrew and Matthew in the City of Anthropophagi, dated around the 4th century. However, the author of Andreas added the aspect of the Germanic hero to the Greek story to create the poem Andreas, where St. Andrew is depicted as an Old English warrior, fighting against evil forces. This allows Andreas to have both poetic and religious significance.
The Athelstan Gospels, or British Library, Cotton MS Tiberius A. ii is a late 9th or early 10th-century Ottonian illuminated Gospel book which entered England as a gift to King Athelstan, who in turn offered it to Christ Church, Canterbury. It is also referred to as the Coronation Gospels on account of an early modern tradition that it had been used as an oath-book at English coronations.
Christ and Satan is an anonymous Old English religious poem consisting of 729 verse lines, contained in the Junius Manuscript.
Christ I, also Christ A or (The) Advent Lyrics, is a collection of twelve anonymous Old English poems on the coming of the Lord, preserved in the Exeter Book. Claes Schaar suggests that it may have been written between the end of the 8th century and the beginning of the 9th century.
"The Husband's Message" is an anonymous Old English poem, 53 lines long and found only on folio 123 of the Exeter Book. The poem is cast as the private address of an unknown first-person speaker to a wife, challenging the reader to discover the speaker's identity and the nature of the conversation, the mystery of which is enhanced by a burn-hole at the beginning of the poem.
"The Phoenix" is an anonymous Old English poem. It is composed of 677 lines and is for the most part a translation and adaptation of the Latin poem De Ave Phoenice attributed to Lactantius.
Soul and Body refers to two anonymous Old English poems: Soul and Body I, which is found in the Vercelli Book, and Soul and Body II, found in the Exeter Book. It is one of the oldest poems to have survived in two manuscripts of Old English, each version slightly different from the other. Despite their differences, the Soul and Body poems address similar themes. Both versions ask the committed and penitent Christian reader to call to mind his bodily actions on earth in relation to his soul’s afterlife. A sense of exigency is found in the poems, imploring the body to live according to the soul's fate and not the desires of the flesh.
The titles "Maxims I" and "Maxims II" refer to pieces of Old English gnomic poetry. The poem Maxims I can be found in the Exeter Book and Maxims II is located in a lesser known manuscript, London, British Library, Cotton Tiberius B i. Maxims I and Maxims II are classified as wisdom poetry, being both influenced by wisdom literature, such as the Psalms and Proverbs of the Old Testament scriptures. Although they are separate poems of diverse contents, they have been given a shared name because the themes throughout each poem are similar.
Christ III is an anonymous Old English religious poem which forms the last part of Christ, a poetic triad found at the beginning of the Exeter Book. Christ III is found on fols. 20b–32a and constitutes lines 867–1664 of Christ in Krapp and Dobbie's edition. The poem is concerned with the Second Coming of Christ (parousia) and the Last Judgment.
"Thureth" is the editorial name given to an eleven-line Old English poem preserved only on folio 31v of British Library MS Cotton Claudius A. III, at the beginning of the text known as 'Claudius Pontifical I'. The poem speaks with the voice of this pontifical or benedictional, interceding on behalf of Thureth who the poem tells us had the book ornamented. As Ronalds and Clunies Ross comment:
As far as we are aware, this is the only specifically identifiable book, aside from the generic book - or possibly Bible - of Riddle 24, that 'speaks' to us from the Anglo-Saxon period, albeit on another's behalf.