Proverb from Winfrid’s Time and Bede’s Death Song: Some Textual Problems in Two Eighth-Century Poems Revisited

Alfred Bammesberger 1
  • 1 Katholische Universität, Eichstätt-Ingolstadt, Germany
Alfred Bammesberger

Abstract

The sequence Oft daedlata domę foręldit (four words) in the Old English Proverb from Winfrid’s Time (ProvW, 1) defies grammatical analysis because foręldit ‘delays’ requires an accusative object. It is proposed to read Oft daed lata domę foręldit as five words, with daed (= dǣd) ‘deed’ functioning as direct object. This suggestion does not require any emendation because word division in Old English is by no means regular and there is some space between daed and lata in the manuscript anyway. The dative forms domę and gahwem (2a) function as instrumentals, with gahwem perhaps subordinated to domę. The meaning of the simplex lata lies in the area of ‘late-comer’, but ‘sluggard’, ‘laggard’ or other derogatory terms are not suitable. With regard to its genre, ProvW may be viewed in conjunction with Bede’s Death Song (BDS). The vocabulary of BDS presents some problems, but, above all, the construction of the five verse-lines is not totally clear. It is proposed that the comparative thoncsnotturra (2a) has absolute function, and that the adverbial than (2b), meaning ‘then’, introduces a fresh clause. ProvW and BDS may belong to a larger group of self-contained texts no longer extant. In a wide sense they represent the category of Wisdom Poetry in a Christian context.

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