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The date of "Beowulf," debated for almost a century, is a small question with large consequences. Does the poe

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The Dating of Beowulf
 0802078796,  9780802078797

Table of contents :
Opinions on the Date of "Beowulf," 1815-1980 / COLIN CHASE 3
The Eleventh-Century Origin of "Beowulf" and the "Beowulf" Manuscript / KEVIN S. KIERNAN 9
The Nowell Codex and the Poem of "Beowulf" / LEONARD E. BOYLE 23
A Reconsideration of the Language of "Beowulf" / ANGUS CAMERON, ASHLEY CRANDELL AMOS, and GREGORY WAITE, with the assistance of SHARON BUTLER and ANTONETTE DIPAOLO HEALEY 33
Metrical Style as Evidence for the Date of "Beowulf" / THOMAS CABLE 77
'Hetware' and 'Hugas': Datable Anachronisms in "Beowulf" / WALTER GOFFART 83
"Beowulf," the Danish Invasions, and Royal Genealogy / ALEXANDER CALLANDER MURRAY 101
The Audience of "Beowulf" and the Vikings / R. I. PAGE 113
Skaldic Verse and the Date of "Beowulf" / ROBERTA FRANK 123
Variation in "Beowulf" and the Poetic "Edda": A Chronological Experiment / RORY MCTURK 141
Saints' Lives, Royal Lives, and the Date of "Beowulf" / COLIN CHASE 161
Style as the Criterion for Dating the Composition of "Beowulf" / PETER CLEMOES 173
On the Date of Composition of "Beowulf" / JOHN C. POPE 187
The Date of "Beowulf": Some Doubts and No Conclusions / E. G. STANLEY 197
AFTERWORD: The Uses of Uncertainty: On the Dating of "Beowulf" / NICHOLAS HOWE 213

Citation preview

The Dating of Beowulf

The date of Beowulf, debated for almost a century, is a small question with large consequences. Does the poem provide us with an accurate if idealized view of early Germanic culture? Or is it rather a creature of nostalgia and imagination, born of the desire of a later age to create for itself a glorious past? If we cannot decide when, between the fifth and the eleventh centuries, the poem was composed, we cannot distinguish what elements in Beowulf belong properly to the history of material culture, to the history of myth and legend, to political history, or to the development of the English literary imagination. This book represents both individual and concerted attempts to deal with this important question, and presents one of the most important inconclusions in the study of Old English. The contributors raise so many doubts, turn up so much new and disturbing information, dismantle so many long-accepted scholarly constructs that Beowulf studies will never be the same: henceforth every discussion of the poem and its period will begin with reference to this volume. tColin Chase, the editor of this volume, was a member of the Department of English and the Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto.

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the dating

of beottmlf edited by COLIN CHASE

published in association with The Centre for Medieval Studies, University of Toronto by University of Toronto Press Toronto Buffalo London

University of Toronto Press 1997 Toronto Buffalo London Printed in Canada ISBN 0-8020-7879-6

Canadian Cataloguing in Publication Data Main entry under title: The Dating of Beowulf (Toronto Old English series ; no. 6) Includes index. ISBN 0-8020-7879-6 1. Beowulf- Manuscripts. 2. Manuscript dating. I. Chase, Colin, 1935-1984. II. University of Toronto. Centre for Medieval Studies. III. Series. PR1585.D38 1997



This book has been published with the help of a grant from the Publications Fund of University of Toronto Press.


vii Vlll



Opinions on the Date of Beowulf, 1815-1980 3 COLIN CHASE The Eleventh-Century Origin of Beowulf and the Beowulf Manuscript 9 KEVIN S. KIERNAN The Nowell Codex and the Poem of Beowulf LEONARD E. BOYLE O.P.


A Reconsideration of the Language of Beowulf 33 ANGUS CAMERON, ASHLEY CRANDELL AMOS, and GREGORY WAITE, with the assistance of SHARON BUTLER and ANTONETTE DIPAOLO HEALEY Metrical Style as Evidence for the Date of Beowulf THOMAS CABLE


Hetware and Hugas: Datable Anachronisms in Beowulf WALTER GOFFART Beowulf, the Danish Invasions, and Royal Genealogy ALEXANDER CALLANDER MURRAY The Audience of Beowulf and the Vikings R.I. PAGE

83 101


Skaldic Verse and the Date of Beowulf 123 ROBERTA FRANK Variation in Beowulf and the Poetic Edda: A Chronological Experiment 141 RORYMCTURK Saints' Lives, Royal Lives, and the Date of Beowulf COLIN CHASE


Style as the Criterion for Dating the Composition of Beowulf PETER CLEMOES On the Date of Composition of Beowulf JOHN C. POPE



The Date of Beowulf: Some Doubts and No Conclusions E.G. STANLEY


AFTERWORD: The Uses of Uncertainty: On the Dating of Beowulf NICHOLAS HOWE INDEX



toronto old English series General Editor

Editorial Board



1 Computers and Old English Concordances edited by Angus Cameron, Roberta Frank, and John Leyerle 2 A Plan for the Dictionary of Old English edited by Roberta Frank and Angus Cameron 3 The Stowe Psalter edited by Andrew C. Kimmens 4 The Two Versions of Wcerferth's Translation of Gregory's Dialogues: An Old English Thesaurus David Yerkes 5 Vercelli Homilies IX-XXIII edited by Paul E. Szarmach 6 The Dating of Beowulf edited by Colin Chase 7 Eleven Old English Rogationtide Homilies edited by Joyce Bazire and James E. Cross 8 Old English Word Studies: A Preliminary Author and Word Index Angus Cameron, Allison Kingsmill, and Ashley Crandell Amos 9 The Old English Life of Machutus edited by David Yerkes

editor's preface This book is the result of a scholarly dialogue which took place between the autumn of 1978 and the spring of 1981. It began when contributors were asked to compose brief statements describing the evidence they intended to investigate and the methodology each planned to adopt. These statements were circulated to all participants at the end of May, 1979. In January, 1980, contributors submitted finished papers, which were copied and circulated among the group. Everyone then met in Toronto 20-23 April, 1980, to discuss the papers and to weigh the implications of what others had said. A six-month period for revising submissions in the light of what had been heard at the conference followed. The final period, from October 1980 to spring 1981, was devoted to preparing the papers for the press. At the Toronto conference, all agreed that for our purposes the word Beowulf refers to a literary artifact at least substantially the same as the poem found in Cotton Vitellius A. XV. We agreed further to revise the papers in the light of what had been heard at the conference but not to debate directly with one another. Finally, we acknowledge with gratitude that each of us has learned from other contributors much that has had to go unnoted in the apparatus. We also gratefully acknowledge the support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, of the School of Graduate Studies of the University of Toronto and its Deans, J.F. Leyerle and E.A. McCulloch, of the Update Fund of the University of Toronto, and of the Dictionary of Old English Project, all of whom together made the Toronto conference possible. Further, we are grateful to the Centre for Medieval Studies of the University of Toronto and its Director, Norman Zacour, for supporting this project from initial planning to publication. We wish also to thank Elaine Quanz, whose typographical skill and accuracy have been an editor's delight. My personal thanks are owing in a special way to those in Toronto who undertook many editorial tasks and thus made it possible for this volume to be produced during my sabbatical absence, particularly to Walter Goffart and Antonette diPaolo Healey, who generously volunteered to help with the index; to Prudence Tracy of the University of Toronto Press, whose counsel was always wise and whose good humour was unfailing; to Anna Burko, our editorial assistant, who bore the burdens of the day's heat in my absence; and to Angus Cameron and Roberta Frank, whose generosity and hard work have at every turn made this book better.

Finally, for her cheerful efficiency and response to our needs at every stage of a long and complex project, we wish to express a special debt of gratitude to Grace Vallis, executive secretary of the Centre for Medieval Studies, to whom we dedicate this book.

C.C. Pine, Colorado June 1981

abbreviations ca. cf. ch(s). col(s). comp. diss. ed(s). e.g. esp. f(f). fol(s). fn. i.e. intro. 1(1). MS(S) n(n). N.F. no(s). OE OLF ON OS P(P). Pt. r repr. rev. s. s.a. SE

ser. s.v. trans. V


'around' 'compare' chapter(s) column(s) compiled by dissertation edition(s), editor(s), edited by 'for example' especially following folio(s) footnote 'namely' introduction line(s) manuscript(s) note(s) Neue Folge number(s) Old English Old Low Franconian Old Norse Old Saxon page(s) part recto reprint(s), reprinted revised, revised by 'century' 'under the year' southeastern series 'under the word' translation, translator, translated by verso West-Saxon early late non-

Abbreviations for grammatical terms are taken from Alistair Campbell's Old English Grammar (Oxford 1959).

ix Abbreviations


Anglo-Saxon England Anglo-Saxon Poetic Records Bibliotheque de 1'Ecole des hautes etudes, sciences historiques et philologiques Beitrdge zur Geschichte der deutschen Sprache und Literatur Early English Text Society (original series) Early English Manuscripts in Facsimile ELH Bede, Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum Journal of English and Germanic Philology Medieval Archaeology Monumenta Germaniae historica Auc tores antiquissimi Scrip to res in folio Scrip tores rerum Langobardie arum Scrip tores rerum Merovingicarum Neuphilologische Mitteilungen Proceedings of the British Academy Patrologia Latina PMLA Review of English Studies Saga-Book of the Viking Society for Northern Research Toronto Medieval Latin Texts Zeitschrift fur deutsches Altertum und deutsche Literatur

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opinions on the date of beotoulf, ) si 5-1930 COLIN CHASE The earliest published opinion as to the date of Beowulf is implied in the title of its editio princeps, printed in 1815: 'A Danish Poem in Anglo-Saxon Dialect Concerning Danish Events of the Third and Fourth Centuries.' Thorkelin was not arguing that the poem was composed in the fourth century, but he clearly envisaged a date shortly thereafter, 'for in this work we have abundant sources from which an understanding of our people's religion and poetry can be gleaned as well as a narrative of their activities in the third and fourth centuries.'1 Objections were not long in coming. Nicolaus Outzen in his 1816 review of the edition doubted so early a date, pointing out not only the many Christian references in Beowulf but its impressive literary quality as well: 'It is therefore wholly unlikely, even impossible, that a masterpiece so perfect in its art should have been brought to completion at so early a date.' 2 In the same review Outzen quoted the famous passage from Gregory of Tours describing a raid of Chlochilaichus on the Frisian coast, but apparently without fully understanding the implications. These were to be drawn out by N.F.S. Grundtvig in 1817. His identification of Chlochilaichus with Hygelac, and the conclusion that events described in the poem could be dated to between 515 and 530, put any date prior to the mid-sixth century out of the question.3 In 1849 Joseph Bachlechner identified the king referred to at line 2921 as 'the Merovingian' (merewioingas from MS mere wio ingas), correcting Grundtvig and Kemble's earlier 'sea vikings' (merewicinga). To many this identification appeared to provide a terminus ad quern of 752, on the hypothesis that it would be unlikely for an Anglo-Saxon poet to refer to the king of the Franks as 'the Merovingian' very long after that line had been replaced by the Carolingians. Levin L. Schucking, defending in 1921 a date of composition in the later ninth century, sought to revive the Grundtvig-Kemble reading as merewicingas, 'the sea-viking.' And in 1929 Alois Brandl again accepted the merewioingas reading as indicating not only a date of composition around 700 but a Mercian origin as well.4 The mid-nineteenth century was an era of source criticism. The apparent success of F. A. Wolf's Liedertheorie in explaining how the Homeric epics had been put together from earlier short ballads and K. Lachmann's solid scholarship in applying the same sort of analysis to establish the literary priority of Mark to the other synoptic Gospels influenced understanding of all earlier literature, including Beowulf. Karl Miillenhoff in 1869 analyzed Beowulf along these lines 1 'Habemus enim hie irriguos fontes, unde religionis poeseosque notitia, et gentis nostrae rerum seculis III et IV gestarum series deduci possit,' Grlmur J. Thorkelin, De Danorum rebus gestis secul. Ill & IV. Poema Danicum dialecto Anglosaxonica... (Copenhagen 1815) p. vii. There are three comprehensive bibliographies of Beowulf scholarship in print: Donald K. Fry, Beowulf and the Fight at Finnsburh: A Bibliography (Charlottesville, Va. 1969) [to 1967, alphabetically arranged by author]; Stanley B. Greenfield and Fred C. Robinson, A Bibliography of Publications on Old English Literature to the End of 1972 (Toronto 1980) pp. 125-97,esp. 137-63 [topically arranged]; Douglas D. Short, Beowulf Scholarship: An Annotated Bibliography (New York 1980) [to 1978, selective to 1950; chronologically arranged). 2 ' Es ist demnach ganz und gar kein Anschein, ja nicht einmal Moglichkeit, dass ein in seiner Art so vollendetes Meisterstuck schon in friiheren Zeiten hatte zu Stande gebracht werden konnen,' Nicolaus Outzen, 'Das angelsachsische Gedicht Beowulf, als die Schatzbarste Urkunde des hochsten Alterthums von unserm Vaterlande,' Kieler Blatter 3 (1816) 307-27, esp. p. 321. 3 N.F.S. Grundtvig, 'Om Bjovulfs Drape,' Dannevirke 2 (1817) 207-89 4 Joseph Bachlechner, 'Die Merovinge in Beowulf" ZfdA 1 (1849) 524-6; L. L. Schucking, review of R.W. Chambers' rev. ed. of A.J. Wyatt'sBeowulf, Englische Studien 55 (1921) 88-100; Alois Brandl, lBeowulfund die Merowinger' in Studies in English Philology: A Miscellany in Honor of Frederick Klaeber, ed. Kemp Malone and Martin B. Ruud (Minneapolis 1929) pp. 182-8

4 Chase: Opinions, 1815-1980

and concluded that it consisted of four originally independent lays and that about sixty percent of the extant poem had been interpolated. Clearly this kind of analysis implied a different process of composition, much harder to date, than creation of a single work by one author. Still, Miillenhoff believed that in its essential structure 'Beowulf should not be placed later, but earlier than Caedmon'; he regarded the Offa passage (1931-62) as evidence of later interpolation. 5 In 1888 Bernhard ten Brink provided an even more detailed analysis of the process of Beowulf s coming together, agreeing in principle with Miillenhoff's method but differing in many conclusions. To ten Brink, for example, the dragon fight had existed in two versions, one originating in Bernicia and combining with the story of the troll fights around 690, the other coming from Deira and remaining separate until about 710. The closest ten Brink came to arriving at a date of composition was his postulation of a final redactor in the course of the eighth century who did his best to reduce the loose collection of stories about Beowulf to a single epic. After this redactor came a true interpolator, who added the theological material. Similar analyses were made by Richard Constant Boer in 1912 and by W.A. Berendsohn in 1935, each discovering layers of material more or less removed from a set of primitive lays. Although this tradition of analysis disappeared after Berendsohn, some aspects of the theory of oral-formulaic composition, widespread in the 1950s and 1960s produced analogous results — as, for example, when Francis P. Magoun in 1963 postulated a separate origin for the final episode of the poem.6 Miillenhoff concluded his study with the modest assertion that 'perhaps the questions raised here will never find a completely satisfying answer, but first someone should undertake a precise philological study, directed towards penetrating more deeply into the history of Anglo-Saxon poetry and language.' An article which sought to do just that appeared four years later, in A. Lichtenheld's study of the weak adjective in Anglo-Saxon, based on an analysis of Beowulf, Genesis, Andreas, Maldon, and the Chronicle poems. Lichtenheld's primary interest was not to date the poems but to discover something about Old English syntax. For that purpose he accepted the current opinion that Beowulf was the earliest of the extant poems, and he concluded that its regular use of the weak adjective without definite article was good evidence for the primitive independence and emphasis of that construction. Although Lichtenheld did not intend to devise a means for dating Old English poems, his results were used that way — in 1883 by Ernst Johannes Groth, who concluded that Exodus is older than Beowulf; then by Bernhard ten Brink in the work mentioned above (1888) and by Thomas Gregory Foster in 1892. The most thorough application of what has come to be known as 'Lichtenheld's test' was carried out in 1902 by A.J. Barnouw, whose results generally confirmed the datings originally taken as premises in Lichtenheld's study. This implicit circularity in the application of Lichtenheld's test weakens it as a dating argument, of course, but does not disprove his conclusions. The test remained the object of lively scholarly controversy to the end of the 1920s.7


* [SJpater als Cadmon darf man den £eov«//jedesfalls nicht setzen, eher friiher,' Karl Miillenhoff, 'Die innere Geschichte desBeovulfs; ZfdA 14 (1869) 193-244. 6 B. A.K. ten Brink, 'Beowulf.' Untersuchungen, Quellen und Forschungen zur Sprach- und Kulturgeschichte 62 (Strassburg 1888); R.C. Boer, Die altenglische Heldendichtung, I. Beowulf (Halle 1912); Walter A. Berendsohn, Zur Vorgeschichte des 'Beowulf (Copenhagen 1935); F.P. Magoun, 'Beowulf B: A Folk-Poem on B£owulf's Death' in Early English and Norse Studies: Presented to Hugh Smith in Honour of his Sixtieth Birthday, ed. Arthur Brown and Peter Foote (London 1963) pp. 127-40. 7 ' [Vjielleicht aber wird auf die fragen, die hier beriihrt sind, nie eine ganz geniigende antwort gefunden werden, obgleich ein genaueres philologisches studium der angelsachsischen poesie und sprache, das in ihre geschichte tiefer einzudringen strebt, erst beginnen soil,' Miillenhoff, 'Innere Geschichte' pp. 243-4; A. Lichtenheld, 'Das schwache Adjectiv im Ags.,' ZfdA 16 (1873) 325-93; E.J. Groth, Composition und Alter der altenglischen [angelsachsischen] Exodus, (GOttingen diss.; Gottingen 1883);T.G. Foster, Judith: Studies in Metre, Language, and Style, with a View to Determining the Date of the Oldenglish Fragment and the Home of its Author,

5 Chase: Opinions, 1815-1980

Shortly after the publication of Barnouw's study, Lorenz Morsbach applied another dating criterion directly to Beowulf. On the basis of comparison of datable early texts, he felt he had solid evidence that the loss of final u after long root syllables and of postconsonantal h before vowels occurred close to the year 700 and that Beowulf iheiefore had to have been composed after that date. In 1910 Carl Richter added another pair to Morsbach's tests; they involved contraction caused by the loss of intervocalic h and the monosyllabic or disyllabic appearance of words ending in /, m, n, or r. Richter applied these tests to the whole range of Old English poetry. In 1913, however, Friedrich Seiffert showed that application of Richter's two tests to Beowulf and Genesis A yielded conflicting results. Although scholarly opinion was, and continues to be, divided on the value of the metrical-linguistic tests, few refinements or creative modifications have been proposed since Gregor Sarrazin's wide-ranging study of 1913.8 Investigation of medieval cultural and historical backgrounds for possible clues to the date of Beowulf has been a scholarly endeavour since Thorkelin first suggested third- and fourth-century Denmark, although nineteenth-century interest was displayed more often in the compositional analysis and objective tests described above. In 1892, however, John Earle began his prose translation of the poem with an extensive introduction, in which he argued that 'the praise of Off a I is in the nature of incense to Offa II,' that 'the fictitious name of Thrytho has been suggested (at least in part) by the name of the Mercian queen Cynethryth,' and that 'the names of Garmund, Offa, and Eomaer shadow forth the pedigree of the Mercian kings,' concluding that the poem is a political allegory written in the last quarter of the eighth century for Ecgferth, son of Offa. Frederick Running in 1883 had suggested the latter half of the eighth century, but without the sort of historical speculation appealed to by Earle. Fifty years after Earle, George Bond employed a similar kind of onomastic allegory to correlate Beowulf with the political climate in the reigns of Beornwulf (823-6) and Wiglaf (828-38) of Mercia. Not until 1951, however, was the court of Offa of Mercia again suggested. In that year Dorothy Whitelock urged scholars not to remain so fixed on Bede's Northumbria as to disregard the possibility of composition in Mercia of the later eighth century. She pressed her argument, however, wholly without the benefit of political allegory.9 In 1917 Levin L. Schiicking provoked strong scholarly reaction by his suggestion that Beowulf was composed at a Danish court in England in the last decade of the ninth century at the earliest. His reasons were largely historical. What interest would an audience in Northumbria or Mercia Quellen und Forschungen zur Sprach- und Kulturgeschichte 71 (Strassburg 1892); Adriaan J. Barnouw, Textkritische Untersuchungen nach dem Gebrauch des bestimmten Artikels und des schwachen Adjectivs in der altenglischen Poesie (Leiden 1902); a thorough summary and evaluation of all the linguistic and metrical tests can be found in Ashley Crandell Amos, Linguistic Means of Determining the Dates of Old English Literary Texts, Medieval Academy Books 90 (Cambridge, Mass. 1980), upon which much of what is said here is based. A point made by Amos and brought out by others several times at the Toronto conference seems worth emphasizing. That Beowulf regularly alliterates palatal and velar g while the Battle of Maldon and other late tenth-century poems do not 'is probably a valid chronological criterion.' (See Amos, pp. 100-02, esp. 102.) If this is true, a date after the mid-tenth century is quite unlikely on metrical grounds alone. Somehow this point failed to appear in any of the papers which follow. 8 Lorenz Morsbach, 'Zur Datierung des Beowulfepos,'Nachrichten von derkdnigl Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften zu Gottingen, phil-hist. Klasse (1906) pp. 251-77; Carl Richter, Chronologische Studien zur angelsachsische Literatur... Studien zur englischen Philologie 33 (Halle 1910); Friedrich Seiffert, Die Behandlung der Worter mit auslautenden ursprunglich silbischen Liquiden oder Nasalen und mit Kontractionsvokalen in der Genesis A und im Beowulf (Halle-Wittenberg diss.; Halle 1913); Gregor Sarrazin, Von Kadmon bis Kynewulf: Eine litterarhistorische Studie (Berlin 1913) 9 John Earle, The Deeds of Beowulf: An English Epic of the Eighth Century Done into Modern Prose (Oxford 1892) pp. Ixxv-lxxxvii, esp. Ixxxvi-lxxxvii; Frederick Running, Beovulfs-Kvadet: en liter&r-historisk undersgelse (Copenhagen 1883); George Bond, 'Links Between Beowulf and Mercian History,' Studies in Philology 40 (1943) 481-93; Dorothy Whitelock, The Audience of Beowulf (Oxford 1951) pp. 19-33 and passim

6 Chase: Opinions, 1815-1980

have had in a poem written from so thoroughly Danish a perspective? Why would an English poet composing for an English audience have filled his poem with so much ancient Scandinavian lore, unlikely to have been familiar in England? The answer, to Schticking, was that an English poet had composed Beowulf for a Danish court, possibly in order to help the king's children learn English. The earliest period at which such a thing could have happened would have been the end of the ninth century, when Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian culture first began to mix in England. Schiicking had also argued in an earlier study that the account of Beowulf's return to his home after the adventures in Denmark had been composed to link two previously independent poems. In 1977 Nicolas Jacobs examined aspects of Schiicking's arguments for a ninth- or tenth-century date and concluded that the common objection, originating with a comment of Grundtvig and repeated by Dorothy Whitelock, that the poem could not have been composed after the viking raids on England began in earnest in 835, is without solid historical foundation: 'To sum up: a review of Anglo-Danish relations suggests that any periods in which political considerations may have discouraged the composition of Beowulf are likely to have been brief and at most intermittent.' 10 In the interim, however, between Schiicking's article in 1917 and Whitelock's book in 1951, speculation revolved largely around dates in the late seventh or early eighth century. In 1920 F. Liebermann published a study which concluded that the poem might have been written at the court of Cuthburg, sister of Ine of Wessex and wife of Aldfrith. In a similar vein, in 1922 Albert S. Cook argued on behalf of the patronage of king Aldfrith with some classical influence from Aldhelm. To Cook, the Offa passage (1931-62) was a veiled reference to Aldfrith, whose enmity with his half-sister Osthryth, queen of Mercia, is expressed in lines 1955-60. Both of these authors dated the poem within Aldfrith's rule (685-704). At the conclusion of the decade W.W. Lawrence urged a similar date (675 -725), largely on the basis of the quality of Northumbrian culture around the time of Bede and the fresh conjunction of Christianity and Mediterranean learning in the period. Then in 1937 C.C. Batchelor discerned evidence of Pelagianism in Beowulf that, to him, seemed to offer a clue to its date of composition: 'If the poet wrote early, about the year 700 or earlier, he might well have the trustful love of God, devoid of fear. His religion might be patterned, without his knowing why, after Pelagius rather than after Augustine .... In the South a faith of this type would encounter difficulty; in the North, too, it would not be likely to occur very much later than 705, the death of Aldfrith.' 11 Two years prior to Batchelor's study Ritchie Girvan had published a set of three lectures reexamining linguistic, cultural, historical, and folkloric evidence to support a date of composition in the second half of the seventh century. When the book was reissued in 1971, it included a supplementary chapter by R.L.S. Bruce-Mitford on the relation to Beowulf of the discovery in 1939 of a burial-ship laden with treasure at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk. Bruce-Mitford's remarks generally support Girvan's conclusions, though not all his arguments, giving special emphasis to a possible connection between early Swedish and East Anglian rulers that he saw reflected in Beowulf. This Swedish connection had been discussed in 1948 by Sune Lindqvist, who accepted a date for Beowulf of ca. 700 and felt the poem could have been composed to honour the Uffingas, 'a 10

L.L. Schucking, 'Wann entstand der Beowulf? Glossen, Zweifel, und Fragen,' BGdSL 42 (1917) 347-410, and Beowulfs Ruckkehr, Studien zur englischen Philologie 21 (Halle 1905); Nicolas Jacobs, 'Anglo-Danish Relations, Poetic Archaism, and the Date of Beowulf': A Reconsideration of the Evidence; Poetica (Tokyo) 8 (1977) 2343,esp. 24-5 11 Felix Liebermann, 'Ort und Zeit der Beowulfdichtung,' Nachrichten von der k'onigl. Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften zu Gottingen, phil-hist. Klasse (1920) pp. 253-76; A.S. Cook, 'The Possible Begetter of the Old English Beowulf and Widsith,' Transactions of the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences 25 (1922) 281-346, esp. 317; William W. Lawrence, Beowulf and Epic Tradition (Cambridge, Mass. 1930 [repr.]) pp. 244-91, esp. 280; C.C. Batchelor, 'The Style of Beowulf: A Study of the Composition of the Poem,' Speculum 12 (1937) 330-42, esp. 333

7 Chase: Opinions, 1815-1980

branch of the Royal House of Uppsala and descendants of Wiglaf.' C.L. Wrenn in 1959 also considered Sutton Hoo but appeared undecided between the implications of the ship-burial, favouring a date in the late seventh or very early eighth century, and the arguments of Dorothy Whitelock on behalf of a date between 750 and 800 in Mercia. Wrenn had moved from a firm dating of ca. 700 in the 1950 introduction to his revised edition of Clark Hall's translation, to a less firm dating of prior to 750 in his own edition of 1953. In the latter he placed much emphasis on the implication of the archaic instrumental wundini which some scholars see at line 1382.12 In 1951 Dorothy Whitelock urged scholars to reconsider whether Beowulf should be assigned to the 'age of Bede' — not 'that the poem could not have been composed then, but merely that it need not have been.' Her opinion was based on three lines of thought: scepticism concerning the usefulness of previous linguistic analysis for dating, particularly if Cynewulf's work is later than generally thought; the extent and complexity of Christian diction in the poem, implying an audience at some remove from the time of the conversion; and a sense that our more complete knowledge of Bede's time might be diverting attention from other, equally possible eras and locales, such as the Mercian court of Offa. At the same time, she argued against a date of composition after 835, 'when the Viking invasions began in earnest,' because of the respect and honour showed to the Danes in the poem. Her views influenced some scholars to reconsider Offa and the later eighth century, for example C.L. Wrenn, who modified earlier opinions, as discussed above. Similarly, Kenneth Sisam in 1953 inclined towards the later eighth century on the basis of the Offa allusion, if the poem really is the work of one man. 13 Perhaps a more important effect of Whitelock's study, however, was to encourage scholars to investigate periods and places other than those commonly accepted, even those outside the boundaries she considered admissible. Since 1951 several studies have appeared investigating a possible ninth- or tenth-century date for the poem — an idea that seemed to have died after Schiicking's article of 1917. In 1961, for example, Gosta Langenfelt suggested the beginning of the ninth century, explaining the presence of Scandinavian elements in the poem by the activity of Carolingian missionaries. In 1957, Robert L. Reynolds argued on the basis of economic and social history and a connection between Beowulf and the Wonders of the East that the poem was composed in the late ninth century at the earliest, and more probably at some time in the tenth.Then in 1977 Norman Blake mounted an argument that most of the corpus of Old English poetry was composed in the late ninth or early tenth century, while in the following year Nicolas Jacobs, in an article discussed above, raised the possibility of a similar date for Beowulf.14 12 Ritchie Girvan, Beowulf and the Seventh Century (London 1935; reissued 1971); Sune Lindqvist, 'Sutton Hoo och Beowulf',' Fornvannen 43 (1948) 94-110; trans, and ed. R.L.S. Bruce-Mitford^wr^M/fy 22 (1948) 131-40, esp. 140 from which I quote; C. L. Wrenn, 'Sutton Hoo and Beowulf in Melanges de linguistique et de philologie: Fernand Mosse in memoriam (Paris 1959) pp. 495-507;repr. in An Anthology of Beowulf Criticism, comp. Lewis E. Nicholson (Notre Dame 1963) pp. 311-30; John R. Clark Hall, trans., Beowulf and the Finnesburg Fragment, rev. ed. with notes and intro. by C.L. Wrenn and preface by J.R.R. Tolkien (London 1950); Charles L. Wrenn, ed., Beowulf with the Finnesburg Fragment (London 1953) pp. 32-7 13 Whitelock, Audience p. 25 and see above, n. 9; Kenneth Sisam, 'Dialect Origins of the Earlier Old English Verse' in his Studies in the History of Old English Literature (Oxford 1953) pp. 119-39 14 Gosta Langenfelt, 'Beowulf och Fornsverige: Ett forsok till datering av den fornengelska hjaltedikten,' Ortnamnssdllskapets i Uppsala Arshrift (1961) pp. 35-55; 'Tillagg till "Beowulf och Fornsverige ...",' ibid. (1962) pp. 37-8; R.L. Reynolds, 'Note on Beowulf's Date and Economic Social History,' Studi in onore di Armando Sapori, 2 vols. (Milan 1957) I, 175-8; N.F. Blake, 'The Dating of Old English Poetry' in An English Miscellany Presented to W.S. Mackie, ed. Brian S. Lee (Cape Town 1977) pp. 14-27. A further example is Edward Kolb's 1965 note suggesting a ninth- or tenth-century date for the poem. Arguing the necessity for an emendation of ford to bord at line 568, he then sees an allusion to high viking ships. 'Beowulf 568: An Emendation,' English Studies 46 (1965) 322-3.

8 Chase: Opinions, 1815-1980

This is not to say, however, that more traditional positions on the question have been abandoned. For example, in 1978 alone Patrick Wormald and W.F. Bolton each published extensive commentaries on the background of the poem, assuming an eighth-century date of composition. Again, in 1974 Eric John argued for a date more or less in the age of Bede, on the basis of the system of land tenure he saw in the poem. Further, a survey of more than eighty percent of the editions and translations since 1815 fails to turn up any editor or commentator since Thorkelin who firmly commits himself to a date outside the range 650-800. Nevertheless, some commentators reach an extreme limit of scepticism, as when Bruce Mitchell said in 1968 that 'examination of the language can do little more than confirm the possibility that the poem was composed between c. 680 and 800 (or perhaps later).'15 In the long history of scholarly interest in this subject few chronological facts have been so clear and convincing as to command immediate and lasting agreement. Only two, in fact, come to mind: Grundtvig's identification of Chlochilaichus with Hygelac, and the general scholarly consensus that the manuscript dates from near the year 1000. Every other inference relating to the date of Beowulf s composition is sufficiently ambiguous as to make the subject seem ready for reexamination.

15 Patrick Wormald, 'Bede, Beowulf, and the Conversion of the Anglo-Saxon Aristocracy' in Bede and AngloSaxon England: Papers in Honour of the 1300th Anniversary of the Birth of Bede ... ed. Robert T. Farrell, British Archaeological Reports 46 (Oxford 1978) pp. 32-95; Whitney F. Bolton, Alcuin and Beowulf: An Eighth-Century View (New Brunswick, N. J. 1978); Eric John, 'Beowulf and the Margins of Literacy/ Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester 56 (1973-4) 388-422; Kevin Crossley-Holland, trans., Beowulf, with intro. by Bruce Mitchell (New York 1968) p. 5

the EletoentlKenturj) origin of bcotoulf and the beottmlf manuscript KEVIN S. KIERNAN Until now no one has investigated the possibility that Beowulf was composed at the time of its only surviving manuscript. Indeed, since the inauguration of Beowulf studies in the early nineteenth century, scholars have shown surprisingly little interest in the unique Beowulf manuscript. 1 Facsimiles have been available for the past century, seemingly belying this assertion, but to a large extent they have only impeded a real understanding of the manuscript.2 They are surely unreliable, if not actually worthless, as primary sources for detailed palaeographical and codicological research. The curious neglect of the Beowulf manuscript is owing not so much to the early accessibility of the facsimiles, however, as to the earlier theory that relegated the manuscript itself to the status of a poor facsimile. The manuscript was universally presumed to be, at best, a reproduction of a reproduction, the last fuzzy stage of an incalculably long and complicated transmission of the original text. This theory is founded on linguistic and historical assumptions that many scholars now consider fallacious.3 Linguistic and historical arguments can, at any rate, serve a late date of composition at least as well as an early one, and thus can dissolve the biases that have so far precluded any serious interest in the manuscript. There is reason to be interested, for the palaeographical and codicological features of the Beowulf manuscript consistently suggest that Beowulf is contemporary with its extant manuscript. * This article is a summary of the relevant palaeographical and codicological arguments in Kevin S. Kiernan, Beowulf and the Beowulf Manuscript (New Brunswick, N. J. 1981). My initial investigation of BL MS. Cotton Vitellius A. XV was made throughout April 1977. I carefully rechecked all palaeographical and codicological descriptions against the MS in March 1979, after my book was written. I am extremely grateful to the officials in the Department of Manuscripts in the British Library for giving me daily and unlimited access to the MS during these periods. 1 Prior to 1981, the only extensive description of the entire codex, BL MS. Cotton Vitellius A. XV, was Max Forster's Die Beowulf-Handschrift, Berichte iiber die Verhandlungen der sachsischen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Leipzig, phil-hist. Klasse 71 (Leipzig 1919). The few major studies of the part known as the No well Codex, which includes the Beowulf MS, are in Stanley I. Rypins, Three Old English Prose Texts in MS. Cotton Vitellius A. XV, EETS 161 (London 1924) pp. vii-xxix; Kenneth Sisam, Studies in the History of Old English Literature (Oxford 1953) pp. 61-96; and Kemp Malone, The Nowell Codex (British Museum Cotton Vitellius A. XV. Second MS), EEMF 12 (Copenhagen 1963). The only thorough palaeographical study of the Beowulf MS per se is Tilman Westphalen, Beowulf 3150-55: Textkritik und Editionsgeschichte (Munich 1967). 2 Most eds. are founded on Julius Zupitza's facsimile, Beowulf: Autotypes of the Unique Cotton MS. Vitellius A. XV in the British Museum, with a Transliteration and Notes, EETS o.s. 77 (London 1882); 2nd ed., Containing a New Reproduction of the Manuscript with an Introductory Note by Norman Davis, EETS 245 (London 1959; repr. 1967). Indeed, though most editors have of course consulted the MS for specific readings, I know of no modern ed. founded on the MS itself. The facsimile achieved its special status not because scholars had been convinced that it was a uniformly reliable reproduction of the MS (it is not), but because Zupitza's 'transliteration' is actually a convenient restoration, incorporating Thorkelin readings wherever the MS was defective. As Zupitza himself said, 'The transliteration contains more than can be read in the Facsimile or even in the manuscript, inasmuch as it has been my endeavour to give the text as far as possible in that condition in which it stood in the manuscript a century ago' (p. xviii). Thus by 1882, Zupitza had seemingly preempted the need to study the MS at first hand. Editors have neglected the Thorkelin transcripts for the same reason. 3 In addition to many of the articles in this volume, see Ashley Crandell Amos, Linguistic Means of Determining the Dates of Old English Literary Texts, Medieval Academy Books 90 (Cambridge, Mass. 1980); N.F. Blake, 'The Dating of Old English Poetry' in An English Miscellany Presented to W. S. Mackie ed. Brian S. Lee (London 1977) pp. 14-27; Nicolas Jacobs, 'Anglo-Danish Relations, Poetic Archaism, and the Date of Beowulf: A Reconsideration of the Evidence,' Poetica (Tokyo) 8 (1977) 23-43; and J.D. Niles, 'The Danes

10 Kiernan: The Eleventh-Century Origin

Neil R. Ker, the acknowledged authority on Anglo-Saxon palaeography, dates the Beowulf manuscript by its script alone at the beginning of the eleventh century. 4 Though his dating code for the manuscript, 's. X/XI,' is usually reduced by scholars, for convenience, to 'around the year 1000,' Ker in fact warns us that approximate year-numbers like these are 'not satisfactory dates for manuscripts datable only by their script and decoration unless we remember how approximate they must be' (p. xx). He prefers to assign half-century limits for such manuscripts, so that's. X/XI' is best interpreted as (roughly) 975-1025. However, the nature of the Beowulf text and the political history of the period make it possible to reduce these limits considerably. Through the long, calamitous reign of ^thelred Unraed (978-1014), England was mercilessly attacked and plundered by vikings, most ferociously and effectively by Danish Scyldings under Sveinn Forkbeard. 5 Since the opening lines of Beowulf unabashedly celebrate the founding of the Danish Scylding line, it is difficult to imagine Anglo-Saxon scribes placidly copying the Beowulf manuscript during ^thelred's reign. By 1016, however, the political situation had changed completely. England had by then become the centre of the Danish Scylding dynasty, under the strong and peaceful rule of Knut the Great (1016-35), son of Sveinn and descendant of the legendary Scyld.6 The most probable time of the manuscript, then, is sometime after 1016, when the genealogical panegyric was a compliment, rather than an insult, to the reigning king. Knut's reign is also an eminently appropriate time for the composition of Beowulf, providing as it does a splendid confluence of Anglo-Saxon poetry and Scandinavian lore. The nature of the palaeographical and codicological evidence supporting an eleventh-century provenance for both Beowulf and the Beowulf manuscript requires a meticulous distinction between the manuscript and its facsimiles. The caveat is applicable to all studies of manuscripts, of course, but it has particular relevance in this case. Most of the evidence can be gathered only by direct access to the manuscript, while some spurious evidence, derived from facsimiles alone, vanishes by looking in the manuscript. Thus John Pope, who relied on ultraviolet photographs for his first edition of The Rhythm of Beowulf, was misled by a hole, some shine-through, and some dirt on the last page of the Beowulf manuscript; after examining the manuscript itself in 1964 for the second edition, he withdrew several suggested readings, supported by the photographs but not by the manuscript. 7 Kemp Malone, who of course had extensively studied the manuscript in preparing his facsimile of the Nowell Codex, nonetheless relied on a facsimile alone for the reading 'fcer (?),' supposedly written 'in a much later hand' above line 2 of folio

4 5



and the Date of Beowulf,' a paper read at the meeting of the Medieval Association of the Pacific on 28 March 1980. Catalogue of Manuscripts Containing Anglo-Saxon (Oxford 1957) pp. xvii, 281. Ker states that a date 'at the beginning ... of the half-century would be expressed as s. x/xi' (p. xx), the date he assigns the Beowulf MS. The Chronicle for these years reads like a list of viking depredations; see Two of the Saxon Chronicles Parallel, ed. John Earle (1865), rev. Charles Piummer, I (Oxford 1892). Sveinn Forkbeard began tormenting England in 994, when he and Olafr Tryggvason of Norway descended with a fleet of 94 warships, in what Frank M. Stenton has called 'the most formidable invasion which England had experienced for half a century.' AngloSaxon England, 3rd ed. (Oxford 1971) p. 378. Sveinn conquered England in 1014. For the Norse genealogy from Scyld to Knut, see the Latin abstract of the Skfoldunga saga in Arngrimi Jonae opera, ed. Jakob Benediktsson (Copenhagen 1950) pp. 333-86; the well-known West-Saxon genealogy that includes Scyld does not, of course, list the later Danish kings, like Healfdene and Hrothgar. Obviously, 11. 163 of Beowulf follow the Norse line. See Chronicle A s.a. 855, and The Chronicle ofAZthelweard, ed. Alistair Campbell (New York 1962) pp. 32-3. All references to an edited text of Beowulf are from Frederick Klaeber, Beowulf and The Fight at Finnsburg, 3rd ed. (Boston 1950). 'Preface to the 1966 Edition' (New Haven 1966) pp. xxiv-xxxi. As Pope's experience implies, there is a great difference between studying an ultraviolet photograph and studying the MS under ultraviolet light. Note

11 Kiernan: The Eleventh-Century Origin

179v; in the manuscript this 'reading' is nothing more than a smudge of dirt on the vellum.8 And C.L. Wrenn, who established *wun[d] ini as a proof of the early date of Beowulf, unfortunately based his reading on a facsimile, too, for the d he believed to be lost was in fact merely covered by the paper mounting, and the -ini is clearly -mi in the manuscript. 9 In short, facsimiles can be dangerous, and scholars and editors of Beowulf h^vQ not always used them with due caution. Modem technology has yet to produce a facsimile of Beowulf th^i can furnish uniformly reliable information on such vital details as scribal proofreading, changes in ink, the texture and discolouration of vellum, sheet collations, drypoint rulings, measurements, erasures, and palimpsests.10 With time, care, good eyesight, and an open mind, the student of the manuscript itself will not be fooled, as one can easily be with facsimiles, by holes, tears, dirt, stains, shadows, wrinkles, shine-through, off-prints, burns, or the paper mountings. A collation of the vellum leaves of the entire Nowell Codex reveals that, in all probability, Beowulf was originally copied as a separate book that was later added to the prose part of the codex. Though the threads, folds, and prick-marks from the original gatherings were all destroyed in the Cottonian Library fire of 1731, a collation of the hair and flesh sides of the separate vellum leaves can determine which leaves were probably conjugate and which leaves were certainly not. The collation shows that Beowulf could have begun either on the seventh leaf of a quarternion (the traditional view) or on the first leaf of a new gathering. In the absence of the prick-marks, the rulings themselves are not sufficient to confirm either view, however, since the sheets were ruled separately for the most part. Even with the same prick-marks it would have been impossible for the scribe to rule all of the separate sheets invariably alike, and in fact there are often noticeable discrepancies in the rulings within discrete gatherings of the Beowulf manuscript. As a result, though the width and length of the writing grid for the first leaf of Beowulf differs slightly from those of the preceding leaf, it would be unsafe to use this evidence as definitive proof that Beowulf began a new gathering. Nonetheless, since the second gathering of the prose codex is certainly a trine, while the third and fourth gatherings are trines expanded to quires by the addition of half-sheets, it is reasonable to conclude that the fifth gathering was also a trine, all that was needed to finish copying the prose texts, and that Beowulf thus began on a new gathering. that both Malone and Davis favour an ordinary photograph over an ultraviolet one for the last page of the MS (Nowell Codex p. 120, and Zupitza-Davis,£eoww//p. v), while both make use of A.H. Smith's transcription (pp. 105-8, vii-xii), which Smith says he 'derived from panchromatic and ultra-violet fluorescence photographs and the visual examination of fluorescence effects under the ultra-violet light.' 'The Photography of Manuscripts,' London Mediaeval Studies 1 (1938) 202. 8 See Nowell Codex p. 85, under fol. 182v. Like Zupitza, I adhere to the old foliation numbers still visible on the vellum leaves of the MS. For the many advantages of the MS foliation over the 1884 foliation Malone follows, see 'The History and Construction of the Composite Codex' in Beowulf and the Beowulf Manuscript, pp. 65-169, esp. 71-110. 9 Beowulf with the Finnesburg Fragment, 3rd ed. rev. W.F. Bolton (New York 1973) p. 130 n. As Zupitza says, letters covered by the paper mounting can normally be seen by holding the vellum to the light (ZupitzaDavis, Beowulf p. xix). In the case of wun/dmi on fol. 160v4-5, the d can now be seen in the new facsimiles because the paper that once covered it was trimmed. The m, too, is clear in the new facsimiles, though its first minim is distorted by shine-through. 10 Some of these features, to a large extent readily discernible by the naked eye in the MS but obscured by black-and-white facsimiles, can be reproduced in colour photographs. See, e.g., the colour facsimile of fol. 179r, the frontispiece of Beowulf and the Beowulf Manuscript. For other technological means that may yet produce better facsimiles of the Beowulf US, see Applied Infrared Photography, Eastman Kodak Publication no. M-28 (Rochester, N.Y. 1977); and J.F. Benton, A.R. Gillespie, and J.M. Soha, 'Digital Image-Processing Applied to the Photography of Manuscripts: With Examples Drawn from the Pincus MS. of Arnald of Villanova,' Scriptorium 33 (1979)40-55.

12 Kiernan: The Eleventh-Century Origin

This conclusion is well supported by other palaeographical and codicological evidence. On the first page of Beowulf, for instance, the unusually heavy rulings, which have split the vellum at both margins, suggest that the page was on the outside of its gathering; in the bottom margin the worn signature, Vi[tellius] A 15, indicates that the poem was a separable part of the codex; in the first line the sudden and remarkable change in the scribe's way of drawing capitals suggests a new codex; and in the bottom third of the page the damage to the text was most likely caused by sweat and friction when the page served as an outside cover. 1! There is more pervasive corroboration, too. An exhaustive study of the scribal proofreading throughout the Nowell Codex reveals that only Beowulf'was thoroughly and repeatedly proofread and intelligently corrected by both scribes. The second scribe even corrected the first scribe's work in Beowulf (but not in the preceding prose texts), and in addition to making some needed corrections made a few unnecessary emendations, apparently to standardize the two scribes' divergent orthography. 12 The second scribe's special connection with the Beowulf manuscript, moreover, was not limited to copying, proofreading, and making selective emendations. The manuscript must have remained in his possession, for he continued to work with it long after he had first copied his part of the poem. He later restored readings which had been damaged by accident (eowru cynne, for example, on folio 192v2) or by ordinary wear and tear (most notably on the last page of the manuscript, where he freshened up a badly faded text). There can be no doubt, at least, that both scribes understood Beowulf and treated the Beowulf manuscript as if it were a separate, and important, codex. The most extraordinary example of the second scribe's special connection with the Beowulf manuscript is that he later copied a new text on a palimpsest of folio 179. The palimpsest accordingly provides us with startling palaeographical and codicological evidence that part of Beowulf was actually revised in the course of the eleventh century, long after the original text was copied. The discovery of the palimpsest was made by Tilman Westphalen, who published his stunning findings in 1967.13 A century ago Zupitza, presumably observing the unusual condition of the vellum and the strange appearance of the script on the folio, had concluded without due explanation that 'all that is distinct in the FS. in folio 179 has been freshened up by a later hand in the MS.' 14 A codicological study of the manuscript alone shows quite convincingly that folio 179 is a palimpsest. The sheet collation shows unequivocally that it and folio 188 formed the outside sheet of the penultimate gathering of Beowulf, yet it is equally clear that only folio 179 was subsequently washed down and heavily scoured, without affecting the conjugate leaf. 15 Hence the original text on folio 179 was erased. Westphalen showed that the folio was a palimpsest by a systematic palaeographical study, a letter-by-letter comparison of the script with the second scribe's handwriting in the rest of the manuscript. His brilliant discussion of Zupitza's 'freshening up' theory reveals that the scribe's handwriting on this folio 11

12 13 14 15

Both Thorkelin transcripts confirm that the damage was not done by modern readers of the MS. See The Thorkelin Transcripts of Beowulf, ed. Kemp Malone, EEMF 1 (Copenhagen 1951) pp. 1, la. As far as it goes, Humphrey Wanley's transcript confirms this conclusion, for Wanley copied aldor[le]ase as aldor... ase in 1705. Antiquae literaturae septentrionalis liber alter, sen Humphredi Wanleii librorum veterum septentrionalium ... catalogus historico-criticus... (Oxford 1705), repr. English Linguistics: 1500-1800, 248 (Menston, England 1970) p. 219. E.g. he emends -scaoan to -sceaftan on fol. 140vl4 and -peo to -peow on fol. 144r5, though the original spellings are not wrong, and indeed occur frequently in the first scribe's section of the MS. Seen. 1. Zupitza-Davis,£eoww//p. 102 The black-and-white facsimiles very inadequately represent the marked difference in texture and colouration, caused by the palimpsesting of fol. 179, between fols. 179 and 188. The apparent similarity between fols. 179v and 188r, the flesh side of the sheet, is especially misleading.

13 Kiernan: The Eleventh-Century Origin

had evolved into a more modem script, similar in some ways to the first scribe's.16 The evolution of the second scribe's fl, from a four-sided angular letter to a three-sided rounded one, is particularly illustrative. 17 Westphalen reasonably estimated that this kind of development in a professional scribe's handwriting must have taken a long time, up to twenty years. The palimpsest and the later script of folio 179 are by definition incompatible with the old belief that the Beowulf manuscript is a late, purely mechanical copy of a much earlier poem. In his effort to reconcile them, Westphalen subordinated the facts he had discovered to the theories that the poem was early and that the text on folio 179 was necessarily the original text, freshened up. This unnatural union accounts for his uncharacteristically diffident hypothesis that someone in need of vellum must have randomly chosen the Beowulf manuscript as a good source for palimpsests; 18 and that the second scribe, ten to twenty years older, luckily discovered the vandalism and restored what he could still see of the original text. The evidence, however, does not well support this part of Westphalen's otherwise splendid refinements of Zupitza's 'freshening up' theory, and points instead to the conclusion that the second scribe himself made the palimpsest for the customary purpose of providing vellum for a new text, in this case for a late revision of Beowulf. As A.H. Smith says, the script on the folio does not display 'that hesitation and lack of coincidence usually associated with freshening up, forgery, and the like.' 19 Surely the evolution of the scribe's letter-forms could not have been so convincingly documented by Westphalen if the scribe had in fact been laboriously restoring the erased original, for then he would have been tracing over his old letter-forms. Moreover, some of the supposedly freshened up material cannot be logically attributed to the original. It is hard to believe, for example, that the scribe restored the mistake and the superscript correction of it at the end of line 9 on the recto. It is equally unlikely that the many strange spellings, unparalleled in the rest of the manuscript, were original readings. In a late revision, on the other hand, the scribe's mistake and correction are no cause for wonder, while his anomalous spellings, like hard for heard in line 15 on the verso, can be consistently explained as natural signs of attrition in the late West-Saxon literary dialect, which began to break down in non-West-Saxon territory as the eleventh century advanced. 20 Finally, a close look at the badly damaged condition of the text on the palimpsest, particularly at the textual lacunas, shows conclusively that we are faced with a revision, not a mere restoration of the original text. The text we now have is shorter than the original, for the erased first line on the verso was almost certainly a dittograph in the revision from r20-21: [b]roga ... sceapen can be read with confidence. As this line also illustrates, parts of the revised text were later erased. In fact, most of the gaps on the recto are erasures made after the new text was copied, 21 not parts of the original text, which the scribe was unable to freshen up. Thus a full restoration of the revised text, not of the original one, was never completed. The incipient state of the text on the palimpsest, and the fact that it displays in any case a 16 17 18 19 20

Tex tkritik pp. 41 -109 Ibid. pp. 65-7 Ibid. p. 96 'Photography of Manuscripts'p. 200 See Sisam, Studies p. 153. For the first modem grammar of late West-Saxon, or 'the Classical Old English of about A.D. 1000,' see Randolph Quirk and C.L. Wrenn,y4« Old English Grammar, 2nd ed. (London 1957; repr. 197 9) p. vii. 21 The erasure made between hea and hord in 1. 5 left a filmy residue on the a of hea, thus proving that the erasure was made after the new text was copied on the folio. The erasures in these gaps on the recto were evidently made while the vellum was damp, for the skin in these areas is unusually rough, with a grey discolouration that becomes fluorescent under ultraviolet light.

14 Kiernan: The Eleventh-Century Origin

later script than the rest of the manuscript, opens the possibility that the Beowulf manuscript amounts to an unfinished draft of the poem. As incredible as an extant draft of Beowulf may seem to some readers, there is considerable palaeographical and codicological support for the view that the Beowulf manuscript in fact preserves for us the last formative stages in the creation of the epic. Three lines of text thematically related to the new text on the palimpsest have been imperfectly but deliberately deleted on the next folio, 180vl-3. 22 The erasing was never finished, though it seems likely that the vellum was being prepared for a new text as well. Presumably both folios 179 and 180vl-3 are part of the same revision-in-progress. An analysis of the construction of the Beowulf manuscript provides a possible explanation for the purpose of this revision. As we have seen, the palimpsest is the first leaf of the last two gatherings of the manuscript, and as such begins a self-contained unit of the manuscript. Moreover, the number of sheets in these last two gatherings, the manner in which the sheets are arranged, the number of rulings, and the width of the writing grid, are all features that differ sharply from the established format of the rest of the Beowulf manuscript. It is therefore possible that this part of the manuscript formerly existed separately, and was artificially appended to the extant manuscript by the second scribe.23 If so, the revised text on the palimpsest may have been written (or copied) by this scribe at a later time to provide a smoother, more natural transition between two, originally distinct, and perhaps even totally unrelated manuscripts. The theory of a composite manuscript is substantiated by other palaeographical and codicological facts in both scribes' sections of the manuscript. Before considering this evidence, however, one ought to note the relevant textual context in which it is found. The main palaeographical and codicological evidence, which can be characterized as unprecedented signs of extemporizing in the copying of the manuscript, is all found in the section of the text known as 'Beowulf's Homecoming,' a narrative unit that makes the vital transition between Beowulf's youthful exploits in Denmark and the confrontation in his old age with the dragon in Geatland.24 The first scribe copied all of the section on Beowulf's youthful exploits in the first five gatherings of the Beowulf manuscript, and in the first fourteen lines of the next gathering (up to line 1887); the second scribe copied all of the section on Beowulf's last fight, from the last six lines of this same gathering (from line 2200) to the end of the manuscript. The two scribes divided the copying of the transitional gathering, containing the transitional text of Beowulf's Homecoming (lines 1888-2199), with the second scribe taking over in the middle of line 1939b. The scribes' division of labour was neither by episode, nor by gathering, folio, page, or even by half-line of verse. The transition in the script is as abrupt and unplanned as Beowulf's decision 22 The black-and-white facsimiles show the damage to the text on fol. 180v, but the MS shows that the first three lines were intentionally rubbed off. Both Thorkelin transcripts, moreover, confirm that the damage is not modern: Thorkelin's copyist did not attempt to transcribe them (p. 67), while Thorkelin himself wrote in the margin of his copy, 'Hie lacuna trium linearum sive 15 versuum incidit qui in autographo defuisse videntur et enim membrana, ex qua hoc apographum desumptum hie vacua est.' (p. 104a). 23 In his review of Forster's Beowulf-Handschrift, Wolfgang Keller suggested that the bad condition of fols. 179r and 198v could be explained by assuming that this part of the MS, containing the Dragon episode, was used separately, so that the two pages served as outside covers. The explanation ignored, however, the bad condition of fol. H9v.BeiblattzurAnglia 34 (1923) 4-5. 24 The textual transition was first interpreted as a separate creation by Karl Mtillenhoff in 'Die innere Geschichte des£eovw//s,' ZfdA 14 (1869) 193-244; a more recent version of the theory was propounded by P.P. Magoun, in 'B6owilf A': A Folk Variant,' Arv: Tidskrift forNordisk Folkminnesforskning 25 (1958) 95-101; and 'Beowulf B: A Folk-Poem on Be'owulf's Death' in Early English and Norse Studies: Presented to Hugh Smith in Honour of his Sixtieth Birthday, ed. Arthur Brown and Peter Foote (London 1963) pp. 127-40. Though most scholars reject or ignore these 'dissection' theories, the essentially episodic structure has been obvious to many; compare, e.g., Klaeber's description of the structure (Beowulf pp. ix-xii).

15 Kiernan: The Eleventh-Century Origin

to go home. Unless it is only a remarkable coincidence that the palaeographical transition and the textual transition were achieved in the same gathering, Beowulf's Homecoming may well have been first composed to join together two different Beowulf manuscripts and first copied in our surviving manuscript. The exceptional nature of the transitional gathering as the essential link between two otherwise disparate palaeographical and codicological units is well illustrated by considering the aspect of the manuscript without this gathering. Without it, scholars would have been led to conclude that the two gatherings preserving Beowulf's fight with the dragon had been copied many years before the five gatherings preserving Beowulf's youthful fights with Grendel and Grendel's dam. The relatively archaic script of the second scribe, in which insular letter-forms like the low s still effectively compete with the high Caroline s, would be grounds enough to argue that the second scribe's work was somewhat older than the first scribe's, in which the Caroline influence is more advanced. 25 It would seem most probable, as well, that the two Beowulf manuscripts derived from different scriptoria, judging by the marked difference in format: specifically, the first scribe regularly uses four-sheet quires, ruled with a narrower writing grid about 10 cm. wide for 20 lines of text per page, and with sheets generally arranged so that hair faces hair and flesh faces flesh; the second scribe uses five-sheet gatherings, ruled with a writing grid over 11 cm. wide for 21 lines of text per page, and with sheets invariably arranged with hair sides facing out, so that hair faces flesh within the gatherings. In short, without the palaeographically and codicologically transitional gathering, scholars would have reasonably concluded that two virtually complete Beowulf stories had been preserved in two unrelated manuscripts, attesting to a rather lively Beowulf tradition in different parts of England in late Anglo-Saxon times. Surely it would have been a reckless theory, attacked from all sides, to propose that the first scribe's manuscript and the second scribe's manuscript were parts of the same manuscript, or even that the two stories were parts of the same original poem. The second scribe takes over copying in the transitional gathering on the second leaf, folio 172v4, but since the first scribe began copying in it, the gathering was of course made up in the first scribe's manner: 26 there are four sheets to the quire, rulings with the narrower writing grid for twenty lines of text per page, and the first two sheets are arranged with flesh facing flesh, the second two with hair facing hair. Presumably the first scribe fully expected to finish copying the gathering, if not the entire poem. Because the handwriting of the two scribes is so illmatched, it is clear that they did not plan in advance a place for the second scribe to take over the copying. If they had, the change in handwriting could have been obscured by the first scribe stopping at the end of folio 172r, rather than after three lines on the verso. There is convincing palaeographical and codicological evidence that the first scribe suddenly halted where he did, and the second scribe took over, because by that point the decision had been made to join two originally distinct manuscripts, and perhaps two originally distinct poems. The evidence indicates that the second scribe may well have copied his part of the transitional gathering containing Beowulf's Homecoming after he had already copied the last two gatherings of the manuscript, those containing the fight with the dragon and Beowulf's death. What so strongly suggests that he copied this gathering last is that he resorted to various extreme 25 See Ker, Catalogue p, 282 and Westphalen, Textkritik pp. 69-82. As we have seen, Westphalen observed that the second scribe's later script on fol. 179 had evolved into a slightly more modern style, more like the first scribe's, and had perhaps been influenced by it (p. 82). 26 We must assume that the scribes themselves arranged the sheets of their respective gatherings, in view of their manifest disagreement over the aesthetics of sheet arrangement. The first scribe, through the prose texts and his part of Beowulf, consistently tries to obscure the contrast between hair and flesh sides, while the second scribe, through his part of Beowulf and the Judith fragment, consistently displays the contrast.

16 Kiernan: The Eleventh-Century Origin

measures to fit far more text within the gathering than it was originally designed to hold. Most notably, he squeezed four extra lines of text, in disregard of the original rulings made by the first scribe, on folios 174v through 176r. This extraordinary recourse would not have been necessary if the scribe had at least two extra gatherings of unused vellum (and uncopied text) ahead of him. The squeezing in of 21 lines of text per page, at this early stage, on four successive folios clearly ruled for 20 lines of text per page, can only mean that the scribe did not have vellum available after this gathering. Otherwise he could have easily fit the text of four extra lines simply by adding a few extra letters per line in the course of copying the last three gatherings of the poem. Unless he was compelled to squeeze the extra material into the transitional gathering, it was far too early in the copying for the scribe to be worrying about running out of vellum. If he really had over twenty empty folios remaining on which to copy, the scribe's desperate recourse of ignoring the rulings of the transitional gathering is inexplicable. The last two gatherings of the poem, then, evidently had been copied already. It should be stressed that the four extra lines on folios 174v through 176r could not have been added inadvertently. These folios do not constitute a separate sheet of vellum, and so it is out of the question that one sheet of the quire was unintentionally ruled for 21 rather than 20 lines. The third sheet of this gathering consists of folios 173 and 176, while the innermost sheet consists of folios 174 and 175. Rulings were made with an awl, making furrows that provided rulings for recto and verso simultaneously. Thus the third sheet cannot have been ruled by mistake for 20 lines on folio 176v, but for 21 lines on the recto; and the innermost sheet cannot have been ruled for 20 lines on folio 174r, but for 21 lines on the verso. The extra lines of text on these four consecutive pages, folios 174v-176r, are obviously not there by accident. On the contrary, the second scribe tried to camouflage his additions. He did not simply rule extra lines at the bottom of each page; instead, he managed to maintain a uniform written space (about 175 mm., from the first ruling to the last) by deliberately ignoring the first scribe's inner rulings, and by carefully spacing the lines of his own text so that he would progressively pick up enough room for an extra line of text per page. The Zupitza-Davis facsimile of folio 174v is faithful enough to illustrate his method, for it faintly reproduces the first scribe's rulings. Starting at line 3, the second scribe began lifting the line of text away from the ruling, until, at line 17, an entire line of text had been added, and his copy could once again coincide with the first scribe's rulings. Thus, if one counts the rulings in the facsimile there are 20, despite the fact that there are 21 lines of text. This decidedly difficult way of including extra material on the folios virtually proves that, for some reason, the second scribe was compelled to fit it all within the transitional gathering. There are other sure signs of his need to fit more text in than the gathering was designed to hold. On folio 174v, the same page on which the scribe began squeezing in an extra line of text in disregard of the rulings, he omitted fitt number XXX for lack of space. It is not surprising that he did not squander the line he had so laboriously gained on a fitt number, and that he drew the large capital O outside the area of the text. He garnered a good deal more space throughout the gathering by ignoring the first scribe's margins, or bounding-lines, which permitted him only about 10 cm. of text per line. The second scribe added about 1 cm. of additional space per line by ignoring one or both of the first scribe's margins. Again, folio 174v provides a good example, because of the clarity of the rulings: the right bounding-line can be clearly seen in the facsimile in line 10, between hryre and lytle. By ignoring the margin on this one page, the scribe added outside the margin over 60 characters, the equivalent of at least two whole lines, to his text. The scribe normally ignored the right margin, as in this example, though a few times he disregarded the left bounding-line too. We can even see in the facsimile the point at which the scribe knew that the remainder of his text would fit into the gathering without further violating

17 Kiernan: The Eleventh-Century Origin

the bounds of the first scribe's writing grid. By folio 176v he stopped squeezing in an extra line of text in disregard of the rulings; on the next page, folio 177r, though he ignored the first scribe's left margin for the first 18 lines, he used the margin for the last two lines, and thereafter generally adhered to the 10 cm. boundaries until the last page of the gathering (fol. 178v). His lack of consistency clearly shows that he did not simply abandon the first scribe's format to follow his own standards, or he would have continued with 21 lines of text and 11-cm. boundinglines throughout the gathering. The scribe undeniably went to great lengths to fit a certain amount of text within the transitional gathering. It seems most likely that he was obliged to do so because he had already copied the last two gatherings of the poem. Thus a clear pattern emerges from all of the unusual palaeographical and codicological data associated with the second scribe. He has not only made emendations and corrected errors in his own and in the first scribe's part of the Beowulf manuscript, and restored damages as age and use deteriorated the manuscript. His part of the manuscript provides persuasive palaeographical and codicological evidence that he helped copy a new episode, Beowulf's Homecoming, designed to fuse two different manuscripts about Beowulf's Danish and Geatish exploits into a unified epic. Apparently, many years later, he was still working towards a better fusion of these parts on the revised text of the palimpsest. 27 There is also some palaeographical and codicological evidence that the first scribe participated in the revision that fused the two stories and the two manuscripts. There are indications, at least, that the text immediately preceding the transitional gathering underwent major revisions after the first scribe stopped copying and the second scribe replaced him. And if the second scribe was indeed copying an entirely new text in the transitional gathering, and later had to revise the first folio of the next gathering (fol. 179, the palimpsest), as well as delete three lines from folio 180v, it should not be surprising that the first scribe might also need to revise part of the text preceding the transitional gathering to accommodate the new direction of the narrative. Together, the anomalous rulings of the preceding gathering (fols. 163-170), and the fitt numbers that run through it and the transitional gathering (fols. 171-178), furnish solid palaeographical and codicological support for positing such a revision. The first scribe ruled all of his gatherings, except the one in question, for 20 lines of text to the page. His total uniformity in this respect, not only in Beowulf but in the prose texts of the Nowell Codex as well, renders the 22-line rulings for folios 163-170 decidedly suspicious. The most obvious explanations are that the scribe had more material to copy in the gathering than 27 That this fusion was still perhaps in its early stages can be illustrated by the last seven lines on fol. 178v, immediately following Beowulf's Homecoming and preceding the palimpsest. Klaeber's ed. highlights how abruptly they lead to Beowulf's kingship, the text on the palimpsest: Eft {>aet geiode ufaran dogrum hildehlaemmum, sy$$an Hygelac laeg, ond Hear[dr]ede hildemeceas under bordhreo$an to bonan wurdon, oa hyne gesohtan on sigejjeode hearde hildfrecan, Heado-Scilfingas, ni$a genaegdan nefan Hererices -: sy&Jan .... (11. 2200-07a) 'Again it came about in later days, in the crash of battle, after Hygelac lay dead, and battle-swords became the slayer of Heardred under his shield, when fierce warriors, the Battle-Scilfings, sought him out among his victorious kin, with force assailed the nephew of Hereric -: after ....' Beowulf's rule and the Dragon episode are not very well introduced by these lines, which seem to be leading to other events. Klaeber's note, '2207. syftftan is used, in a way, correlatively with sy66an 2201,' stresses rather than reduces the syntactic and textual leaps one must make in the middle of the half-line 2207a, from the end of fol. 178v to the beginning of the palimpsest.

18 Kiernan: The Eleventh-Century Origin

he originally had planned for it (an explanation consonant with revision) or that the gathering was ruled anomalously by mistake. The latter explanation can be safely dismissed. The scribe made sure that his anomalously ruled gathering would not look much different from the rest of his gatherings by keeping the writing space identical (about 175 mm.), despite the two extra rulings. It is not extraordinary in itself, of course, that the scribe ruled his gathering in accord with the amount of text he had to copy. What is remarkable is that, for some reason, he was obliged to restrict the extra rulings to this gathering: it is strange that he ruled it for 22 lines per page, and then the next gathering for 20 lines, instead of ruling both for 21 lines, like the last two gatherings of the poem. The apparent reason is that the scribe had to copy more material on the first of these quires than he had initially planned for it, and curiously could not spread the additional material over two gatherings. As in the similar case of the second scribe in the transitional gathering, this kind of restriction may imply revision in the circumscribed area. It can be argued, then, that the first scribe, after being replaced by the second, went back and copied a revised text on the preceding quire. This hypothetical revision, it follows, was either considerably shorter or somewhat longer than the original text. At first glance, it would appear that the revised text was longer, since it required a gathering ruled for 22 lines per page, while the original text only needed 20 lines per page. In other words, the revised text was about 32 lines longer (two lines added for 16 consecutive pages) than the original text. But these appearances are probably deceiving. Evidence from the fitt numbers indicates that the poem was shortened, which could mean that a gathering ruled for 22 lines replaced two original quires ruled for the customary 20 lines. In this case the revision is quite radical, for it means that about 288 lines (the difference between two quires ruled for 20 lines and one quire ruled for 22) were deleted from the poem. However, it is unrealistic to conceive of a major revision as simple addition or subtraction of lines. If there was a major revision, parts of the text no doubt were deleted while other parts were expanded. The fitt numbers suggest that an entire fitt may have been deleted from the poem, but aside from this clue the precise nature and scope of the presumptive revision of the text in this gathering remain a mystery. The fitt numbers indicate that the twenty-fourth fitt of the original text was deleted in its entirety. Accordingly, they independently corroborate the conclusions reached on the basis of the anomalous rulings. All of the fitt numbers in Beowulf from I to XXIII are in perfect order, and have not been tampered with in any way. But beginning with the second number of the gathering anomalously ruled for 22 lines, and continuing through the transitional gathering to number XXXI, all of the fitt numbers either have been altered or were never written in the first place. The scribe mistakenly wrote XXV, instead of XXIIII, for the second number in the anomalously ruled quire, and thereafter he and the second scribe held to the new erroneous sequence for the remainder of the poem. A later alterer made an abortive effort to correct the number sequence, but in the process obscured the first scribe's error, and left the false impression that the second scribe had made a series of errors. In all, five fitt numbers were altered: of the first scribe's numbers, XXV was changed rather sloppily to XXIIII by the alterer writing two of the four I's over the V (the inept imitation of the scribe's I's shows that neither scribe was the alterer); XXVI, XXVII, and XXVIII were changed to XXV, XXVI, and XXVII, simply by erasing the last I of each number. Similarly, the second scribe's number XXVIIII, the only one of his that was altered, was changed to XXVIII by erasing the last I. The spurious alteration of these numbers has led to some unwarranted conclusions about the number of fitts in the poem. The second scribe wrote only two fitt numbers in the transitional gathering, XXVIIII on folio 173r and XXXI on folio 177r. As we have seen, he did not write XXX on folio 174v for lack of space. He did, however, clearly mark the beginning of the new

19 Kiernan: The Eleventh-Century Origin

fitt with a large capital O in the margin. But when the alterer changed XXVIIII to XXVIII by erasing the I, he left the false impression (followed by most modern editors) that the second scribe had failed to write in two fitt numbers, XXVIIII and XXX, and worse, that he had failed even to mark the beginning of one of the fitts with a capital letter. Thus the alterer ingenuously shifted the first scribe's mistake over to the second scribe, for the illusion that two fitt numbers are missing here can be directly traced back to the first scribe's error of skipping number XXIIII, and writing number XXV instead. The second scribe, who relied on the accuracy of the first scribe's number sequence, continued numbering the fitts where the first scribe left off. Hence the disarray in the fitt numbers of the anomalously ruled quire and of the transitional gathering, as well as the confusion over the actual number of fitts in the poem, can all be reduced to the first scribe's omission of XXIIII. If one ignores the spurious alterations, the fitts were numbered from I to XXIII, and then from XXV to XLIII, indicating that there are 43 fitts in the poem, whereas in fact there are only 42. The two scribes' number sequence before the alterer obfuscated the evidence is quite significant. It effectively proves that the fitts of the poem had not been numbered in this way before the extant manuscript, and a first numbering of the fitts is in keeping with a contemporary manuscript. At the very least, the omission of XXIIII implies that the first scribe was numbering the fitts of Beowulf for the first time, without the aid of numbers in his exemplar, and that he omitted a number by mistake. The first scribe undoubtedly wrote his fitt numbers after he copied the text, for the numbers up to folio 168r9 were written by him with a much finer quill tip than the one he used to copy the text. Presumably he wrote the numbers later because, without numbers in his exemplar, he felt he could not easily keep track of the sequence while copying. The first scribe's mistake also shows that the second scribe did not have numbers in his exemplar, for his numbers ingenuously perpetuate the first scribe's erroneous sequence. Moreover, there are clear signs that the second scribe tried, with indifferent success, to leave space for fitt numbers that would be added later. In the last two gatherings he remembered to leave a line free on folio 183r8, and in other cases there was usually enough space, whether he remembered or not, for fitt numbers at the end of the preceding fitts. However, there was no space at the end of fitt XXXVII, folio 189vl6, and the scribe forgot to leave a line free. He realized his oversight part way through the first line of the new fitt, and remarkably improvised space by cutting off the name Wihstanes after writing only wih-. On folio 191 rl 2 he no doubt thought he had left room for a fitt number, but apparently he did not yet know that the number would be XXXVIIII, too long to fit the space, which he ultimately left blank. 28 All of the facts, then, point to the conclusion that Beowulf was numbered for the first time in the extant manuscript. But the first scribe's blunder, his omission of XXIIII, may tell us more than that the number sequence is contemporary with the manuscript. The numbering could have been initially thrown off if a revised text of the anomalously ruled quire in part entailed the deletion of the original twenty-fourth fitt. The first scribe's numerical oversight is easily explained if one assumes that the revisions were made on the quire or quires replaced by the anomalously ruled one. If it was his practice to number the fitts as soon as he finished a gathering, the first scribe could have mechanically copied 28 Judith, too, was numbered after it was copied, but by someone other than the second scribe, as the distinct palaeographical style of the Xs proves. For a study of the implications of the number sequence in Judith, and of the way in which the /wcfrY/z-fragment was added to the Nowell Codex in early modern times, see my Beowulf and the Beowulf Manuscript pp. 150-67. As Judith helps illustrate, the spaces the second scribe left for fitt numbers in his part of Beowulf have no bearing on the theory of a composite MS, since they could be filled by any number sequence, including seriatim numbering with unrelated texts.

20 Kiernan: The Eleventh-Century Origin

the fitt numbers he had supplied for his first copy when he transcribed the revision. To this extent the fitt numbers enhance the possibility, first suggested by the anomalous rulings, that folios 163-170 contain part of a late revision of Beowulf\ My investigation of the Beowulf manuscript began as a palaeographical and codicological description of a neglected Anglo-Saxon codex. From the start it was obvious that nearly all unusual features in the codex, features that implied something other than mechanical copying of five Old English texts, had not been adequately described before. If my investigation has ended as an interpretation of palaeographical and codicological data, it is because so much of the unusual data, alone and combined, seemed to imply that the Beowulf manuscript was contemporary with the poem: apparently it was copied as a separate codex; without doubt it was thoroughly, repeatedly, and intelligently proofread by the scribes; it was dutifully repaired by the second scribe as time and use damaged it; and most importantly, a wide range of evidence persistently suggests that it was revised by both scribes in one specific, and seemingly relevant, section of the manuscript, between folios 163 and 180, and especially between folios 171 and 179. The evidence of revision implies as well that the Beowulf manuscript is an unfinished draft of the poem, and that it preserves for us the artistic fusion of two originally distinct Beowulf narratives. A truly objective description of the codex would not completely overlook or ignore the possible significance of such features as a signature of ownership on the first page of Beowulf, marked changes in format, discrepancies in the rulings, erasures and corrections, pages that contain more lines of text than rulings, a later script, a number sequence almost certainly originating with the extant manuscript, three deliberately deleted lines, and a palimpsest. It seems more likely that all previous descriptions of the codex were begun with the presumption that such evidence was not worth describing in a very late manuscript of a very early poem. Palaeography and codicology, in any case, do not support the theory that the Beowulf manuscript is a late copy of an early poem. On the contrary, they support the view that Beowulf is an eleventh-century composite poem, and that the Beowulf manuscript is a draft, the archetype of the epic as we now have it. With this new light on the problem of dating the composition of Beowulf, it is not hard to imagine how Anglo-Saxon poems like Beowulf might have emerged during the reign of Knut the Great as an aesthetic aftermath of the Danish Conquest. As Roberta Frank shows in her contribution to this volume, there are remarkable affinities between the Beowulf poet and the Norse skalds and storytellers who thrived in the age of Knut On its most basic level, the subject-matter of Beowulf is thoroughly Scandinavian, and may well have been composed by an Anglo-Saxon poet who grew up in the Danelaw. The poem begins with a dedicatory salute to the founding of Knut's royal Scylding dynasty. As Alexander Murray argues in his article below, the Scylding line had been appropriated by the West-Saxon kings from the ninth century on, but the genealogy in Beowulf leads unequivocally and triumphantly to Danish kings, not English ones, and the Anglo-Saxon and Danish Scyldings were incompatible before Knut married ^Ethelred's widow, Emma. Surely Hrothgar, the dominant power in Scandinavia, could have been modelled on Knut the Great, the reigning Scyldingpeodcyning of a vast northern empire. The Anglo-Saxon poet who created the exploits of Beowulf in Denmark was content to suggest that even the mighty Danish Scyldings, led by a wise and noble king, were not immune to irrational disaster. Knut would not have been offended by the implication that everything in this life is transitory, or that God ultimately rules the universe. But if there were two poets of Beowulf, the one who created the Dragon episode was more poignant than the first. The poet of the Dragon episode traces the actual disintegration of a dynasty, which culminates in the death of a glorious hero and implies the subsequent extinction of an entire race. This poet had for his model the fall of the house of Alfred, and the subsumption of his homeland and his race in the Danish empire. If he knew Anglo-

21 Kiernan: The Eleventh-Century Origin

Saxon history from the Chronicle, he might have remembered that fiery dragons first portended the viking invasions of England in the year 793; at any rate, he would have known that many Anglo-Saxon thanes deserted their lords when the dragon ships came in the eleventh-century Danish Conquest. This poet's mood is elegiac and, in view of eleventhcentury events, unbearably sad. The poet himself is a 'last survivor of a noble race,' who was left an enormous legacy after the death of his lord. If the last poet of Beowulf was the second scribe, as the palaeographical and codicological evidence encourages one to believe, he increased and continued to polish an Anglo-Saxon treasure during the reign of a Danish Scylding lord.


Editor's Note

Editor's Note: Kevin Kiernan in the preceding article and Leonard Boyle in that which follows accept different foliations for the Beowulf manuscript. Kiernan uses the older foliation found in the manuscript itself and adopted in the Zupitza facsimile (EETS 77, 1882) and in Klaeber's edition of the poem. Boyle follows the 1884 numbering accepted as official by the British Library and adhered to in Kemp Malone's facsimile edition (EEMF 12, 1963). Readers may convert the numbers easily by adding three to the foliation in Kiernan to obtain the accounting in Boyle, e.g. Kiernan 172v3 = Boyle 175v3. We should also add that Leonard Boyle's paper was completed several months after the Toronto conference, partially as a response to what he heard there, and that it was submitted too late to be taken into account in Kevin Kiernan's study.

the notoell codex and the poem of beottmlf LEONARD E. BOYLE O.P. MS. Cotton Vitellius A. XV in the British Library is a volume made up of two distinct codices, the second and earlier of which (folios 94-209 of the whole volume) is known today as the 'Nowell' Codex, after its first known owner, the antiquary Laurence Nowell, to whom it belonged in 1563. It contains three pieces of Old English prose (a homily, now acephalous, on St. Christopher, 94-98r; an illustrated Wonders of the East, 98v-106; a 'letter' of Alexander the Great to Aristotle, 107-131), and two stretches of alliterative verse: Beowulf (132-201) and Judith (202-209, but deficient at both beginning and end). This small, modest and celebrated codex later came into the hands of Sir Robert Cotton (1571-1631) and passed with his great library to the British Museum, as the present British Library then was, soon after its foundation in 1753. Shortly before that the codex, with many other volumes, was damaged in a fire in 1731 in the Cottonian Library, then housed at Ashburnham House, London. The tops and outer parts of many leaves were burnt, and much of the physical evidence (sewing, for example) of the structure of the quires was ruined then or disappeared later through deterioration and neglect. But although the codex today is a series of ragged folios mounted separately from each other, and two quires (NQ 3 and 4) are in reverse order, it is still possible from various indications (ink, ruling of text-frames, etc.) to be reasonably sure of the size and sequence of the quires (here called 'Nowell quires' or NQ). The only problems, possibly, are quires 1-2 and 5-6. Kemp Malone, in his introduction to the facsimile of the Nowell Codex in Early English Manuscripts in Facsimile (Copenhagen 1963), gives the first two quires as I 1 0 and 2 6 , but they are palpably quires of eight folios each (94-101, 102-109), which surely is the import as well of a late catchword on folio lOlv. There can be little doubt either that quires 5 and 6 are in the same eightfolio mould, although the fact that Beowulf begins on a fresh folio at folio 132r, leaving a gap at the end of the previous piece (Alexander's Letter) might suggest that the scribe had taken a new quire for Beowulf. This would mean that the scribe's fifth quire was a quire of six folios (126-131) and his sixth one of ten (132-141). However, the ruling of the text-frame in folios 126-133, our presumed NQ 5, is, if I may so put it, of a uniform irregularity, and appreciably distinct from that of folios 134-141, our NQ 6. For the spaces between rulings 18 and 19 (giving line 19) and between 19 and 20 (giving line 20) are 9 mm. and 10 mm. respectively for each frame in folios 126-133, whereas the space ruled for folios 134-141 is the regular 7 mm. or so that one usually finds throughout this part of the Nowell Codex and for the rest of the lines in each frame in folios 126-133. Now the sheets selected for a quire were not holed or 'pricked' separately for ruling but rather in a bunch, one on top of the other, the guide-points or 'prickings' being made through all the sheets at once for the sake of uniformity within the quire as well as for convenience. Hence the egregious two rulings at the end of each frame in folios 126-133 can only mean that these folios were ruled as a quire. Probably the scribe of these folios inadvertently placed his lower pricking-marks too far apart when preparing this quire, and found himself stuck with them all through these eight folios. Since the make-up of this and other quires in the Nowell Codex is essential to the present argument, the following schema of the codex, its quires and its units, may be of help to the reader:

24 Boyle: The Nowell Codex





1 Christopher

? 94-98r 98v-101 102-106 107-109 110-117

2 Wonders 3 Alexander


4 Beowulf

118-125 125v 126-131 132-133 134-141 142-149 150-157 158-165 166-173 _ 174-181 174-175v3/4

Nowell Beowulf Quire = NQ Quire = BQ

Lines Ruled

Lines Written Scribe

? NQ1 8










20 *21 20



38 58 68 78 88 98 108 . II8


BQ1 2 3 4 5 6

20 20 20 20 20 22 20


175v4-177r 177v-179r 179v-181v


5 Judith

20 20 20 20 *22

20 *21 20

182-191 192-201

1210 1310

(24?) 202-209 (8?)

?3Q8 148 ?1Q8

7 8

21 21

21 21




As one may see from the above schema, the Nowell Codex today falls into three discernible units. Unit I (fols. 94-181) was written for the most part by one scribe, Scribe A, and its quires (including, as it happens, those just discussed) are consistently of eight folios, and its text-frames generally ruled for 20 lines of writing (e.g. NQ 1-9). Unit II (fols. 182-201), on the other hand, is composed of ten-folio quires (NQ 12-13) and text-frames of 21 lines, and also shows all the wear and tear of a separate unit on its first (182r) and last (201v) folios. The third unit, now represented by folios 202-9, also was written by the scribe of Unit II, Scribe B, but if one may judge from this surviving quire (NQ 14) its format, oddly, was not that of Unit II but rather the quires of eight, with a 20-line frame, of Unit I. All of these features seem to argue against anything but an accidental unity in the present codex as it stands. Yet there are indications to the contrary. For items 1-3 and part of item 4 (Beowulf), which form the bulk of Unit I are in one hand, that of Scribe A, while the rest of Unit I (still the Beowulf of item 4) and all of Units II (end of Beowulf) and III (Judith) are in the hand of Scribe B, who in fact succeeds Scribe A without a break on the second folio (175v4) of the last quire of Unit I (NQ 11).

25 Boyle: The Nowell Codex

It is indeed in this eleventh quire that the key to the unity or disunity of the present codex lies, and it depends very much on the precise relationship there to each other's work of these two scribes, the first of which in the codex practises an Anglo-Caroline script, the second a form of late Anglo-Insular. Because of their distinctive hands, the precise point at which Scribe B took over from Scribe A in the eleventh quire of the Nowell Codex and the sixth full quire of Beowulf (NQ 11, BQ 6) is clearly to be seen on folio 175v at line 4. But although the hand of Scribe B was responsible from here on for the remainder of Beowulf (115v4-181, the end of NQ 11; 182201: NQ 12-13) and for Judith (202-209: NQ 14), it is likely that these seemingly successive 35 folios were not written precisely in that order by Scribe B(i.e. 175v4-181; 182-201; 202209). These four quires, with the exception of the beginning of NQ 11, where Scribe A penned the first 63/64 lines (174r-175v3/4), are indeed in the hand of Scribe B, but it seems almost certain that when Scribe B was called upon at folio 175v4 (in NQ 11) to take over from Scribe A, the three last quires as they are today (NQ 12-14) had been written out already. This conclusion is based on certain features of this eleventh quire. Like the first nine (NQ 1-9) of the previous ten quires written by Scribe A, it has a text-frame that is ruled for 20 lines, yet shortly after Scribe B comes onto the scene he proceeds to disregard this ruling on four consecutive folios of the quire (177v-179r), presses 21 lines instead of 20 into each of the four frames, and then for the remainder of the quire (179v-181v) returns to the normal 20 lines. Since there would not be any obvious reason for this departure on these four folios if Scribe B had a whole stretch of quires (NQ 12-14 at least) before him on which to see Beowulf'to a conclusion and to pen Judith, it seems reasonable to suggest that the four extra lines do not represent an aberration on the part of Scribe B but rather something into which he was forced because he had to fit a precise amount of text into this quire and could not carry anything over to the next, as would have been a normal procedure. This being so, then the reason why Scribe B found it impossible to copy anything from this part of Beowulf on the next quire (NQ 12) probably was because he had already written out that quire some time before. This would explain the extra four lines in quire 11, but why a line each on four separate folios? One may surmise that when Scribe B took over from Scribe A and discovered that he had more material to copy than the 20-line frame ruled by Scribe A would support within this quire, he had several possibilities open to him. He could have crammed the four extra lines in at once and as best he could, or he could have bided his time until towards the end of the quire. Yet he did neither. Very deliberately and carefully he spread the egregious four lines over four folios and, what is more, not over any four folios but over four consecutive folios (177v-179r), and in such a way that there would not be a notable contrast between these four folios of 21 lines each and the 20-line text of the rest of the quire. His first 21-line text is on the verso of a folio (177v), the second on the recto facing it (178r), and the third and fourth on the succeeding verso and recto (178v, 179r). In this way anyone opening Beowulf at this quire would be confronted either with an 'opening' of 20 lines (most of the quire) or with one or other of two 'openings' of 21 (177v;l78r; 178v:179r) and not with the discordant openings of 20:21 or 21:20 which would be the result if each of the four lines were inserted at random. Although this suggests that Scribe B was a man of more than common sensitivity, there remains the question of just why he was so sure that by slipping in four lines at these points or, for that matter, at any point at all, he would be enabled to wind up his copying precisely at the end of the quire (NQ 11) and flush with the beginning of the quire (NQ 12) which he had already copied. Perhaps his eye was so expert that he could see at a glance that the space available to him in the quire was short by just four lines. But a more likely explanation is that Scribe B knew

26 Boyle: The Nowell Codex

exactly where he was in relation to the end of that quire because this quire 11 into which he had to copy this part of Beowulf was exactly of the same size, text-frame, and ruling as those of his 'copy-quire' (like 'copy-folio,' 'copy-codex,' and even 'Copy-Beowulf,' to all of which I have recourse here, an inelegant coinage, but one which avoids the implications of 'original,' 'exemplar,' and the like). Hence if Scribe B chose to insinuate the bothersome lines into four consecutive frames of 21 lines rather than all together in an ungainly block somewhere or other in the quire, this was just as much for the practical purpose of coming into line well before the end with the physical lineation of the copy-quire as for the aesthetic reason advanced above. Once he was in line with the copy-quire he would not have to worry any further about hitting his target in the twelfth quire fairly and squarely. One may presume then that after the insertion of the fourth of the extra lines at folio 179r, the physical lineation of NQ 11 from folio 179v to the end of the quire on folio 18 Iv is, give or take a word here and there, that of the copy-quire (CQ) that Scribe B inherited from Scribe A. One may presume, too, if it was not already a presumption, that that CQ ended precisely where NQ 11 ends today, and, consequently, that the beginning of NQ 12, a quire which Scribe B had written out previously, is again that of the CQ from which he copied this latter part of Beowulf. The copy-quire, therefore, behind the eleventh quire of the Nowell Codex which Scribes A and B share was, like the Nowell quire itself, one of four sheets (eight folios) and a text-frame ruled for 20 lines. In fact, probably all of the Beowulf copy -quires were of that basic size and lineation. This is not a wild assumption. It is verifiable in at least one other Nowell quire, NQ 10 (fols. 166-173), where Scribe A, while using exactly the same size of frame as in the previous quires (NQ 1-9), rules his frames for and fills them with 22 lines of text rather than his customary 20 lines. As it happens, this strange behaviour was occasioned by much the same problem that Scribe B had to face when he replaced Scribe A in the very next quire (NQ 11) — or rather, the problem we saw in NQ 11 was simply the remains of a tricky situation in which Scribe A had found himself in NQ 10. For at the end of NQ 9, the fourth full Beowulf quire in the Nowell Codex (fols. 158-165), Scribe A must have noticed that if he were to maintain his usual 20-line frames of writing in his customary quires of eight folios over the quires that lay ahead, he would be hopelessly out of kelter at the end of what he still had to copy of Beowulf with the beginning of the first (NQ 12, BQ 7) of the two quires of the poem already completed by Scribe B. By then, to judge from the present quires NQ 10 (352 lines) and 11 (324 lines), some 676 physical lines of the Beowulf copy -quires of Scribe A remained to be copied before joining up with this first quire of Scribe B. If Scribe A were to keep to his 20-line frame, there would therefore be 36 lines still to find a place for at the end of two of his normal eight-folio quires (640 lines). Two ten-folio quires, on the other hand, giving 800 lines, would be far too much (by 124 lines). Likewise, a clutch of three quires of six folios each (720 lines) would leave a similar though lesser gap of 44 blank lines, as would a combination of two quires of ten and eight folios respectively. In the circumstances the best thing to do (so I imagine him to have reasoned) was to keep to quires of eight folios and increase instead the number of lines per frame. This gave him two choices, either of which — 21 lines to each of his frames over two quires, or 22 lines for one quire, the usual 20 for the other - nicely promised him 672 lines, leaving him short of the required 676 by a trifle of four.

27 Boyle: The Nowell Codex

Scribe A, it seems, was as aware of the importance of a harmonious set of quires as B in his turn was chary of unsightly 'openings.' Whichever of these two possibilities he chose, the textframe would still be that of all his other quires. It was less wearing, however, and more expeditious, to weave 22 lines into this frame in just one single quire all at once than to spread frames of 21 lines each over two quires, so, sensibly, Scribe A decided to rule the frames of the first of the two remaining quires (NQ 10) for 22 lines, and thus cheerfully carried over to the second and now normal one of 20 lines (NQ 11), those very four lines which Scribe B, when called upon, so discreetly made up after A's departure. All of this adroit calculation of space on the part of Scribes A and B could not, I am convinced, have been achieved by them so handily had not their Beowulf copy-quires been of eight folios each and of text-frames ruled for 20 lines, the very format, it will be noted, that Scribe A favoured for his own copying all through his section of the Nowell Codex. I shall now venture further to suggest just how many quires and folios, all of this one format, there were altogether in what I may, for the sake of caution, term the "Copy-Beowulf.' To this end, the procedures of Scribes A and B are again instructive, assuming, as it must be obvious I have assumed all along, that the task of transcribing all five items now in the Nowell Codex was divided between the two scribes and that each began his own assignment at much the same time as the other. If we may take Scribe B (Unit II) first, the immediate impression that one receives from his handiwork there (fols. 182-201) is that he went his own way, and in contrast to Scribe A, who kept strictly to the format of the copy-quires, decided on a 21-line frame and quires of ten folios for his two quires of Beowulf (NQ 12-13, BQ 7-8). But again, this decision probably was no more one of waywardness than that of Scribe A above in the tenth quire was of whimsy. In all likelihood what happened was that Scribe B, when assigned the last part of Beowulf (Unit II) and the whole of Judith (Unit III), chose to transcribe the latter first, since Judith was a ready-made unit on its own and, in any case, it would be more logical not to commence copying Beowulf until his colleague had completed his section. This probably explains why, as opposed to his two Beowulf quires (NQ 12 and 13), the surviving quire of his Judith (NQ 14) is of exactly the same size and text-frame as the quires of Scribe A and the copy-quires. The two scribes, understandably, would have agreed on a common format before embarking on their work. The agreed format clearly was of no trouble to Scribe B when copying Judith, but as soon as he turned from Judith (which, presumably, was meant to be, as it is today, the last of the five items commissioned) and addressed himself to his segment of Beowulf, he came up against a snag similar to that he would later encounter when taking over Scribe A's remaining lines in quire 11. In the present case, however, the problem was not one of so filling a quire as to preserve a continuity of text, but rather that of avoiding too large a ditch between the end of Beowulf in its last quire and the beginning of Judith in the quires already copied. Granting, as surely we now may, that the copy-quires handed over to Scribe B were of the same dimensions as those which have been established above for Scribe A, and granting as well that B in his two Beowulf quires observed by and large the lineation of his copy-quires (but, of course, at 21 lines per frame instead of their 20), then it is clear what the difficulty was and why B had to abandon the accepted format. Since, using a frame of 21 lines, he fills two quires of ten folios each to the brim with 840 lines of text, then what he had in front of him when copying these was a part of Beowulf cove ring 2 5/8 quires, at, that is, eight folios per quire and 20 lines per frame.

28 Boyle: The Nowell Codex

This, of course, was precisely the format that he and his fellow-scribe had agreed upon, but to have followed it to a folio in his transcription of these 2 5/8 copy-quires would have meant ending up three folios short of Judith. In this impasse, Scribe B therefore made the reverse of the above calculation, and found that by adopting two 10-folio quires and a 21-line text-frame, he would finish Beowulf exactly on the last line of the second quire, and right on the verge of Judith. He was to succeed admirably when he took up the challenge, although as one may see on the last folio of all before Judith (fol. 20Iv), he had to scramble a little at the end and, indeed, was unable to find room on the very last line for the very last word of Beowulf as we know it.

The part of the Copy -Beowulf entrusted to Scribe B amounted, then, to two quires of eight folios each and a third quire (on which Beowulf may have been the only item) with just five folios of text — 21 folios in all carrying the 840 lines which B managed to transcribe onto 20 full folios in frames of 21 lines. A similar estimate of how many folios and quires there were in the Copy-Beowulf confided to Scribe A is also not too difficult, but it has to be a little more long-winded. From the very beginning of the Nowell Codex as we have it, and for the six full quires (NQ 6-11) of the Beowulf text (BQ 1-6) which he prepared for writing, Scribe A sticks resolutely to the eight-folio quires and 20-line frames of his model. But clearly the problem of meeting up exactly with the text of the quires of Beowulf which Scribe B was commissioned to write did not strike him until rather late in the day and indeed not until the end of NQ 9 (BQ 4). Had he been in a position to keep pace frame by frame with the Copy-Beowulf from the very start of his transcription, he would not have had to overload his frames in NQ 10 (BQ 5). But he had not been. In fact, he was at a disadvantage from the outset. For when he began to transcribe Beowulf on the present folio 132r, he was already almost a folio behind the CopyBeowulfand therefore was bound to be out of step with the copy-quires allotted to B, and consequently with the quires written by B, by the time he reached the end of his assignment. Since, as we have seen, A was 36 lines behind his copy-quire at the end of his fourth Beowulf quire (NQ 9), and, as I presume, had been following the format and lineation of the copy-quires up to this, then he was already 36 lines to the bad when he began the first full quire of his own on folio 134r. But by this time he had already written out 79 lines (including section or 'fitt' numbers) on the last two folios of NQ 5 (fols. 132-133). Therefore the beginning of the Beowulf text that he was copying occurred some 115 lines before the first full Beowulf copy-quire (BQ 2) and just five lines from the top of the third last folio of the previous quire (possibly the Incipit of the poem writ very large, occupied these top five lines and the sixth — our line 1 — just as it does two full lines at folio 132r in the Nowell Codex, allowing only 19 lines of text in all in that first frame). In other words, where the present Beowulf text runs in the Nowell Codex from folios 132201, or 70 full folios, the Copy -Beowulf began at folio 6 of a quire it shared with some other text, then ran through eight full eight-folio quires of its own, ending up, according to our examination of Unit II of the Nowell Codex, on the first five folios of a quire of which it may have been the sole occupant - a total of 72 folios (3 + 64 + 5), less the problematic five lines at the top of the very first folio, as the following table may show somewhat more plainly:

29 Boyle: The Nowell Codex Nowell Beowulf (Arrears and Gains)

Copy-Beowulf (Postulated)


Frame Lines Folios

9 I



2 38 48 58 68




lO 1 ' 5 Total


20 20 20 20 20 20

20 20 20

Text Lines



1-5 6-8



Lines Out


Frame Lines








116-435 9-16 17-24 436-755 25-32 756-1075 33-40 1076-1395 41-48 1396-1715 49-56 1716-2035

57-64 65-72 75-77

Text Lines

2036-2355 2356-2675 2676-2875

1-79 80-399 400-719 720-1039 1040-1359 1360-1711 1712-2035


\ 2875

36 36 36 36 36 36 4 4 4 0

57'8 68 78 88 98 108 II8

12 io


20 20 20 20 20 *22 20 20 *21 20

132-133 134-141 142-149 150-157 158-165 166-173 174-175v3 175v4-7r 177v-179r 179v-181v



32 B 4

II \


201 70

The 2875 physical lines, then, which are on 70 folios of varying frames in the Nowell Beowulf, were spread over 72 folios at an even 20 lines per frame in the Copy-/teoww//(less, of course, that slender opening unit of five lines at the top of the very first folio). These 2875 physical lines which are thus common to the two copies of Beowulf are not, needless to say, poetic lines (3182 in all), so their presence in this way in the Nowell Codex represents a very dogged if not unusual fidelity on the part of Scribes A and B. It would, indeed, be tempting to think that what they had in front of them, therefore, was a very special copy of Beowulf, perhaps even the original or an apograph in a separate codex. But the evidence as it stands does not warrant the conclusion that their Copy-£eoww//was at all a codex in its own right. The 72 folios postulated for the Copy-Beowulf may suggest a tidy codex of just nine eight-folio quires, but as we have seen (and there seems not to be any way of escaping this) these were in fact distributed over ten quires in all, beginning from the sixth folio of the first, and ending on the fifth folio of the tenth: 1 6 ~ 8 , 2-9 8 , 101"5. The Copy -Beowulf clearly was part of a composite codex, just as Beowulf today is in the Nowell Codex. Whatever may be the truth about the exact size of that Copy-Beowulf, one thing at least is certain: the Beowulf text in the Nowell Codex is far from 'original.' At best it is a copy (whether faithful or not who can tell?) of an existing text, perhaps contemporary, perhaps not. This Copy-Beowulf, it seems, no longer is extant. That a text of Beowulf has survived at all is due to the happy chance that sometime in the late tenth or early eleventh century (to be no

30 Boyle: The No well Codex

more precise than that), two scribes in one and the same scriptorium were commissioned by someone to put together a volume, now represented by the tattered Nowell Codex, of at least five mixed pieces of prose and poetry. The division of labour was, however, unequal, Scribe A, who happened to write what we now call an Anglo-Caroline hand, being made responsible for three short pieces (Christopher, Wonders of the East, Alexander's Letter) and five-sevenths of Beowulf, Scribe B, whose hand was a native Anglo-Insular one of a late variety, for the remaining two-sevenths of Beowulf and for the poem called Judith, perhaps a third of which now survives immediately after Beowulf. The splitting up of Beowulf may seem curious until one remembers that, as we now know, the Copy-Beowulf was not a separate codex, but began on the third-last folio of a quire in a composite codex. Hence it may be that Scribe A was allocated a part of Beowulf simply because what preceded it in that quire (fols. 1-5) was part of his commission. Was this by any chance the latter part of Alexander's Letter, as in the Nowell Codex? Possibly. Indeed one might not be too far off the mark in suggesting that the codex of which the Copy-Beowulf was simply a part contained all that comes before Beowulf in the Nowell Codex — Christopher, Wonders, Alexander's Letter — and that, further,/teoww//was the last item in that copy-codex since, as we have noted, the text of Beowulf in the last quire of the CopyBeowulf occupied only five folios out of a total eight. Probably what the patron wanted, should the above be watertight, was simply a copy of these four 'monster' tracts in prose and verse which were cheek-by-jowl in one unbound set of quires, and then threw in Judith as well from another or a separate codex to give Scribe B a little more to copy than just a small fraction of Beowulf. At all events, the two scribes, having agreed, or having been told, to adopt an eight-folio format and frames ruled for 20 lines, went their separate ways, A beginning with Christopher, B, in the hope, possibly, that A would have finished his part of Beowulf by the time he himself had to tackle his section, launching into Judith first rather than Beowulf. Things did not work out quite as B had planned, however, and in fact he had completed both Judith and Beowulf befoiQ A had reached his very last quire. Scribe A seems indeed to have been a little slow (the drawings, not entirely confident, in Wonders may have held him up), and perhaps was not as much on the alert as his colleague. A first mistake was not to have planned his work well ahead to ensure that he joined up without a break with the other's Beowulf quires. A second, possibly, was a certain casualness with section or 'fitt' numbers in Beowulf. These fltts, it seems beyond doubt, were there in the copy-quires and indeed, as the calculations in the last section above presuppose, were looked upon by Scribes A and B for purposes of lineation as a part of the text. As in the Nowell text, they were numbered in the CopyBeowulfto 43. Scribe B, working on the final quires of Beowulf and, presumably, independently of A, hardly plucked his fitts out of the sky when he numbered them XXXII-XLIII, the first a significant 13 lines into quire NQ 12 (BQ 7). Certainly he had them in mind when he planned his reduction of 21 folios of copy-quires to an even two quires of 10 folios each. In the part of Beowulf consigned to Scribe A, it is no surprise, therefore, that the fitts run from I-XXXI, although Scribe A, whether by accident or design, did not count the 'prologue' (fols. 132r-133r, lines 1-26) as a fitt, but began his numbering at the second section. He carried on this faulty numeration until XXIII (fol. 169r), where he appears to have noticed that at this rate of going his last fitt would be XXX, whereas the first in Scribe B's section was XXXII, and hence, to bring his own numeration into line, wrote XXV in place of the XXIIII one would have expected. It is surely not without interest that this change takes place in that 22-line quire

31 Boyle: The Nowell Codex

(NQ 10) in which he shows his first awareness of the quires written by Scribe B with which he had to join up. Had Scribe A not stopped his work in the middle of his fitt XXVIII (fol. 175v3/4), it is not unlikely that he would have gone back later to change all of the mistaken I-XXIII to II-XXIV. When Scribe B took over from the next line in NQ 11, he continued A's adjusted numeration in fitts XXVIIII (fol. 178r), XXX (fol. 179r, but probably in the left margin because of a line of text that flows over and fills the fitt line), and XXXI. Scribe B probably did not advert to A's jump from XXIII to XXV in the previous gathering, with which, in any case, he had no concern, but someone else did later on. He altered A's XXV to a sloppy XXIIII, XXVI to XXV, and erased the last stroke in XXVII, XXVIII, and XXVIIII in turn to give XXVI, XXVII, and XXVIII, respectively. Curiously, he made no attempt that I can discern to change Scribe B's XXXI to XXX, nor to touch the series XXXII-XLIII in B's own two quires (NQ 12-13). It is possible that they were unknown to him at the time. This last point raises the possibility that Scribe A's Unit I (NQ 1-11, fols. 94-181) had a separate existence for some time after Scribe B had completed what A had left undone, and was not joined at once to the two quires (NQ 12-13) of Beowulf (Unit II) and those of Judith (Unit III) penned earlier by Scribe B. The smudged state of the bottom folio of Unit I (fol. 18Iv) gives rise to this suspicion, and the condition of the first and last folios of Unit II (fols. 182r, 201v) strengthens it considerably. The end folio (20Iv) of the second of the two quires of this unit (NQ 13) is scuffed, dirty, and crinkled, and has persuaded some scholars that the Nowell Codex once ended here and that Judith (our Unit III) was either at the beginning of the codex originally, before Christopher, or was added by chance (a singular one at that) in the sixteenth or seventeenth century after the fourth item, Beowulf, In the light of what has been suggested earlier with respect to Scribe B and Judith, it is possible to offer another explanation. After B had completed his Judith quires, he put them aside, or handed them over to the librarian or to an official of the scriptorium, while he worked on his two Beowulf quires. These, in turn, he similarly consigned to someone or other, or simply put them on a shelf, there to await the moment when Scribe A would have reached the end of his unit and the two Beowulf segments could be united. Perhaps the shelf or cupboard was grimy and folio 20Iv, stuck at the bottom of this unit of 20 folios, suffered accordingly as, for example, the batch was moved about to make room for other quires or codices. Some worms indeed battened on this folio, and one worked his way back through it for several folios, petering out at folio 192. That these two quires as a unit (fols. 182-201) were for a time on a window sill or some other exposed area is also likely. Water clearly damaged the top folio of the unit (fol. 182r) before the two quires were placed between Unit I (94-181) and Judith to form the present codex. This folio is splotched as rain splotches; and as one would expect in such circumstances, the top of the folio, being the part most exposed to rain and heat, curled back a little, allowing the rain or water to stain the first lines of the verso (182v) towards the outer margin, but leaving the more protected inner areas untouched. The top lines of other folios in the upper reaches of this two-quire unit show similar signs of inroads of rain, water, or liquids in general, while the middle and lower parts of the folios, being out of range, are generally without blemish, as, indeed, is the conjugate folio (191v) of the ruined 182r, safely tucked away at the end of the top quire in the bosom of the unit.

32 Boyle: The Nowell Codex

Naturally, it was this uppermost folio of all, 182r, that took the worst beating, and from top to bottom. Its appearance has not been improved over the years by erasures and by efforts later to recover what had been washed or splashed away, most of these probably by people not entirely at home in either Anglo-Saxon usage or Anglo-Insular script. Where retracing was essayed, the strokes are insecure and often fail completely to cover parts of the dimmed originals underneath. Where there was little to go on, the results are, to say the least, curious, and sometimes, or so I am assured, are at variance with known or recognizable forms of the language. It is hard to imagine that Scribe B, whose folio this is, had any hand in such a spotty 'recovery' or touching up. A man as resourceful and as sensitive as he shows himself to be in the eleventh quire, when he took over from Scribe A, would not have made such a mess of his own handiwork, particularly with the appropriate copy-quire at his elbow. The damage to folio 182r, then, must have taken place when Scribe B was no longer around to redress it. It must have occurred, too, at a time when the copy-quires which he and Scribe A had used were no longer available to any who might with intelligence have made good the damage. How long after Scribes A and B had completed their work this damage took place is impossible to say. For what it is worth, this certainly was before, perhaps long before, the five pieces they were engaged to transcribe were brought together to form the codex that mostly survives today in three units of absorbing interest to palaeographers and philologists in the present Nowell Codex. None of this, need I add by way of conclusion, explains the most engaging question of all: why did Scribe A give up at the beginning of his last quire? Perhaps after his valiant effort in the previous quire to catch up with his copy-quires he had grown tired of it all. Perhaps, on the other hand, Scribe B simply took over because by then he was free of Judith and his own Beowulf unit, and A was required elsewhere. Either of these is a possibility. But a third may not entirely be ruled out of order, when one notes that Scribe A stopped towards the end of a phrase, and, it may well be, with a word incomplete (the e of fmojste is certainly that of B, but the st could be A's). Perhaps the plain truth is that he had taken ill, and died.

a reconsideration of the language of beottmlf ANGUS CAMERON, ASHLEY CRANDELL AMOS, AND GREGORY WAITE WITH THE ASSISTANCE OF SHARON BUTLER AND ANTONETTE DI PAOLO HEALEY Although language is only one kind of evidence which can be used in ascertaining where and when a text was composed, it is an important one. Nevertheless, in the case of Beowulf, the confidence of scholars in the value of linguistic evidence has ranged from a high point at the beginning of this century when Eugen Einenkel could study methods of expressing verbal negation 'with the gratifying result of establishing Beowulf as an Anglian poem of about 725 AD.', 1 to a present low when Nicolas Jacobs assumes that 'the linguistic evidence is tenuous in the extreme' and proceeds to discuss the dating of Beowulf on the assumption that it may be disregarded.'2 Jacobs is, of course, referring to the conclusions which earlier scholars have drawn from the linguistic evidence; he declines to draw conclusions of his own. When opinions as to the value of linguistic evidence vary so greatly, the time has come to reconsider the language of the poem. In this paper we will take a first step towards this reconsideration by providing a catalogue of some of the linguistic forms in Beowulf, arranged in the patterns of recent grammars in order to facilitate comparison with forms in other texts. Since the middle of the nineteenth century, scholars have been looking at the language of Beowulf and have provided us with a variety of commentaries, studies, editions, and glossaries which are useful aids in our study of the poem. These works on the language are of three main kinds. First, there is the detailed textual work involving emendations of words, restoration of missing text, and commentary on specific problems, which has resulted in the text as we have it today in the comprehensive editions of Klaeber, von Schaubert, Dobbie, and others.3 Second, there are more general studies of linguistic features in the Old English language for which the forms in Beowulf are a part of the evidence. These studies continue to be made and we can extract much valuable information about the poem from them.4 Third, there are studies of specific linguistic features in the text of Beowulf. These begin in the 1880s and deal variously with the levels of phonology, morphology, syntax, and vocabulary.5 Most of them were written before the appearance of Klaeber's first edition (1922) of Beowulf, which, with its sections on the language and the manuscript and with its masterly glossary, sets standards for accuracy and fullness of information which no other editor of an Old English text has achieved. Once Klaeber had assembled all the materials, scholarly interest in the language of Beowulf seemed to decline, and the last sixty years have seen fewer contributions. These studies of specific linguistic features in 1 Frederick Klaeber, ed., Beowulf and The Fight at Finnsburg, 3rd ed. with 1st and 2nd supplements (Boston 1950) p. xciv, summarizing Eugen Einenkel, 'Die englische Verbalnegation,M«^/w 35 (1911) 187-248, 401424 2 Nicolas Jacobs, 'Anglo-Danish Relations, Poetic Archaism, and the Date of Beowulf: A Reconsideration of the Evidence,' Poetica (Tokyo) 8 (1977) 42 3 Klaeber, Beowulf; Else von Schaubert, Heyne-Schuckings Beowulf, 17th rev. ed. (Paderborn 1958-61); Elliott V.K. Dobbie, ed., Beowulf and Judith, ASPR 4 (New York 1953) 4 Such studies include phonological, morphological, syntactic, semantic, and dialect studies. Examples might be E.G. Stanley on the waldend spellings, J.W.R. Lindemann on pre-verbalge-, Bruce Mitchell's syntactic studies, Hans Schabram on the 'pride' words, and Franz Wenisch on the Anglian dialect. 5 Among such studies are: Karl Kohler, Der syntaktische Gebrauch desInfinitivs undParticips im Beowulf (Munster diss. 1886); Charles Davidson, 'The Phonology of the Stressed Vowels in Beowulf,' PMLA 6 (1891) 106-33; Lorenz Morsbach, 'Zur Datierung des Beowulfepos,' Nachrichten von der konigl. Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften zu Gdttingen, phil-hist. Klasse (1906) pp. 251-77. Such studies can conveniently be located in the bibliographies of the standard eds. of the poem and in Donald K. Fry, Beowulf and the Fight at Finnsburh: A Bibliography (Charlottesville, Va. 1969).

34 Cameron et al.: A Reconsideration of the Language

the text of Beowulf should now be brought together and reconsidered in a fresh analysis of the language of the poem. While some of the studies are mere lists of forms, others show an interest in questions of dating and localization, and attempt to answer the questions of when and where Beowulf was written. Many of them, however, predate the most authoritative philological accounts of the Old English language. Even Klaeber's summary of the language of Beowulf (virtually unchanged from his first edition of 1922) was written while Karl Luick's Historische Grammatik der englischen Sprache6 was still in its early stages. We now need a new statement which takes into account Luick's work as well as that of Campbell and Brunner, 7 not to mention more recent developments in linguistic theory. Much of the early work on the language of Beowulf assumes a simple connection between spelling systems and Old English dialects, and concerns itself with sorting out dialectal strata in the poem. To give an example, Klaeber's primary discussion of the vowels in accented syllables is divided into three main sections: 1) Early West-Saxon Features, 2) Late West-Saxon Features, and 3) Non-West-Saxon Elements.8 Rather than only looking at mixed spellings as the necessary result of a text's having passed through a number of recensions of various dialectal colourings, we would also like to consider them in terms of scriptorial practice and convention at the time the manuscript, Cotton Vitellius A. XV, was written. In the earlier studies and editions, many of the arguments for dating based on linguistic evidence hinge on single points. As examples, we have the syntactic and phonetic-metrical tests for dating described by Klaeber (pages cviii-cx, 274-8), and the very heavy reliance for dating which C.L. Wrenn places on the doubtful form wundini'at line 1382. In contrast, we wish to look at the language of Beowulf as a system, to see how it works in its own terms, to understand the grammar of the poem, and to establish a broad range of features at various levels of language before attempting to compare this form of Old English with others. In the end we may find that dating and localization still depend on a few significant features, but these are best interpreted in terms of the language of the poem as a whole We could not begin a reconsideration of the language of Beowulf and its implications for the dating and localization of the texts without using the work of our predecessors. While we may occasionally have doubts about their methods and conclusions, their inventories of forms stand us in good stead. In consolidating the work of previous scholars we can also bring to bear on the question the new linguistic methods which have been developed in the twentieth century, and the great advances in Anglo-Saxon palaeography marked by the work of N.R. Ker and T.A.M. Bishop,9 to name only two of the scholars who have taught us so much about Anglo-Saxon manuscripts and the places where they were written. We also have many new studies of the language of Old English prose texts, glossaries, the recently published concordance to the AngloSaxon Poetic Records,10 and now, as a part of the Dictionary of Old English project, a concordance to the entire corpus of Old English texts.11 If we can use these new resources effectively, 6 Karl Luick, Historische Grammatik der englischen Sprache Pt. 1 (Leipzig 1914-21); Pt. 2, ed. Friedrich Wild and Herbert Koziol (Leipzig 1929-40); repr. with a word index by Richard Hamer (Stuttgart, Oxford, and Cambridge, Mass. 1964) 7 Alistair Campbell, Old English Grammar (Oxford 1959); Karl EiunnQi,Altenglische Grammatik nach der angelsachsischen Grammatik von Eduard Sievers, 3rd ed. (Tubingen 1965) 8 Beowulf pp. Ixxi-lxxxi 9 Neil R. Ker, Catalogue of Manuscripts Containing Anglo-Saxon (Oxford 1957); T.A.M. Bishop, English Caroline Minuscule (Oxford 1971) 10 Jess B. Bessinger, Jr., ed. and Philip H. Smith, Jr., programmer, A Concordance to The Anglo-Saxon Poetic Records (Ithaca, N.Y. 1978) 11 This concordance is now available on microfiche, with a companion printed volume giving a list of texts and index of editions. Ordering information can be obtained from the Dictionary of Old English Project, Centre for Medieval Studies, University of Toronto, Toronto M5S 1 Al, Canada.


Cameron et al.: A Reconsideration of the Language

and combine them with the work of our predecessors, then we can hope for new answers from the language of Beowulf, even on the subject of dating and localization. We wish to begin our reconsideration of the language of Beowulf by presenting a catalogue of linguistic forms in the poem, arranged on the levels of orthography/phonology, morphology, syntax, and vocabulary. In this way we can look at the language of the poem as a set of interrelated systems and we can set out its features so that they can be easily compared with those in other texts. In our work we have used Klaeber's edition of the text and most of all his glossary. In general we have accepted his grammatical judgments, although we have not accepted emended forms as evidence as he sometimes does. By the text of Beowulf WQ mean the text of the poem as we have received it in British Library MS. Cotton Vitellius A. XV. Although we admit the possibility of earlier written recensions of the poem and of oral traditions lying behind it, we doubt that a description or analysis of the language of the extant copy will necessarily tell us much about them. In making statements about the dating and localization of Beowulf, we do so in the context of the careful discussion of Old English dialects and the key texts and manuscripts whose linguistic features show reasonable consistency provided by Alistair Campbell in the opening chapter of his Old English Grammar. In our treatment of the orthography /phonology of Beowulf we have followed the patterns for vowels in stressed syllables, vowels in unstressed syllables, and consonants given by Campbell in his Old English Grammar. Where forms can be classified in several places, we have put them in the earliest possible place in his chronological sequence. In our treatment of the morphology we have followed the classes given by Campbell and Brunner in their grammars. For the smaller classes of forms we give word lists, but for the larger classes numerical counts only. We hope that other scholars will find our choice of the systems propounded in these standard Old English grammars a natural and convenient one for classifying spellings as to their morphological and phonological significance, and we hope that our classification makes comparison of the spellings of Beowulf with those of other texts easier. Our treatment of syntax is much less complete than that of the phonology and morphology, and awaits the publication of Bruce Mitchell's 'Old English Syntax.' In the meantime we have arranged our materials, largely gleaned from previous studies, according to Mitchell's A Guide to Old English,12 and have made more accessible the careful analysis of clauses in his Oxford dissertation, Subordinate Clauses in Old English Poetry. Our treatment of the vocabulary is the most sketchy of all and reflects the lack of comprehensive work on this subject. As a start we have looked at words unique to the poem, compounding patterns in the poem, and the dialect vocabulary as described by Klaeber following Jordan, by Schabram, and by Wenisch.13 We see this catalogue of the forms in Beowulf as a preliminary one, and we will welcome comments and corrections to our counts. More work needs to be done, especially on the vocabulary and syntax, but this is the work of years. We think we have assembled enough forms so that valid comparison with other texts is possible, though sweeping conclusions should not be based on our lists. We see four necessary questions about the origins of Beowulf. For the first one, 'What is the 12 Bruce Mitchell, ,4 Guide to Old English, 2nd ed. (Oxford 1964) 13 Klaeber, Beowulf pp. xciv-xcv; Hans Schabram, Superbia: Studien zum altenglischen Wortschatz I (Munich 1965); Franz Wenisch, Spezifisch anglisches Wortgut in den nordhumbrischen Interlinearglossierungen des Lukasevangeliums (Heidelberg 1979)

36 Cameron et al.: A Reconsideration of the Language

date of the manuscript?', we can accept the answer of palaeographers, who agree that it was written around the year 1000 A.D. N.R. Ker puts the date in the form 's. X/XI,' which indicates a range of twenty-five years on either side of 1000 A.D. 14 For the second question, 'Where was the manuscript written?', we have no definite answers. Kenneth Sisam half suggested London, 15 and for more than this we can only hope that palaeographers will turn up parallels to either of the two hands in the manuscript. For the third question, 'What is the date of composition of the text?', we will have to be able to distinguish the language of Beowulf from the language of the manuscript itself by comparing it with the language of other texts in the manuscript. An answer for the fourth question, 'Where was the text composed?', will depend on the success of our comparisons. Investigations of the various levels of the language of Beowulf will give us information pertinent to these questions. For instance, the orthography/phonology and morphology should tell us about the dating and localization of the manuscript, while the syntax and vocabulary seem more likely to tell us about the dating and localization of the text itself. In assembling this catalogue of forms in Beowulf we have already seen some trends which give us hope for the success of this approach to the language of the poem. Our work has given us a respect for the consistency and even regularity of the language of the poem, which is not 'an unnatural medley of spellings.'16 The scribes seem to have understood what they were copying. Discrepancies in morphology and syntax are minor, and do not for the most part affect the sense. We have been able to study the orthographic habits of the A and B scribes in Beowulf. Although these can be distinguished with respect to a few graphs, (io, i/y, for example), their overall orthographic practice is similar. We think that careful comparison of the language of Beowulf on various levels with that of other Old English texts will allow us to place the manuscript and possibly the text in the context of the surviving Old English literary and linguistic remains. We would like to conclude by suggesting some areas of comparison. The first and most obvious comparison is with the other texts in BL MS. Cotton Vitellius A. XV. We have only begun this work, but it appears that the scribes do not consistently regularize spellings throughout the manuscript, but tolerate a number of orthographic features that are in striking variance from text to text. Nevertheless basic features of the language are consistent throughout the manuscript, and so far we have found no texts or manuscripts that are significantly closer to the spelling system of Beowulf than the texts in Cotton Vitellius A. XV. The second comparison is between the language of Beowulf and that of the texts in the other poetic codices. Here the use of broad comparisons on many levels is necessary as the patterns of individual features or even groups of features are often contradictory. So far, it appears that the spellings of Beowulf are closest to those of the main scribe in Bodleian MS. Junius 11, especially in Exodus and Daniel The vocabulary of Beowulf has most in common with Andreas, but shares a surprisingly high number of forms with Judith. The third comparison is between the language of Beowulf and that of texts in contemporary manuscripts. By taking the manuscripts which N.R. Ker dates in the form 's. X/XI' we get a very interesting comparison group. These are:

14 Catalogue p. 281 15 Kenneth Sisam, 'The Compilation of the Beowulf Manuscript,' RES 10 (1934), repr. in his Studies in the History of Old English Literature (Oxford 1953) p. 95 16 Klaeber, Beowulf p. Ixxxviii

37 Cameron et al.: A Reconsideration of the Language

Ker 15 87 161 175 184 220 231 240 334 364 382

Cambridge, University Library Gg.3.28 - >Elfric, Catholic Homilies Cambridge, Trinity College R.5.22 - Pastoral Care British Library, Cotton Julius A. X - Martyrology British Library, Cotton Otho B. II — Pastoral Care British Library, Cotton Otho E. I - Glossary British Library, Cotton Vitellius C. V - ^Elfric, Homilies British Library, Harley 585 - Herbal and Lacnunga British Library, Harley 3376 - Glossary Oxford, Bodleian Library Junius 11 — Poems Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale Lat. 943 - Homilies and Documents Princeton, University Library, The Scheide Library 71 - BUcklingHomilies

To these should be added contemporary charter materials from the reigns of ^Ethelred II and Knut, and other roughly contemporary manuscripts, such as Ker 257, BL Royal 7 C.XII, a manuscript of ^Elfric's First Series of Catholic Homilies written within a few years of 991. Among these manuscripts contemporary with Vitellius A. XV, a group of manuscripts of mixed spellings can be isolated, as can a group of orthographically consistent ALlfiic manuscripts. It may be useful to distinguish manuscripts copied by a single scribe from those on which a number of scribes have worked. If we can assume that the several scribes of the mixed spelling manuscripts use a single exemplar, their varying practices may indicate the extent to which individual scribes copied mechanically or imposed their own orthographic practices on the text. The last comparison should be between the language of Beowulf and that of texts in manuscripts known to be earlier, such as the key dialect texts, the Hatton 20 manuscript of King Alfred's translation of the Pastoral Care, the Lindisfarne Gospels, the Kentish Glosses, and the Vespasian Psalter. While we have only begun this long job of comparison our work suggests that the mixed spellings in Beowulf are not necessarily to be explained by a long or complicated textual transmission, but may represent copying conventions or tolerances in a number of late tenth-century scriptoria. Mixtures of spellings similar in some respects to those in Beowulf can be seen in contemporary manuscripts such as the Pastoral Care manuscript, Cotton Otho B.II. 1 7 If the conclusions which have been drawn from the varied spellings of Beowulf WQIQ applied to the Otho copy of the Pastoral Care translation then we would be compelled to posit a long, complicated, and dialectally mixed textual transmission for this translation, which was in fact composed in Alfred's reign, less than a century earlier than its manuscript. Our preliminary work with the linguistic forms of the poem has convinced us that the evidence of language should not be neglected in any inquiry into the date and localization of Beowulf. Although from our current understanding of the language of Beowulf we could not call any date in the Old English period impossible, on linguistic grounds, for the composition of the poem, we believe that further analysis of the language of Beowulf, of Cotton Vitellius A. XV, and of other Old English texts and manuscripts will provide useful information about the date and localization of both the poem and its manuscript.

17 See the discussion of language in Ingvar Carlson, ed., The Pastoral Care Edited from British Museum MS. Cotton Otho B.II Pt. 1, Stockholm Studies in English 34 (Stockholm 1975); Pt. 2, completed by Lars-G. Hallander et al., Stockholm Studies in English 48 (Stockholm 1978). See esp. Pt. 1, pp. 33-65.


Cameron et al.: A Reconsideration of the Language


In our study of the orthography and morphology of Beowulf we have endeavoured to establish norms of spelling or inflection in the text in addition to listing the irregular forms. Throughout, Alistair Campbell's Old English Grammar has been used as our common reference: for the most part our sections are arranged in parallel with its setting out of sound changes and morphological features, and where we use the terms 'regular' or 'normal' they may be taken to mean 'in conformity with the West-Saxon norms given in Old English Grammar.' It should be emphasized, however, that our aim has been to provide a description of part of the spelling system of the text of Beowulf, not to make a phonological study. Therefore, we provide counts of features of little or no phonetic significance, we have kept phonetic interpretation of variant spellings to a minimum, and we have taken pains to distinguish the spellings of the two copyists at work on our manuscript of the poem, scribe A, who copied the entire text up to moste, line 1939, and scribe B, who finished the work and made corrections throughout the entire text. Line references are given for forms of single occurrence or low frequency. For high frequency forms, counts are given thus: 10x:5x (e.g.) meaning 'occurs in hand A ten times and in hand B five times.' Our statistics are conservative in that they do not include emended forms or conjectural readings. For example, we admit neither MS beedde 2018 nor Klaeber's emendation beelde, listed in his language section 7.2 as an example of z-umlaut of unbroken Gmc. a.



Al Spelling of &1 (WSS, nWS e) (Cpb. §§128-9) .1 Gmc. ce is spelled ce 375x (not including freer 112x) in: eedr, cedre, cefenf-, ees, cet, eefim, bcedon, beer, -Jbeeron, gebeeran, bleed[-, breece, -]cweedon, gecwcede, -]deed[-, feerf-, feetf-, gefeegon, greedig, greegf-, -]hweer, leegon, -Jleetan, -]meeg[-, meegp, -]mcel[-, -]mcere, -Jmeerdo, mcete, meeton, manfordeedla, ncere, neeron, ondreedan, -]reed[-, rcedan, -Jrees, -]reesan, reeswa, -Jseegon, seel, seelig, gescelan, -]sceton, endesceta, sleep, slcepan, -Jspreec, sprcecon, -Jstreel, sweefon, besweelan, swcesf-, untcele, -Jfrcegon, gepwcere, -weed, wcegf-, weepenf-, -Jwcer, wcere, wceron, wrcec, gewrcecan pret., -]street. Words of uncertain etymology not counted: cerend, ceg-, ceglceca, bcel, (bql 2126 from bel, later hand), fceger, fcelsian, scemra, steel, weefre, Weegmunding. .2 Gmc. ~ce is spelled e 28x: edrum 742 (eedrum 2966), ower 2870 (ohweer 1737), -]mece 6x:6x (WS poetic spelling, see Cpb. §128 f.2\folcred 3QQ6,Headred [2202], 2375, 2388, Wonrede 2971, Wonreding2965,sele 1135 (sasllx:lx),weg3132,wegflotan 1907 (weegf- 217, 1440, 1489), including a number of class 5 prets.: gefegon 1627 (gefeegon \Q\4),gesegan 3Q38,gesegon 3128 (geseegon \422\pegun 2633,pegon 563 (d.gefreegon 1014). .3 Gmc. ~ce is spelled a 14x (a frequent but irregular feature in WS, normally before back vowels. See Cpb. §162): hwar 3062 (-Jhweer 4x), lagon 3048 (leegon 566), maga, -um 5x:3x, heafodmaga 2151, winemagas 65 (-Jmeeg 24x), magan wk. f. 1391, salum 607 (seel 7x: Ix).

39 Cameron et al.: A Reconsideration of the Language

A2 Breaking and Retraction (Cpb. §§139-56) .1 ae +1 + consonant: bealdian, bealdor, -beald, -]bealo[-*n.,-Jceald, -Jcwealmf-, deal(l), ealdf-, ealdorf- m. and n., ealgian, eal(l)[-, -Jfeald, feall, -]feallan, -Jfealu, gealdor, -gestealla, -Jhealdan, -healdende, -]heal(l)[-, healff-, healsf-, healsian, hwealf, nealles, -Jscealc, sealt, -steald, -wealc, -weald, -wealda, -Jwealdan, Wealdend, Wealhpeow, -Jweal(l), weallan, -weallende. Class 3 pret.: abealch, -]fealh, -Jgeald, healp, -Jmealt, -Jswealg, swealt. Class I pret.: acwealde, cwealdest, sealde, -stealde, tealde. Retracted forms, spelled a, are confined to a handful of words: aldor m., + cpds. 7x:0x (ealdor 3x: Ix), aldor n., + cpds. 20x:2x (ealdor + cpds. 4x: 12x), baldor 2428 (bealdor 2567), Waldend 4x:4x (Wealdend lx:2x), Alwalda 316, 955, 1314 (Alwealda 928), Anwaldan 1272, Folcwaldan 1089, balwon 977 (bed- 20x), cyningbalde I634,galdre 3052 (gealdor 2944),galgan 2446, galgmod 1211, galgtreowum 294Q,halse 1566, wundenhals 298 (heals + cpds. 5x:4x), waldswapum 1403. Note also AHmihtiga 92. .2 ce + / + consonant + /: byldan, -]fyl(l)[-, gefyldan, gefyllan, gehyld, hyldan, -Jwylm, yldan, ylde, yldo, yldra, yldesta, ylfe. Variation: -Jwaslm Ox:3x (Jwylm 9x: 7x), elde m. Ox:4x (ylde 6x:lx), eldo wk. f. 2111 (yldo 4x:9x). JElfheres 2604 (see Cpb. §200 f.4). .3 CE + r + consonant: -bearda, bearhtm, bearm, -]bearn[-, beam, eardf-, eardian, earfofie, earfop-, earg, earmf- adj., earmf- m., earn, Earna-, eart ( ie, y, i as a result of palatal influence and /-umlaut: gid lQ65,gidd 2105, -a 868, -wra 1118;gyd 1160,2108,2154, 2446,gyddum 15\\giomorgydd 3150, wordgyd 3172;g/sr 1138, 1441, 1522,-0s 1602;gysfe 2227\selegyst I545;gaest l8QQ,g&stas 1893 (possibly^^ 2073, 2312), inwitgcest 2670, niftgcest 2699 \gryregieste 256Q, fed eges turn 1976. (gegyrwan 38, I99,gyrede I44l,gyredon 994,gegyred I472,gegyrwed 553, 2087,gegyre6fe 1028, 2\92; gegiredan 3137 included under/-umlaut of Gmc. a + r + consonant, A2.4;see Cpb. §200.2). .2.2.3 de > e0: ongean 681, 747, 1034, togeanes 4x:0x (MS tog$nes 1542, a by hand A),geafon 5 pret. pi. 49, ofgeafon 1600, begeaton 2249, begeate 2130, ongeaton 1431, 2944. .2.2.4 e> i:gifuf.3x:lx,madl}umgife \3Ql,gife6e lx:4x,gyfede 555, Sl9',ungyfe6e 2921, gifhealle 838,gifsceattas 378,gifstol 168, 2327, beaggyfan 1102,goldgyfan 2652,sincgifan 2311,-gyfan 1012, 1342,gyfen pass. part. 64, 1678, I948,cetgifan 2878,ofgyfan 2588,gyldan 11, 1184, 2636,forgyldan 1054, 1577, 23Q5',forgylde 956,gylp n. + cpds. 3x:2x,gilp + cpds. 4x:0x,gy/pan 2874,gy/pe 586,^y/pe3 2Q55,begylpan 2QQ6,gystmn \334,ongitan 1484, 1911, 271Q,ongite2148,ongit 1723, ongytan 1496, ongyton 3Q8,forgyteQ I15l,andgit n. 1059. ,2.2.5 e > /^.-^YSxilx,^/- 10x:2x,(g-e«,ge«fl^?;2x:llx). .2.3 Palatal sc (Cpb. §185): .2.3.1 ^ > ea: -sceaft l\x:4x,sceapen 2229, earmsceapen 1351, 2228,gesceapu 65Q,heahgesceap 3Q84,gu$sceare 1213\inwitscear 2478,sceattas \686',gifsceattas 378,sceal(l)22x:\8x, scealt588, 1707,2666. Exceptions:gescasphwile 26,gesccer 1526. .2.3.2 as > y as a result of palatal influence and /-umlaut (Cpb. §201.4): scyppend 106. .2.3.3 ae > #2: no examples. .2.3.4 e > i, y: scyld m. 3x:3x, scyldfreca 1033, scyldwiga 288;scildweall 3118, scildwigan 3005. 2.3.5 e > ie: no examples. .3 Late West-Saxon smoothing (Cpb. §312): Examples of late WS smoothing after palatal #, sc whereby ea > e are: beget 5 pret. 2872, eftbegete 286l,ofgefan 5 pret. pi. 2846, togenes 3114,sceft 3118, (-sceaft 2x:Qx),gescer 2973 (gescazr 1526), see/ 455, 2804, 3010 (very often sceal), Scefing 4, scepen 2913, ofscet 2439. V


A5 /-Umlaut (Cpb. §§190-204) Approximately 1075 separate words in Beowulf show the influence of/-umlaut. The following is a summary of selected points of interest. (See also A2, Breaking for umlauted broken forms.) .1 Where Gmc. a is followed by a nasal, the /-umlaut of the vowel is regularly spelled e (104 separate words, e.g. sendan, fiencan, endef-, cempa, semninga). Exceptions are: hildehlcemmum 2201 (hildehlemma 2351, 2S44;uhthlem 2007, w&lhlem 2969), maenigo 41 (menigeo 2143, and see Cpb. §193d f.4). .2 Restoration of a in place of ce with subsequent umlaut to ce (Cpb. §193c) occurs in: cefenrceste 646, 1252, celfylcum 2371,aslwihta I500,bordhasbbende 2895,fcef)m- 185, 188, 781, 1210, 1393, 3Q49,fczdmian 2652, 3\33,fletrceste 1241,gecefned 1107, 31Q6,ge (51x) to / (12x) in these words. .7 The /-umlaut of Gmc. u is normally y, but e in nifthedige 3165, / in higepihtigne 746 (pyhtig l55S),wiston 1604. .8 Variation in words subject to /-umlaut: -]czfnan 4x: Ix / efnan \x:Sx\cel- (-fylce) 2371 /