Heroism in three Old English poems: A Christian approach


It has been contended that the value system and terminology of Old English heroic poetry were not suitable vehicles for the later religious poetry, that their Germanic garb ill-fitted the Christian poems. This view, however, does not take cognisance of the the fact that there exists a Christian heroism in its own right. Only Christian scholarship can fully account for this phenomenon and show how the subject matter of this poetry is consonant with the heroic diction and formulae in which it is couched. Three Old English poems dealing with aspects of Christ’ saving ministry will be examined to show that Christ is depicted as a hero bringing victory through suffering in God’s plan of salvation, rather than as a heroic warrior as he is usually regarded, fighting in the armour of the Germanic hero. A close study of these poems shows that the authors understood Christian heroism to mean more than brave battling on the side of God; rather, it is complete submission to the will of God.

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