HISTORY OF ENGLISH LITERATURE - Chapter I literature of the middle ages A ANGLO Saxon period(5th 10th centuries During the first five centuries of our

HISTORY OF ENGLISH LITERATURE - Chapter I literature of the...

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Chapter I: literature of the middle agesA. ANGLO- Saxon period (5th- 10thcenturies)During the first five centuries of our era and long before that, Britain was inhabited by a people called Kelts,who lived in tribes.Britain’s history is considered to begin in the 5thcentury, when it was invaded from the Continent by thefighting tribes of Angles, Saxons and Jutes. At the very end of the 5thcentury they settled in Britain and began tocall themselves English (after the principal tribe of settlers, called English).Although we know very little of this period from literature some poems have nevertheless reached us. In thoseearly days songs called epicswere created in many countries. The epics tell about the most remarkable events ofa people’s history and the deeds of one or more heroic personages.The Song of BeowulfThe first masterpiece of English literature, the epic poem The Song of Beowulf, describes the historical past ofthe land from which the Angles, Saxons and Jutes came. They brought the subject over from the Continentwhen they invaded Britain, and it was made into a poem somewhere about the 7thcentury.The story of Beowulf tells of the time when kings Hrothgar ruled the Danes. Hrothgar built a great house forhimself and his man. It has a large hall with flat stones in the centre. All the men slept in this hall. There was agreat feast when the hall was built. During the feast the songs from the hall were heard by a monster that livedat the bottom of a lonely lake. The gay songs irritated him. When all Hrothgar’s men were asleep, Grendel, themonster, appeared. He seized thirty of the sleeping men, carried them away and ate them. Night after night theman disappeared one after another, until Hrothgar had lost nearly all of them.One day the men that guarded the coast saw a ship approaching the shores of Denmark from Norway. A youngViking was on board, tall and strong as a young oak-tree. It was Beowulf, who had heard of Grendel and hisdoings, He had come to help Hrothgar to kill the monster. He was received with great joy by Hrothgar, whogave a feast in his honour. When the men lay down to sleep after the feast, Grendel appeared in the dark hall. Heseized Beowulf ad a great struggle began. In this struggle the monster lost his arm, but ran away. Again therewas singing and joy in the hall the next night. But late a night a still more terrible monster, a Water Witch,appeared. She was Grendel’s mother who had come to kill Beowulf, but she did not find him and disappeared,carrying away one of the best of Hrothgar’s men. The next day Beowulf went after her and found her a the deadbody of Grendel. With an old sword of the giants that he found there Beowulf killed the Water Witch and cut offGrendel’s head. Carrying the head he came back to the men who were waiting for him. Later, he returned to hisown people with rich presents from Hrothgar.

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