That Passed Away: So May This

Weland, by way of the trammels upon him, knew persecution. Single-minded man, he suffered miseries. He had as his companion sorrow and yearning, wintry-cold suffering; often he met with misfortune once Nithhad had laid constraints upon him, pliant sinew-fetters upon a worthier man.
– That passed away: so may this.

The Anglo-Saxon poem Deor contains six stanzas in which the poet expresses his hope that, just as the grief of legendary figures such as Weland (seen on the left hand side of the Franks Casket above) passed away, so will his.

In the eighth and last stanza the poet reveals the source of his grief: his lord, Heodeningas has spurned him in favour of another bard, ‘Heorrenda, a man expert in poesy’.

In my post Cædmon’s Hymn I wondered if the title of ‘Ordainer’ implied an Anglo-Saxon belief in some form of predestination. If there was, the final line of Deor shows that it was not regarded as being all-powerful.

What trumps it? The seventh stanza gives us the answer. The poet tells us that though suffering men may consider that their misery ‘is without ending’ they may also ‘consider that throughout this world the wise Lord frequently causes change’.

This belief will be familiar to Christians the world over today. So far as Deor – for the poem is named after its writer – is concerned, it appears (from the introduction to the poem) that his hope is traceable back to the later fifth/early sixth century A.D. philosopher Boethius who wrote about Providence being free of Fate in his Consolation of Philosophy.

The translation of Deor above comes from Anglo-Saxon Poetry (Everyman 1995). I bought the book in its year of publication and am impressed that I still have it nineteen years on.

What should really impress me, however, is the fact that through it I can connect with a poem at least twelve hundred years old, probably older, and an idea that is at least fifteen hundred years old (and which I know, even though my theological knowledge is not great, is a lot older than that).

That’s not all – not only can I connect with the poem and its idea – I can do so in the knowledge that the latter is still applicable in our own time. Personally, I think it will be relevant to all time.

In the last couple of days, I had been wondering how I might make this blog relevant to this day and age. I need wonder no more!

The picture of the Franks Casket at the top of this post comes from Wikipedia

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