Tempered Gold and Blessed Exile: Theological Coherence Through Poetics in the Old English Phoenix Open Access

Ashton, Max William (2013)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/rv042t73v?locale=en


The Anglo-Saxon immigrants to Britain, after formally adopting Christianity, developed a deeply pious monastic system that was also the center of their literary culture. Some of the poetry the Anglo-Saxon monasteries produced exposes a latent incompatibility between their Roman religion and the secular Germanic pedigree of their poetic conventions, attitudes, and styles. The Phoenix, an Old English translation and expansion of the 3rd century poem Carmen de ave phoenice by Lactantius, addresses and condemns this incompatibility while modifying its Latin source to Christianize the phoenix myth. The Phoenix poet's corrective impulse is particularly evident in the poem's ironic conception of exile, which Daniel Calder calls "the epitome of misfortune in heroic life" and its reevaluation of treasure, which Calder labels "the material symbol of human worth." In a Germanic poetic realm anchored in an idyllic--but secular--past, Calder's assessments hold true. But The Phoenix, by filling the space created by mortal exile with God and by casting treasure as a metaphorical symbol of spiritual worth, challenges these theologically incoherent Anglo-Saxon poetic tropes.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Title Page 1

Introduction 2

Part 1: Noble Exile 10

Part 2: Treasure and Ruin 29

Conclusion: The Three Apples 66

Bibliography 69

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