Signum Collaboratory

“Merry Old Englyn: the Familiar and the Strange in the Old English Rhyming Poem”

Patrick Lyon

Academic Production Hall

The Old English Rhyming Poem is one of the stranger and more overlooked entries in the corpus of OE poetry, often regarded as interesting but flawed and incoherent due to its intensive pursuit of rhyme. As the poem is both unique and highly allusive, critical analyses have focused on the potential inspirations for (and origins of) the poem, and have attempted to make sense of the work’s convoluted grammar and syntax. This thesis examines three related questions concerning the poem’s origin, translation, and interpretation, and in conversation with critical analyses and previous editions of the poem presents a new argument for the inspiration of the poem coming from Welsh poetry. This thesis also makes the case that treating the poem as a riddle in addition to an elegy can make greater sense of some of the passages that earlier critics have found most vexing in the past.


For the thesis, I am primarily interested on feedback regarding the validity of the interpretations presented in my "conclusions" section. If people have other theories or ideas about the potential inspirations, that would be great, but I think the most generally-accessible part of the Thesis is my discussion of: 

a) the possibility of the poem being a riddle;  
b) if it is a riddle, whether my argument of it being a riddle for "tree" works, or if there is a better interpretation. 

I do have a few comments in that section about further possibilities, and I would be interested in people engaging with those possibilities, or ones I might not have considered.

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