Anglo-Saxon Studies: The Wanderer and Peace Homage

The Wanderer in His Hall and the Traditions of Peace Homage: The Wanderer Lines 34–50
Thomas D. Hill, Cornell Univ.

This is a joint paper that a colleague and I have taught …

Memory and the past
dream of joining a hall

Wanderer remembers in deeply expressed loyalty and binding

Gemon he selesecgas ond sincþege,
hu hine on geoguðe his goldwine
wenede to wiste. Wyn eal gedreas!
Forþon wat se þe sceal his winedryhtnes
leofes larcwidum longe forþolian,
ðonne sorg ond slæp somod ætgædre
earmne anhogan oft gebindað.
þinceð him on mode þæt he his mondryhten
clyppe ond cysse, ond on cneo lecge
honda ond heafod, swa he hwilum ær
in geardagum giefstolas breac.
ðonne onwæcneð eft wineleas guma,
gesihð him biforan fealwe wegas,
baþian brimfuglas, brædan feþra,
hreosan hrim ond snaw, hagle gemenged.
þonne beoð þy hefigran heortan benne,
sare æfter swæsne.


Lordship was important in Europe.
essentially a secular experience: lord and retainers
took place between men commented to life in this world
language of homage is vernacular; even those aristocrats who became fluent in Latin probably used the vernacular in their own lives of homage

These lines are important as they are a discussion of the homage ritual.
(late dating? 10th C–still earliest account of an homage ritual)

Problem: connected to Norwegian?
No, not a technical term. Cannot mean liege lord. That did not appear till 13th C.
Liege Lord = two lords and only one that you would follow if the two were at war with each other
No evidence that there were ever two lords accepted.

Larson’s comments on The Wanderer on presumed similarities between comitatus and poem.
“king sits on his throne with a drawn sword on his lap, retainer kneels, kisses hand and sword, rises…”
One can see why Larson compared the two texts, but there are striking differences.
Norwegian doesn’t lay his head or hand on the lord’s knees.
Only happened once.
No indication that there is personal affection for the king.

Wanderer experience happened more than once.
Personal love of Wanderer for his lord is strong and developmentally experienced.
not Germanic (similar to 13th C homage rituals in France)

ritual is an analog, but is distant.
Literary scholars and literary study sees “homage ritual” (even a different one) doesn’t matter much since no one is going to bother to look up the article. Sound enough that it’s a “Germanic ritual.”

for a historian it is very important.

Two recent editions of The Wanderer …
One cites a lot of the homage rituals.

Story of King Olaf and Thorkin.
Discussion of story of Thorkel. One man not getting along with his brothers…
“It happened one day….
we are as you know reconciled men…
The earl remained silent…
if you will that I judge between us rather than accept the king’s judgment”

Lots of stories in sagas of those who are in conflict putting head on knee to reconcile.

These correspond to the Wanderer’s description.

Unlike the texts of initiation, these do describe gestures like Wanderer’s.

ideological and social context are very different.
Wanderer remembers with joy a gesture of love and affection, not a time when conflict was resolved.

According to the Suma de Legos (13th C):
homage for a fief= getting land
homage for service= friendship/following
homage for peace= to make peace

Icelandic folks who put head on knee is to make peace. The Wanderer’s gesture is the same, but the point/social effect is different.

Are they, therefore, really cognate to The Wanderer?
Yes and no.
Ritual gestures are the same, but there was no peace needed.
The function of the homage ritual is different but the homage gesture is the same. This similarity indicates that it is indeed a homage ritual.

The Wanderer talks about a ritual that is repeated from time to time.
Might be remembering the welcome given to one who is out in danger and returns home.

Taxonomy of the Norman treatise may be too discreet. (Suma de…)

armichitia (friendship)
homage with friendship ritual

Inter-disciplinarity is hard to do, but the specialized use of homage is to bring about social bonding. If we can bring peace between literary and historical studies, there are lots of rewards.

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