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The Stanzas of the Old English Rune Poem

Gary Stanfield

Online book, 2012

The study of rune lore is, among other things, a study of wisdom poetry and religious mysteries, not merely a study of an ancient alphabet. To refuse to consider stanzas of the Old English Rune Poem as having metaphorical meanings is to insist that it is inherently superficial. To refuse to consider that the people of the Dark Ages might have been thoughful and philosophical enough to give us a work or art with profound multiple meanings is to condemn the poem to a level of artistic ordinariness. This is your invitation to consider otherwise. A major conclusion of this study is that the Old English Rune Poem presents us with a complex layering of multiple meanings. At its more abstract levels, the poem is a discussion of at least one religion, although it just barely mentions religious topics at the explicit level. J. R. Hall observed some time ago (1977) that whoever composed this poem “manages to suggest multiple aspects of the created world through wordplay and the use of comparison and contrast”. This is definitely true, but no one tried to bring all that out in print before the first edition of this book was published at the end of the Twentieth Century. But there is a fundamental difference between the way Hall sees this piece of art and the view taken in this book. He emphasized “the realities that the runenames designate in shifting perspective”. As you will see, the rune names are not so important.

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