Session 3: Heroic Poetry

Beasts of battle A motif in heroic poetry describing predators (the raven, eagle, and/or wolf) either feasting on the corpses of the slain or circling the battle-field in anticipation of a meal
bēot An Old English word for boast or vow; used of boasts made by warriors at drinking
Cain’s kin The offspring of Cain, the first fratricide in Genesis; like many in the Middle Ages, the Beowulf poet understood all monsters, including Grendel, to be of this lineage
Comitatus The immediate following of a king or warlord, who provide military service in return for lodging, food, drink, and gifts of precious metals and/or military equipment
Economy of war An economic system that depends on the spoils of war to finance its running expenses. The warrior culture depicted in heroic poetry is such a system.
gylp An Old English word for boasting or pride; used of boasts made by warriors at drinking
ofermōd An Old English word for pride, arrogance, or overconfidence; used of Lucifer/Satan but also of Byrhtnoth as he grants the Vikings access to land at Maldon
Sounds and sights of war Conventional auditive and visual elements of heroic poetry: the ringing of chainmail, the clash of weapons and armour, the cry of men (and beasts of battle), the sounding of battle-horns, and the shining of armour, weapons, and standards