Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Stare at it long enough, and you can see through a brick wall

The data has been staring me in the face for a year or more and it just didn't sink in until today:

The rolling window analysis of thorn and eth shows that lines 1924-2138 of the Anglo-Saxon poem Genesis A had a written, Old English source.

It has long been known that at least lines 1982-2005 and perhaps 2039-2095 are not drawn from the Latin Bible like the rest of Genesis A. But I hadn't realized the implications of my own data: that only a written source in Old English could account for the anomaly in the thorn/eth ratio at that part of the poem.


Walt Robertson said...

I first found references to the Anglo-Saxon poem, "Genesis A" and read some of that in Modern English. Then refreshed myself on the thorn and eth issue (Ye old Ding). Then I taught myself about rolling analysis. I'm stuck on figuring out the ratio of thorn to eth and further how to see the anomaly therein. Would you expand on how the thorn/eth ratio proves that it must have an Old English written source? From which century are you pegging that Old English? Further, could you explain the ramifications of that discovery? Does that mean it derives it's source from a Wycliffe or Tyndale (can't be King James as there is supposedly a 14th century fragment?) making it later than previously thought? If I'm missing far too much context for me possibly to get to your level and you were just wanting to shout from the steeple because no one else would get it, feel free to say so and I will consider myself sated.

Michael said...

Dear Walt,

Part of it was "shout from the steeple," as the big article that explains it all was just accepted and I'm doing revisions. Part of it was just a "doh!" that I couldn't see the implications, which are: Genesis A is usually thought to be one of the oldest Anglo-Saxon poems, way older than Genesis B, which is inserted/integrated into it. The variation in the rolling ratio of thorn to eth is diagnostic of changes in source (and only in written source, not oral or fresh composition). Thus, the War of the Kings material, rather than being an elaboration by the Genesis A poet when his biblical source was thin, must in fact have a WRITTEN source. Simplest explanation would be that the source is older than Genesis A (high ratio of eths might mean this), which would change very much how we think about chronology of the poems, Anglo-Saxon poetic history, etc. (Especially because we see the same kind of pattern--of either an insertion or a variation in source or a short poetic core in the long texts--in Genesis, Daniel, Guthlac A, Beowulf... As we like to say: research is ongoing.

Nelson said...

Very interesting. Where's this going to appear? This is definitely something I want to keep a look out for.