Applications 25. Handout.  Paroemial Cognitive Patterning in the Medieval North: Edda, Beowulf, and Saxo.
Presented at the 9th Annual Fiske Conference on Medieval Icelandic Studies [Norsestock 9] Cornell University, May 2014.
Richard L. Harris, Department of English, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon.    [heorot@sasktel.net]

BACKGROUND TO THE THEME OF THIS PAPER:

I contend that there was a body of folk-wisdom, not yet in metrical form, a body which can be sensed as a living, pulsing, gnomic background to all Germanic poetry—not just verse specifically intended as didactic.     Carolyne Larrington, p. 18.

My adoption of the term paroemial cognitive patterning was meant to address perceived reflections of an ancient background of communal wisdom in particular passages of [saga] narrative where there is neither utterance of, nor the least explicit allusion to its formulaic encoding in proverb texts.
Richard Harris, “On the Decline of Paroemial Cognitive Patterning in Some Later Icelandic Sagas,” Old Norse Discussion Group, MLA, Chicago, 10 January 2014.

SOME THOUGHTFUL MOMENTS IN BĒOWULF, WITH NORTHERLY GERMANIC ECHOES:

A.  Bēowulf, reporting to Hygelac on the Danish court, predicts the failure of the alliance marriage of Frēawaru to Ingeld of the Heaðobards:
ll. 2029b-31.  Oft seldan hwær / æfter leodhryre lytle hwile / bongar bugeð, þeah seo bryd duge!
and ll. 2063-66.  þonne bioð abrocene on ba healfe / aðsweord eorla; syððan Ingelde / weallað wælniðas, ond him wiflufan / æfter cearwælmum colran weorðað.

The paroemial patterns:
The pragmatic realities of vengeance undertakings:
TPMA 10.   120. SCHLAGEN/battre/to hit 16. Die Hand freut sich nicht lange am Schlag Mlat. 217 credo euenturum uobis, quod uulgo dici assolet, ferienti interdum breue percussionis gaudium fore, nec diu manum ictu exhilarari solere Ich glaube, es wird für euch herauskommen, was man allgemein zu sagen pflegt, dass für den, der schlägt, manchmal die Freude des Schlagens kurz sei und sich die Hand nicht lange am Schlag zu freuen pflege SAXO GRAMM. 137, 25. Nord. 218 Þat er mælt, at skamma stund verðr hönd höggvi fegin Das wird gesagt, dass die Hand sich (nur) kurze Zeit am Schlag freut NJÁLS SAGA 42, 9 (= JÓNSSON, ARKIV 196. JÓNSSON 82). 219 Mun hér sannaz þat sem mælt er, at skamma stund verðr hönd höggvi fegin Das wird sich hier deutlich zeigen, was man sagt, dass die Hand sich (nur) kurze Zeit am Schlag freut NJÁLS SAGA 99, 9 (= JÓNSSON, ARKIV 196). 220 Nú er svá orðit, sem mælt er, at skamma stund verðr hönd höggvi fegin Nun ist es so gesprochen, wie es gesagt wird, dass die Hand sich (nur) kurze Zeit am Schlag freut NJÁLS SAGA 134, 3 (= JÓNSSON, ARKIV 196). 221 Stutta stund verdur hond hoggi feigenn (Nur) kurze Zeit freut sich die Hand am Schlag KÅLUND 88 (= JÓNSSON, ARKIV 196).

TPMA 2.   50. BLUT/sang/blood  8. Blutnächte sind die jähesten Nächte  Nord. 32 Þat er fornt mál, at blóðnætr eru hverjum bráðastar Das ist ein altes Sprichwort, dass die Blutnächte für jeden die jähesten sind VÍGA-GLÚMS SAGA 15, 2 (= JÓNSSON, ARKIV 43. JÓNSSON 18). 33 Þvíat blóðnætr eru bráðastar Denn Blutnächte sind die jähesten VATNSDŒLA SAGA 24, 1 (= JÓNSSON, ARKIV 43). 34 Blóðnætr aru bráðastar Blutnächte sind die jähesten BISKUPASŒGUR I, 142 (→ JÓNSSON, ARKIV 43).

On the other hand, the aristocratic heroic approach, vengeance with style!
TPMA 9.   177. RACHE/vengeance 8. Verschiedenes  Nord. 140 Eigi veit áðr hefndum lýkr Man weiss nich (, wie es ausgeht), bevor die Rache vollzogen ist MÁLSHÁTTAKVÆÐI 18, 6 (= JÓNSSON, ARKIV 166. JÓNSSON 66). 141 Þræll einn þegar hefniz, en argr aldri Ein Knecht rächt sich schnell, aber ein Feiger nie GRETTIS SAGA 15, 7 (= JÓNSSON, ARKIV 482. JÓNSSON 190). 142 Fornrar skemðar skal fyrr hefna Alte Schande soll man zuerst (wörtl.: früher) rächen BÆRINGS SAGA 24 S. 111, 26 (= JÓNSSON, ARKIV 165. JÓNSSON 66).
Ed. note.  See Deskis, p. 124, fn 77.

B.  Healing rifts:  marriage vs heroic aid in times of need?
Hrōþgār assesses the real, historical effects Bēowulf’s fantastic accomplishment—a point of the story?
ll. 1855-8.  Hafast þu gefered þæt þam folcum sceal, / Geata leodum ond Gardenum, / sib gemæne, ond sacu restan, / inwitniþas, þe hie ær drugon.

MATTERS OF HONOUR:
A. OATHS AND INTEGRITY:
1.  Hrōþgār, honouring the oath:
ll. 80-81a.  He beot ne aleh, beagas dælde, / sinc æt symle.  

The paroemial patterns:
Sígrdrífumál:
Ek.  II.  SDM. 23. 312.  
Þat ræð ek þér annat,/at þú eið né sverir,/nema þann er saðr sé;/grimmar limar/ganga at tryggðrofi;/armr er vára vargr.

Hrafnkell’s ironic honouring of his foolishly declared oath:
ÍF XI.   3. 105. En við þann átrúnað, at ekki verði at2 þeim mönnum, er heitstrengingar fella á sik, þá hljóp hann af baki til hans ok hjó hann banahögg. Eptir þat ríðr hann heim við svá búit á Aðalból ok segir þessi tíðendi.

Hrōþgār recalls his men’s oaths to protect Hēorot from Grendel:
ll. 480-4.  Ful oft gebeotedon beore druncne / ofer ealowæge oretmecgas / þæt hie in beorsele bidan woldon / Grendles guþe mid gryrum ecga.

Instances in which Bēowulf declares or remembers his oaths:
Bēowulf’s boast regarding the levelling of odds in the fight with Grendel, hand to hand fighting:
ll. 433-441.  “Hæbbe ic eac geahsod þæt se æglæca / for his wonhydum wæpna ne recceð. / Ic þæt þonne forhicge (swa me Higelac sie, / min mondrihten, modes bliðe), / þæt ic sweord bere oþðe sidne scyld, / geolorand to guþe, ac ic mid grape sceal / fon wið feonde ond ymb feorh sacan, / lað wið laþum; ðær gelyfan sceal / dryhtnes dome se þe hine deað nimeð.”
Bēowulf recalls his youth with Breca, and their bēot competitions:
ll. 535-8. “Wit þæt gecwædon cnihtwesende / ond gebeotedon (wæron begen þa git / on geogoðfeore) þæt wit on garsecg ut / aldrum neðdon, ond þæt geæfndon swa.”
Bēowulf reaffirms his boast promise to kill Grendel or die trying:
ll. 636-9. “Ic gefremman sceal / eorlic ellen, oþðe endedæg / on þisse meoduhealle minne gebidan.”
Bēowulf again affirms his commitment to the level playing field:
ll. 681-7. “Nat he þara goda þæt he me ongean slea, / rand geheawe, þeah ðe he rof sie / niþgeweorca; ac wit on niht sculon / secge ofersittan, gif he gesecean dear / wig ofer wæpen, ond siþðan witig god / on swa hwæþere hond, halig dryhten, / mærðo deme, swa him gemet þince.”
Bēowulf remembers his bēot as he engages Grendel:
ll. 758-60a.  Gemunde þa se goda, mæg Higelaces, / æfenspræce, uplang astod / ond him fæste wiðfeng; fingras burston.
Bēowulf’s last bēot:
ll. 2510-5, 2524b-8. 
Beowulf maðelode, beotwordum spræc / niehstan siðe: “Ic geneðde fela / guða on geogoðe; gyt ic wylle, / frod folces weard, fæhðe secan, / mærðu fremman, gif mec se mansceaða / of eorðsele ut geseceð.”
“Nelle ic beorges weard /forfleon fotes trem, ac unc furður sceal /weorðan æt wealle, swa unc wyrd geteoð, /metod manna gehwæs. Ic eom on mode from /þæt ic wið þone guðflogan gylp ofersitte.”

B. COMITATUS OBLIGATIONS
Wīglāf reminds Bēowulf’s comitatus members of their oaths:
ll. 2633-38a. "Ic ðæt mæl geman,  þær we medu þegun, / þonne we geheton ussum hlaforde / in biorseleðe us ðas beagas geaf, / þæt we him ða guðgetawa gyldan woldon / gif him þyslicu þearf gelumpe, / helmas ond heard sweord.”
“I remember that time when mead was flowing, /  how we pledged loyalty to our lord in the hall, / promised our ring-giver we would be worth our price, / make good the gift of the war-gear, / those swords and helmets, as and when / his need required it.”

The paroemial patterns:
On gift obligations.
Hávamál:
Ek. I. HVM. 33. 42.  Vin sínum/skal maðr vinr vera/ok gjalda gjöf við gjöf.
Ek. I. HVM. 34. 46.  . . . glík skulu gjöld gjöfum.

Wiglaf admonishes the comitatus to courageous action:
ll. 2633-38a.
“Ic ðæt mæl geman, þær we medu þegun, / þonne we geheton ussum hlaforde / in biorsele, ðe us ðas beagas geaf, / þæt we him ða guðgetawa gyldan woldon / gif him þyslicu þearf gelumpe, / helmas ond heard sweord.”

Wīglāf upon the comitatus’ neglect of Bēowulf’s gifts and their oaths:
ll. 2862-2876.
Wiglaf maðelode, Weohstanes sunu, / sec, sarigferð (seah on unleofe): / "þæt, la, mæg secgan se ðe wyle soð specan / þæt se mondryhten se eow ða maðmas geaf, / eoredgeatwe, þe ge þær on standað, / þonne he on ealubence oft gesealde / healsittendum helm ond byrnan, / þeoden his þegnum, swylce he þrydlicost / ower feor oððe neah findan meahte, / þæt he genunga guðgewædu / wraðe forwurpe, ða hyne wig beget. / Nealles folccyning fyrdgesteallum / gylpan þorfte; hwæðre him god uðe, / sigora waldend, þæt he hyne sylfne gewræc / ana mid ecge,   þa him wæs elnes þearf.

In Saxo, Gøtar equates loyal courage with remembered gifts:
Saxo:  O-R Liber quintus. 128-9. VI. 1. Ad quos Ericus: "Inverecundus," ait, "est latro, qui prior concordiam quærit aut bonis communicare præsumit. Qui enim obtinere gestit, obniti debet; ictus ictui opponendus est livorque livore pellendus." Cumque hoc dictum Gøtarus attentis eminus auribus excepisset, quam poterat clara voce: "Ita", inquit, "quisque virtuti militat, prout beneficii meminit." Cui Ericus: "Beneficentiam tuam reddito tibi consilio repensavi." Quo sermone egregios monitus omni donorum genere præstantiores indicabat.
PF Book V. 144.  Gøtar, fearing Frothi’s power, sends envoys asking for peace:

Erik talked to them: “It’s a shameless robber who is the first to ask for a truce or ventures to offer one to blameless men. Those who long for possession must struggle for it; blow must be pitted against blow, hatred repel hatred.”88 Gøtar listened to his words attentively from a distance and, in as distinct tones as he could muster, replied, “A man's gallantry in action is measured by his recollection of benefits received.” Erik answered, “I’ve requited your generosity with the sound advice I've given you.” He meant that excellent counsel was more valuable than any sort of gift, . .

The narrator remarks on the gathering of a comitatus in youth:
ll. 20-25b.  (D 105)
Swa sceal geong guma gode gewyrcean, / fromum feohgiftum on fæder bearme,/ þæt hine on ylde eft gewunigen / wilgesiþas, þonne wig cume, / leode gelæsten

Wīglāf remembers the gifts and kind treatment he received:
ll. 2602-8. Wiglaf wæs haten Weoxstanes sunu, / leoflic lindwiga, leod Scylfinga, / mæg ælfheres; geseah his mondryhten / under heregriman hat þrowian. / Gemunde ða ða are þe he him ær forgeaf, / wicstede weligne Wægmundinga, / folcrihta gehwylc, swa his fæder ahte.

Wīglāf prefers to die than return with weapons given by Hrothgar:
ll. 2651b-6a.
God wat on mec / þæt me is micle leofre þæt minne lichaman / mid minne goldgyfan gled fæðmie. / Ne þynceð me gerysne þæt we rondas beren / eft to earde, nemne we æror mægen / fane gefyllan,   feorh ealgian / Wedra ðeodnes.

C. KINSHIP OBLIGATIONS
The paroemial patterns:
ÍF VII.  82. 260. Þá mælti Grettir: “Berr er hverr á bakinu, nema sér bróður eigi.”
TPMA 2.  128.  BRUDER/frère/brother  1. Ein Bruder ist wertvoll und von grossem Nutzen 1.3. Wer keinen Bruder hat, ist nackt (ungeschützt)  Mlat. 9 Nudum habere tergum fraternitatis inopem, referebat (scil. Ericus) Er (Ericus) rief, dass der Bruderlose einen ungeschützten Rücken habe SAXO GRAMM. 135, 19.  Nord. 10.11 Berr er hverr á bakinu (NJÁLS SAGA: at baki), nema sér bróður eigi Jeder ist am Rücken nackt, ausser demjenigen, der einen Bruder hat GRETTIS SAGA 82, 13 (= JÓNSSON, ARKIV 25. GERING S. 6. JÓNSSON 22). NJÁLS SAGA 152, 5. 12 Fratribus orbatus est pro nudo reputatus. – Bar ær brodherløss man Jemand, der seiner Brüder beraubt ist, wird als nackt angesehen. – Ein bruderloser Mann ist nackt LÅLE 395. Variiert: Nord. 13 Opt kømr mér Mána brúþar (H.s.: bjarnar2) Í byrvind Brœþraleyse; Hyggjomk umb, Es hildr þróask Oft kommt mir der Mangel an Brüdern in den Sinn (wörtl.: in den Fahrtwind der Mondbraut [des Mondbären]); ich denke darüber nach, wenn der Kampflärm anschwillt EGILL, SONATORREK 13, 1 (→EGILS SAGA S. 305).

Sígrdrífumál:
Ek.  II.  SDM. 22. 312. 
“Þat ræð ek þér it fyrsta,/at þú við frændr þína/vammalaust verir;/síðr þú hefnir,/þótt þeir sakar geri;/þat kveða dauðu, duga.”

Bēowulf, dying, on his treatment of kinsmen:
ll. 2739-44a.
“Ic ðæs ealles mæg /feorhbennum seoc gefean habban; /for ðam me witan ne ðearf waldend fira / morðorbealo maga, þonne min sceaceð / lif of lice.”

Wīglāf observes the claims of kinship, stays with Bēowulf in his need:
ll. 2599b-2602.
Hiora in anum weoll /sefa wið sorgum; sibb æfre ne mæg /wiht onwendan þam ðe wel þenceð.

Bēowulf to Hygelac, on how a kinsman should behave:
ll. 2163-9a.
Hyrde ic þæt þam frætwum feower mearas / lungre, gelice, last weardode, / æppelfealuwe; he him est geteah / meara ond maðma. Swa sceal mæg don, / nealles inwitnet oðrum bregdon / dyrnum cræfte, deað renian / hondgesteallan.

TPMA 5.   452. HAUS/maison/house 5. Bewohner und Verhältnisse im Haus 5.3.2. Was man im eigenen Haus nicht hat, bringt man nicht nach aussen  Nord. 148 Satt er et fornkveðna: án er ills gengis, nema heiman hafi Wahr ist das Sprichwort: “Man is ohne schlechtes Gefolge, wenn man es nicht von daheim mitbringt” GÍSLA SAGA 31, 7 (= JÓNSSON, ARKIV 142). 149 Satt er þat, er mælt er . . . án er illt um gengi, nema heiman hafi Es ist wahr, was man sagt: . . .  HŒNSA-ÞÓRIS SAGA 6 S. 18 (= JÓNSSON, ARKIV 142). 150 Án er illt gengi, nema heiman hafi NJÁLS SAGA 17, 4 (= JÓNSSON, ARKIV 142. JÓNSSON 55).

Wīglāf observes the claims of kinship, stays with Bēowulf in his need:
ll. 2599b-2602.
Hiora in anum weoll /sefa wið sorgum; sibb æfre ne mæg /wiht onwendan þam ðe wel þenceð.

Paroemial patterns of fratricide:
Hávamál:
Ek. I. HVM. 89. 45.  “Bróðurbana sínum/þótt á brautu mæti,/húsi hálfbrunnu,/hesti alskjótum,/ -- þá er jór ónýtr,/ef einn fótr brotnar --,/verði-t maðr svá tryggr/at þessu trúi öllu.”

How Unferth treated kin, and the apparent significance of this:
Bēowulf accuses him of killing his brothers:
ll. 587-9. “þeah ðu þinum broðrum to banan wurde, / heafodmægum; þæs þu in helle scealt /werhðo dreogan, þeah þin wit duge.”

The narrator, noticing Hrōþgār and Hrōþulf still love each other, remarks next that Unferð is admired in the court despite the fratricides:
ll. 1165b-8a. Swylce þær Unferþ þyle / æt fotum sæt frean Scyldinga; gehwylc hiora his ferhþe treowde, / þæt he hæfde mod micel, þeah þe he his magum nære / arfæst æt ecga gelacum. 

Wealhþēow assures Hrōþgār of the continued loyalty of relatives:
ll. 1180b-7. 
“Ic minne can / glædne Hroþulf, þæt he þa geogoðe wile / arum healdan, gyf þu ær þonne he, / wine Scildinga, worold oflætest; / wene ic þæt he mid gode gyldan wille / uncran eaferan, gif he þæt eal gemon, / hwæt wit to willan ond to worðmyndum / umborwesendum ær arna gefremedon.”

D. THE UNIVERSAL ACCEPTANCE AND APPROVAL OF THE HERO:
Bēowulf assures Hrōþgār of Hreðric’s universal acceptance abroad:
ll. 1838b-1839.

“ . . . feorcyþðe beoð / selran gesohte  þæm þe him selfa deah.
"Foreign places yield more to one who is himself worth meeting."  SH 127.
See Vatnsdœla saga:
ÍF VIII. 11. 32.  
Þorsteinn kvazk ætla, at Ingimundr myndi þykkja þar mikilmenni sem hann byggði, hvar sem hann væri.
ÍF VIII. 12. 36. Konungr mælti: "Hvar landa sem þú ert, muntu sœmðarmaðr vera".


WORKS USED AND CITED.

Manuel Aguirre, “‘Beot’, Hybris, and the Will in Beowulf,” SELIM 6 (1996) 5–31. 
Shirley Arora, “The Perception of Proverbiality,” Proverbium 1 (1984) 1-38.
Susan Deskis, “Beowulfand the Medieval Proverb Tradition. Medieval & Renaissance Texts & Studies, 155. Tempe 1996.
Einarsson, Stefán, “Old English Beot and Old Icelandic Heitstrenging,” PMLA, 49 (1934) 99-103.
Richard P. Honeck,  A Proverb in Mind. The Cognitive Science of Proverbial Wit and Wisdom. Mahwah, NJ 1997
Neal R. Norrick, How Proverbs Mean. Semantic Studies in English Proverbs. Trends in Linguistics. Studies and Monographs 27. Berlin, NY & Amsterdam 1985.
Stephen D. Winick, “Intertextuality and Innovation in a Definition of the Proverb Genre,” Cognition, Comprehension and Communication: A Decade of North American Proverb Studies (1990-2000), ed. Wolfgang Mieder. Baltmannsweiler 2003, 571-601.  [Revised second chapter of S. D. Winick, The Proverb Process: Intertextuality and Proverbial Innovation in Popular Culture. Diss. University of Pennsylvania 1998.]
Carolyne Larrington, A Store of Common Sense. Gnomic Theme and Style in Old Icelandic and Old English Wisdom Poetry.  Oxford 1993.

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