Solomon and Saturn

Solomon and Saturn

"Solomon and Saturn" is a work in the corpus of Anglo-Saxon literature. The work is cast in the form of a dialogue full of riddles, in which Solomon, the wisest king of the land of Israel, and Saturn, the eldest of the elder gods of Roman mythology, though identified in the poem as a prince of the Chaldeans, quiz each other on Biblical, runic, and similar medieval lore.

The entire poem is a "riddle contest" between the two grey-bearded characters after the manner of the "Vafþrúðnismál" and "Alvíssmál" and other similar poems in the "Poetic Edda". In "Solomon and Saturn", though, by including Christian lore as a source for the riddles, the imagery takes on an exotic cast, speaking of the fallen angels, and using the Lord's Prayer as a battle charm.


The work exists in three versions: a prose version in Cotton Vitellius A.xv, and two versions in alliterative verse, one (in Corpus Christi College, Cambridge MS 422) being interspersed with prose.

One of the poetic versions uses the runic alphabet as a sort of riddling shorthand in which runic characters stand for the words in Old English that name them. From this, we know some of the names for the extended set of runes used to write Old English. The prose version has as one of its riddles: "Who invented letters? Mercurius the giant", who is Odin. The Anglo-Saxons routinely identified Mercury with Odin; both rule Wednesday.J. S. Ryan " [ Othin in England: Evidence from the Poetry for a Cult of Woden in Anglo-Saxon England] "Folklore", Vol. 74, No. 3. (Autumn, 1963), pp. 460-480. See p.476.]

The poetic version has been cited as an example of orientalism with the suggestion that it screens anxieties about the cultural identity of the English people. Kathryn Powell claims that at the time it was preserved in Corpus Christi College, Cambridge England was beset by anxieties about the acquisition and dissemination of knowledge, the stability of the kingdom and the efficacy of religious faith. She argues that by displacing ignorance, political instability and lack of faith onto the Eastern and pagan Chaldean people as represented by Saturn, English people were encouraged to identify with ideals and behaviours of the Christianised figure of Solomon. This is cited as an example of bolstering English Christian culture through degrading the east.'Orientalist fantasy in the poetic dialogues of Solomon and Saturn', by [ Kathryn Powell] , "Anglo-Saxon England" (2005), 34: 117-143 Cambridge University Press]


External links

*" [ One of the Solomon and Saturn poems] " (Old English)

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