Daniel OE


Daniel OE

"Daniel" is an Old English poem based loosely on the Biblical book of Daniel, found in the Junius Manuscript. The author and the date of "Daniel" are unknown. Critics have argued that Caedmon is the author of the poem, but this theory has been since disproved. "Daniel", as it is preserved, is 764 lines long. There have been numerous arguments that there was originally more to this poem than survives today. The majority of scholars, however, dismiss these arguments with the evidence that the text finishes at the bottom of a page, and that there is a simple point, which translators assume indicates the end of a complete sentence. Daniel contains a plethora of lines which Old English scholars refer to as “hypermetric” or long.

Content

The Old English "Daniel" is based only loosely on the Biblical book Daniel from which it draws its inspiration. "Daniel" ignores the majority of the apocalyptic and prophetic writing found towards the end of the Biblical source, and focuses instead on the first five chapters of narrative. The primary focus of the Old English author was that of The Three Children, Daniel and their encounters with the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar (O.E. Nabuchodnossor). Many Scholars divide "Daniel" into two parts, Daniel A and Daniel B. Daniel A is a retelling of the beginning of the Book of Daniel. Daniel B is read by some scholars to be a version of the Old English poem Azarias, which is found in the Exeter Manuscript. Although Daniel B comes later in the poem, it is read as a prayer for deliverance although deliverance is already granted in the first half of the poem (Daniel A). This fact has led many Old English scholars to view Daniel B as an interpolation. There are many other factors supporting this claim, including differences in vocabulary and metrical usage. Yet another piece of evidence that Daniel B seems to be an addition to the original poem lies in the general content of early Old English Christian poetry, paraphrasing. Daniel B seems to be an emphasis on the allegorical meaning of the book of Daniel, which is drastically different from the majority of Old English Christian Poetry written around the approximated date of "Daniel".

Differences Between OE Daniel and Biblical Daniel

Some scholars insist that the "Daniel" poet was much more interested in the literal interpretation of the Book of Daniel, but others illustrate the author's intention to write allegorically. In the Biblical Book, King Nebuchadnezzar wishes to educate Daniel, but the dramatized OE "Daniel" has Nebuchodnossor trying to acquire Daniel's wisdom. This change sets the character of Daniel in a way more consistent with the Old English hero. Another stark contrast is the inclusion of the author's version of the Azarias and the introduction to the Biblical Book called Song of Songs. These differences and many others are thought to indicate that the unknown author of Daniel was not simply paraphrasing the Biblical book, but was in fact original in his composition.

Bibliography

"Medieval England: An Encyclopedia", editors: Paul E. Szarmach, M. Teresa Tavormina, Joel T. Rosenthal. New York: Garland Pub., 1998.

"The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Anglo-Saxon England", ed. Michael Lapidge (1991).

"Dictionary of the Middle Ages", Joseph R. Strayer, editor in chief.

"Anglo-Saxon Poetry", S.A.J. Bradley. David Campbell Publishers Ltd, London; 1995.


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