Saturday, January 24, 2015

A/S cont;

A Riddle - answer will be given at the end, though it is fairly easy to read...

Fingers folded me, and the bird's delight repeatedly made tracks across me with luck droppings. Across the burnished rim it swallowed tree's dyes, a helping of fluid, and stepped again onto me travelling a black trail.  Then a man clad me in protective boards, covered me with hide and girded me with gold.  Afterwards the splendid work of the goldsmiths adorned me, encased in filigree.  Now this decoration and the red dye and the magnificent settings make known far and wide the Protector of multitudes, and the punishment of folly, no less.

This riddle appears at the beginning of  Leslie Webster's Anglo-Saxon Art, and of course the art of A/S poetry and riddles is the spoken imagery of the mind.  Most people could not read, you had to paint the walls, sing the songs in the great hall and recite the stories from the past to give visual continuance to one's ancestors, the great battles fought, noble deaths and of course the movement of people from one place to another.
And so it is with the intricately patterned Saxon jewellery work, the elaborate swirls and coils of gold resembling mazes, the zoomorphic animals, animal bodies ending up with human faces and perhaps best of all the natural vines  and leaves that trail so invitingly round stone work, to understand the grammar of the pictorial feast.  So much of what you see is hidden in a past history of pagan religious beliefs, Woden still strides the world as the conversion to christianity took place, the fluid movement of metamorphosing from one god to another took time, it adds that extra dimension to interpretation.
The natural world though flowed through the blood of these Germanic people but christianity brought the heavy hand of the priest to the stories.
So through this visual explosion of artwork, we are left with tantalising puzzles, and that is something I would like to explore...

So for today, the Strickland Brooch, 9th century silver and niello, emphasising the dramatic light and dark of the world, see the hounds circling the  human faces.

The answer to the riddle is of course a book, the gospel-book.  Riddle 26 in the Exeter Book


  1. That brooch is nothing short of exquisite Thelma.

    1. It's incredible Pat, but heavy to wear I would have thought....

  2. Beautiful! I'm really enjoying your posts on the Anglo-Saxons and their art.

    1. Glad you are enjoying it Jan, takes me some while to read the book though, and absorb the information as well...