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The Husband's Message

The Husband's Message


by Anonymous

Communication (vows, writing, speech)

Symbol Analysis

"The Husband's Message" is all about communication and how it happens. Obviously the poem is the transmission of a message. But it's also concerned with the lovers' vows. A vow or an oath doesn't just communicate a promise; it also creates a new relationship. For example, a marriage vow makes the two people saying the vow husband and wife. The personification of the piece of wood that transmits the lord's message to his lady, as well as the runes carved upon it, emphasize how writing "speaks" for those whose message it transmits.

  • Line 1: The speaker promises to reveal his origin "in private." But the word for "in private," onsundran, can also mean "apart," establishing the focus of the poem on communication between two people who are separated.
  • Line 2: The speaker reveals himself to be a piece of wood. That makes the whole poem an extended personification, since it's spoken by an inanimate object.
  • Line 13: The speaker refers to his lord as "he who engraved this wood," establishing the lord as the author of the mysterious runes at the end of the poem, and of the message they transmit.
  • Lines 13-15: The speaker tells the lady that the lord wants her to remember the "vows that you two often spoke in former days."
  • Line 21: The speaker characterizes his communication as instruction, placing himself (and the lord) in a position of authority over the lady he addresses.
  • Lines 50-51: The speaker personifies the runes by saying that he hears five runes join together to "declare a pledge."

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