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The Husband's Message

The Husband's Message


by Anonymous

The Husband's Message Language and Communication Quotes

How we cite our quotes: (Line) The only manuscript in which the poem is found has been damaged by fire, so that parts of it are indecipherable. (Crazy, right?) These sections are indicated by ellipses in the text.

Quote #1

Now, in private, I will reveal
the kind of wood I grew up as from a young offspring. (1-2)

The Anglo-Saxon word for "in private," onsundran, can also mean "apart." It draws our attention to the way in which communication can occur between those who are separated. The speaker is a piece of wood. It's probably a rune-stave, a small slip of wood carved with words of pictograms. Starting the poem with this revelation of identity draws our attention as much to the mode of delivery of the lord's message as to the message itself.

Quote #2

. . . He who engraved this wood instructed me to ask
that you, adorned with jewels, yourself remember
in your mind the spoken vows
that you two often spoke in former days. (13-16)

Calling the lord "he who engraved this wood" establishes his identity as the author of the message and the mysterious runes at the end of the poem. It also draws our attention, once again, to the method of transmission. The messenger does not just wish to communicate; it also wants to have an effect on the lady's state of mind, to get her to remember her vow and become committed to a particular course of action.

Quote #3

Nor can he in all the world desire . . .
more in his mind, as he told me. (30-31)

The "as he told me" bit is probably meant to give the speaker's message legitimacy: "I'm just reporting exactly what the lord said." But it also establishes distance between the source of the message and its delivery, emphasizing how it's not the lord that's speaking but someone who heard what he said. Once again, our focus is drawn to the messenger as much as to the message.

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