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The Husband's Message

The Husband's Message


by Anonymous

Lines 44b-54 Summary

Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.

Lines 44b-48

Now the man has
overcome his trouble; he has no lack of joy,
or of horses or treasures, or the pleasures of mead,
or of any of the noble treasures upon earth,
prince's daughter, if he possesses you.

  • Once again the poem smoothes over the lord's past misfortunes. Sure, he may have had to undertake a rough journey into exile, but that's all over now.
  • The lord's troubles aren't just over; instead, he has overcome them. Once again, the poem emphasizes the lord's strength and makes him into an active author of his own good fortunes.
  • This passage flatters the lady by equating her with the most noble treasures upon earth. At the same time, it's a laundry list of the lord's wealth, intended to convince the lady of his prosperity.
  • The lord possesses the "pleasures of mead," which may be a way of saying that he's got a mead-hall, a place to enjoy the honeyed wine with his war buddies. A mead-hall was a powerful symbol of a lord's dominion. If this lord has one, he's doing well.
  • The passage ends by saying that all that the lord needs to complete his treasure collection is the lady herself. It pulls out all the stops to flatter her, calling her "prince's daughter" and comparing her to the most rare and precious of the lord's possessions.
  • Of course, at the same time, this equation of the lady with gold or horses turns her into an object, so it seem like the lord views her as just another possession.

Lines 49-54

In accordance with the past vow of the two of you,
I hear
S joined together with R
and EA and W and M to declare an oath
that he would keep the pledge
and the vow of friendship as long as he lives,
that which in former days you two often uttered.

  • Now the poem really gets mysterious, voicing some runes, or ancient symbols, as evidence of the lord's intention to keep his vow of friendship to the lady.
  • After trying to convince the lady of her lord's prosperity (and therefore, the security that she's guaranteed with him), the speaker now reminds her of her obligation: the "past vow of the two of you."
  • The runes the speaker "hears" are sigel, rad, ear, wenn, and monn, the symbols for sun, road, sea, joy, and man. In the manuscript they appear as tiny pictures rather than letters.
  • No one is really sure what these runes actually mean. They may be a private code the lord is using to communicate with his lady. Maybe the reader isn't even meant to understand them.
  • Here the poem uses writing (in the form of the runes) to communicate what is usually spoken – an oath. In the lord's absence, the writing "speaks" the oath for him. This situation returns us to the beginning of the poem, in which we met a speaking piece of wood. Like the wood that's "speaking," these runes are an inanimate object that also speak.
  • The runes are described as "joined together," which is exactly the effect they are hoped to have: the "joining together" of the lady with her lord.
  • This passage contains no fewer than four incidences of a word meaning "promise": "vow," "oath," "pledge," and "vow" again. This repetition makes it impossible to ignore the promise, and the lord is definitely hoping the lady won't ignore it.

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