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The Husband's Message

The Husband's Message


by Anonymous

Sumptuary Culture (gold, jewelry, decoration, luxury items)

Symbol Analysis

Part of the messenger's strategy for convincing the lady to return to the lord is to assure her of his great prosperity. To this end, he uses lots of detailed descriptions of the lord's possessions, often using understatement to hint at their extent. The messenger's hidden agenda is to reassure the lady that, despite her lord's exile, he can still offer her financial security and a queenly lifestyle. He caps off his description of his lord's treasure trove by urging the lady to become a part of it, in effect objectifying her as just another possession.

  • Line 14: The messenger uses imagery to flatter the lady, describing her as "adorned with jewels." This description also connects the lady to the piece of wood from line 13, which was described as "engraved" – since engraving was an Anglo-Saxon way of decorating.
  • Line 18: Speaking to better times in the past, the messenger refers to the lady as occupying a home in the "cities where mead was drunk." Both the city and the honeyed wine (mead) are common symbols in Anglo-Saxon poetry for luxury and material comforts. Maybe today the lord would be mentioning his Lamborghini, Tahiti vacation home, and horizon pool.
  • Lines 34-35: In further imagery, the messenger conveys the lord's wish to have his lady join him in distributing "studded circlets" to their subjects. In other words, he's talking about doling out treasures and jewelry to his warriors.
  • Lines 35-36: The messenger uses understatement to emphasize his lord's wealth, saying he has "enough decorated gold" when what he really means is that he has more than enough to go around.
  • Lines 45-46: More understatement describes the lord as having "no lack of joy, horses, or treasures." Again, what the messenger is really saying is that his lord has a lot of joy, horses, and treasures.
  • Line 46: The "pleasures of mead" may be a synecdoche for the mead-hall in which these pleasures would occur, meant to convey the fact that the lord is wealthy enough to have his own mead-hall.
  • Line 47: The speaker objectifies the lady by saying that the lord lacks "none of the noble treasures upon earth" if he can just possess her, essentially turning her into just another of the lord's possessions.

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