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Wiglaf vs. Unferth in Beowulf

Wiglaf vs. Unferth in Beowulf

In the heroic poem Beowulf, not only does Wiglaf demonstrate the importance of heroism to society and the necessity of loyalty to one’s kinsman and lord, but he also sets the context of the final part of the poem. Unferth, on the other hand, presents a rude challenge to the hero, which is not without precedent in heroic poetry, and thus becomes in the eye of the audience a sort of villainous type. Let us consider the more noble of the two first.

As Beowulf readers, we all know that at the most crucial point in the story, when the hero’s life is being challenged by the dragon to an extent that it has never been threatened before, the one loyal thane who comes through to help the hero is Wiglaf.:

The hoard-guard took heart,

his belly swelled with fierce new hissing.

Enveloped in flames, he who earlier

had ruled his people felt keen pain.

But not at all did the sons of nobles,

hand-picked comrades, his troop stand round him

with battle-courage: they fled to the wood

to save their lives. Only one

felt shame and sorrow. Nothing can ever

hold back kinship in a right-thinking man.

He was called Wiglaf, Weohstan’s son,

a worthy shield-bearer, Scylfing prince, (2593ff.)

Why is Wiglaf here called a “Swedish prince”? George Clark in his “Traditions and the Poem,” says that the Waegmundings, to whom both Beowulf and Wiglaf belonged, had both Geatish and Swedish affiliations (35). Beowulf apparently restored the rights and patrimony of Wiglaf among the Geats.

kinsman of Aelfhere; saw his liege-lord

tortured by the heat behind his battle-mask.

He remembered the honors that he gave him before,

the rich homestead of the Waegmunding clan,

the shares of common-land that his father had held,

and he could not hold back. His hand seized the shield,

yellow linden-wood; he drew his sword,

known to men as Enmund’s heirloom, (2604ff.)

In “The Old Kings” George Clark explains how Wiglaf makes the scene in Beowulf:

Wiglaf emerges from a shadowy troop of Geatish warriors who accompany Beowulf to the dragon’s lair. . . .Though he enters the story abruptly, Wiglaf becomes Beowulf’’s one faithful follower. . . . Wiglaf is described as a son of that famous warrior Weohstan, who played a significant role in the dynastic wars of the Swedes and Geats.

The Haunted Palace

The Haunted Palace

“The Haunted Palace” is one of Edgar Allen Poe’s mysterious and phantasmagoric poems. Written in the same year as “The Devil in the Belfry,” and included in his short story “The Fall of the House of Usher,” “The Haunted Palace” is another tale of innocence and happiness now corroded with sorrow and madness. It is fairly easy to say that “The Haunted Palace” is a metaphor for Poe’s own ghostly troubled mind, more than it is about a decaying palace. For in 1839, it was found in a book that the main character in “The Fall of the House of Usher” comes across. In the context of its appearance in “Usher,” it is startlingly clear that this is no fable of earthly decay, but one of mental and spiritual ruin.

“In the greenest of our valleys,” he begins in the first stanza, “Once a fair and stately palace — Radiant palace — reared its head.” The lush and beautiful valley is nothing more than a glimpse into his past, when he was a bright budding youth. The “Radiant palace” is a symbol for his once sharp and clear mind that was filled with “good angels” and pure thoughts. He gives hints to the true nature of the palace further in the stanza, by proclaiming “In the monarch thought’s dominion — It stood there!” clearly the monarch is Poe, and his though dominion is his mind.

In the second stanza he describes how the smells of “gentle air” always wound its way around the palace. He continues to paint the picture of a wonderful valley, where music moved constantly about, and where the king of the land sat for the valley to see. Poe’s childhood still brings out nostalgia of a prosperous and enchanting time, and where he could be seen as the king, fully in charge of the thoughts that lived in his valley of a bra…

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…ver coming through the “pale door” that had been “Pearl and ruby glowing”. The Pearl and Ruby seem to be his younger self, white complex with rosy cheeks, and now his face is pale and gray and “hideous”. With the rivers of thought now flowing horrid ideas and contemplation, he can “Smile no more,” but he does hear a “Laugh.” The Laugh of insanity slowly creeping in on him, dances its way through the ruins of the palace peering out of sunken bloodshot eye’s of Poe, and his older gray face. Poe was only thirty years old when he wrote “The Haunted Palace” and included it in “The Fall of the House of Usher.” He would only live for ten more years, and write many more gothic classics, each wrestling with death, insanity, and loneliness, but perhaps this poem describes his view of himself better than any other of his works. This is his self portrait and self prophecy.

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