Anglo-Saxon England

Research Article

Poetic language and the Paris Psalter: the decay of the Old English tradition

M. S. Griffitha1

a1 New College, Oxford

The metrical version of psalms LI–CL, known as the Paris Psalter, is a pedestrian and unimaginative piece of poetic translation. It is rarely read by students of Old English, and most Anglo-Saxonists make only passing reference to it. There is scarcely any literary criticism written on the text, although some work has been done on its vocabulary and metre. I hope to show in this article, however, that its stylistic peculiarities mark an important stage in the disintegration of the Old English poetic mode, and that analysis of these may go some way towards answering the difficult questions which surround the manner and the cause of the style's disappearance at the end of the Anglo-Saxon period. In particular, I shall examine this poet's selective use of the poetic diction normally associated with the form, and the impact of this selectivity on the systems of rank and formula.