Need source for this metaphor for life and death...


I once read something (a poem or lines from a play, or some other literary passage) that conveyed the image of a bird flying in a deep cold night, coming through the open window of a tower full of light and warmth, then flying out another window into the night again, never to return. This was used as a metaphor for our mortal lifespan.

Unfortunately I don’t remember anything else – does this ring a bell for anyone?

It’s medieval. I’m gonna go see if I can find it.

It does indeed ring a bell, but I couldn’t for the life of me tell you what bell. Sorry.

Older than that: Anglo-Saxon.

Apparently it’s from Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of England

Anglo-Saxon is not medieval?

Thanks for going medieval on my ass, uglybeech!


My pleasure. :smiley:

Not according to many of the history books on my shelves.

The culture (and certainly the language) is distinct enough that I think it warrants being its own period rather than an adjunct to the midde ages proper.

(Upon rereading the thread, I can’t believe that I hit “Submit Reply” after that single line that I posted–without even mentioning the source of the metaphor? D’oh!).

Hmmm. Anglo-Saxon England would certainly be considered Medieval, which means “middle age”, i.e. that period which comes between the end of Classical period, which sees the fall of the Western Roman Empire, and the beginning of the Renaissance around 1500. These dates are much contested though.

There is a joke amongst medievalists, which passes for a knee-slapper, to the effect that if the Classicistists don’t know when their period ended and the Renaissance scholars don’t know when their era begins, who are the Medievalists to tell them their business.

But because it spans something like a thousand years, there is obviously a huge disparity between whatever might be considered the beginning of the Medieval period and whatever you take for its end. It also makes a difference if you are talking about the Middle Ages in Britain or on the Continent or elsewhere.

Anglo-Saxon as a language belongs to the Early Middle Ages and is often called “Old English” and is primarily a Germanic language. After the Norman Invasion the language changed (from Beowulf to Chaucer), and is generallly known as “Middle English”. From the Renaissance (say around the end of the 15th Century in England), you have “Early Modern English”.

I think what we tend to think of as strictly Medieval is what is sometimes called the High Middle Ages, the 12th, 13th and early 14th centuries.

The Venerable Bede was writing in the Early Middle Ages, and although he wrote his best known works in Latin, there is at least one poem in Anglo-Saxon which has been attributed to him.

If you are willing to do a bit of work, those remnants of texts we have left in Anglo-Saxon are worth reading, they are both extraordinarily alien and yet oddly familiar.