This paper suggests that the two Cynewulfian acrostic riddles in the Vercelli Book poems The Fates of the Apostles and Elene are key to understanding the thematic logic of the anthology as a whole. I argue that the poems of the Vercelli Book are included alongside the prose homilies to invite the implied reader to ruminate on the vocational aspects of the preaching life and the learned revelation of the meaning of complex signs. Paramount among these signs is the Cross itself, understood in Anglo-Saxon England as a sign of Judgement Day. The interplay of homilies, themselves defamiliarised through their presentation in a reading text rather than a homiliary, and poems is designed to encourage meditation on the act of preaching itself. The central themes of the Vercelli Book are condensed into Cynewulf’s riddles: the gift of visionary experience as a reward for penance; the mystery of reading and uncovering the hidden meaning of complex signs; and the equation of poetic inspiration and eloquence with understanding the sign of the Cross.
In a close analysis of three poems of the trobar clus, this study unravels a hidden tradition among three generations of Occitan troubadour poetry. Each of the poems adheres to the rigorous structural rules imposed by its author and constitutes a unique composition within the corpus of each author. The prosodic similarities of the poems hint to shared influence among the three poets, however, specific keywords and borrowings more blatantly demonstrate that each of the authors discovered and partook in this game of micropoetry
On leaf 129r. Of Bodleian MSS Digby 133 (which contains the playtext of the Digby Mary Magdalene) there is an abbreviated phrase for ‘Jhesu Mercy’. Often, in interpreting this phrase it is assumed that it is simply a quick notation by the harried scribe. However, this phrase is also repeated on the roofstaves of the Clopton chapel at Holy Trinity, Long Melford, and after each saint’s life in Osbern Bokenham’s Legendys of Hooly Wummen. By looking at all of these elements in concert as part of a shared aesthetic grammar, I will show that what seems to be a hurried reference is actually an inscribed clue indicating a mimetic performance of lay piety.