What are examples of three kennings and three caesuras in the poem "The Wife's Lament"?

"The Wife's Lament" is an Anglo-Saxon elegy. Anglo-Saxon poetry features caesurae, or line breaks, in the center of each line, dividing the line into halves. A kenning is a figure of speech, a form of metaphor. In this poem, we can see several, such as "earth-belly" to mean a space carved out in the earth, like a valley or a grave.

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All of "The Wife's Lament," a heartfelt elegy for a lost loved one, is written with caesuras. These are wide breaks or pauses in the middle of a line. Along with alliteration, they add a sense of rhythm to Anglo-Saxon verse.

Although every one of the poem's lines features a caesura, this is often lost in translation. However, Ann Stanford's translation maintains the visual caesuras, such as in the line below:

First my lord went out // away from his people over the wave-tumult.

As we can see, the break between the two sides of the line (marked by the //) puts an emphasis on the last word before the break. In this line, the emphasis falls on "out" and "wave-tumult," leaving us with the image of the speaker's spouse going far out into the sea. The break caused by the caesura also helps us have time to absorb the first part of a line before moving on to the second part.

Kennings, which are compound words that convey meaning through juxtaposed images, will also vary by translation. In Stanford's translation, "wave-tumult" is the kenning for sea: it provides a vivid image of the churning, wild quality of the ocean's waters.

Another kenning Stanford uses is "summer-long" to convey a sense of the speaker's sorrow. We can remember how long—even endless—summer days can seem, and this would especially be so in the northern European countries where Anglo-Saxon poetry originated. By using summer-long, the speaker communicates how endless her suffering is.

Stanford also uses "care in the breast" or breast-care, a kenning that evokes the physical pain and burden of grieving.

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"The Wife's Lament" is one of several Anglo-Saxon poems classified as an elegy. There has been much debate over whether it actually is a woman speaking about her husband; many other Anglo-Saxon poems feature men expressing similar sentiments of loss and misery at being separated from their lords and masters. However, inflections and endings of words in the original suggest that the speaker is female.

A caesura in the Anglo-Saxon sense usually refers to the space or pause between two halves of a line. It is simplest to look at the original Anglo-Saxon version of the text to see these. There is a caesura in the middle of each line of the poem, signifying a place where the reader must pause. The caesura helps lend rhythm to the poem.

A kenning is a figure of speech common to Anglo-Saxon and Norse texts. It is a form of metaphor in which something is described as if it is something else, using a compound phrase which would probably have been widely understood. In this poem, "earth belly" is an example—the Wife probably means a carved out place in the ground, possibly a valley or a grave. Another example is "breast cares", things which fill the heart or breast of a person with despair or concern. We can also see the word "modceare," or mind-cares, so frequently in Anglo-Saxon that it has...

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become almost more a simple compound than a kenning, but technically it could be classified as one.

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A "kenning" is a kind of compound word with poetical meanings that was often used in Old English. Kennings are often referred to as "compound metaphors," as they have larger figurative meanings. Examples in "The Wife's Lament" include "earth-hall," which refers to a burial mound. The wife is commanded to live in a kind of underground hovel. Another kenning is "breast-cares," which refers to things that worry one's heart. A final kenning is "mind-sorrow," or something that causes the mind distress—in other words, a worry.

A caesura is a break in a line of poetry. Examples in this poem include "My lord ordered me to take this grove for a home—I have very few dear to me." The caesura occurs after the word "home" and functions as a break, perhaps because the narrator of the poem is too distraught to continue with her thought. Other examples are "Therefore my mind so miserable—then I met a well-suited man for myself" and "Ancient is the earth-hall: I am entirely longing—" The caesuras function as breaks when the narrator interrupts her train of thought, possibly out of distress.

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