When the Teutonic ancestors of English people were living on the borders of the North Sea, English Literature began with their songs and stories. The three tribes of these ancestors, the Jutes, Angles and Saxons, conquered Britain in the latter half of the fifth century. They laid the foundation of the English nation. After that the early English literature started. This early English literature is called the Anglo- Saxon period (450- 1050) or the Old English period.

The great and hidden life of the Anglo-Saxons finds expression in all their literature. According to William J. Long , their poetry deals with ‘their love of personal freedom, their responsiveness to nature, their religion, their reverence for womanhood, and their struggle for glory as a ruling motive in every noble life’. ‘The prose, unlike the verse, was not used as an emotional stimulant; it was for the most part educational’, says Rickett

1. Beowuf: It is the first old English Epic. It recounts the great deeds and death of Beowulf.
2. Widsith: Widsith is a composition of Old English period. It consists of 150 lines of verse. It is an account of the wanderings of Widsith, a supposed wanderer. Here Widsith tells of his wanderings, speaks of the feudal halls in which he sang, and how men loved his songs, and gave him gifts. In short, Widsith recounts the places and people the hero has visited.
3. Waldera: It is also a composition of Old English period. It consists of about 63 lines. These lines narrate some of the exploits of Walter of Aquitaine.
4. Deor: It is also an early poem. This poem is known as Deor’s Lament or The Complaint of Deor. It depicts the manly sorrow of a minstrel. It is much more poetic than Widsith. It is a perfect lyric of the Anglo- Saxon period. According to a great scholar it may be called the first English lyric. Deor belongs to the household of his chief. He is happy in his position until he finds himself supplanted by a rival. But the singer bids himself take heart and endure his misfortune. The note of stoical resignation is the insistent note of this poem. It is lyrical in form.
5. Judith: It is one of the finest pieces of the Anglo-Saxon religious poetry.
6. Ruin: It is an elegy. It is the mourning of a traveler over a deserted city.
7. The Wanderer: It is also an elegy. The Wanderer expands the mourning motive of Ruin over the desolation of the whole world of man.
8. The Seafarer: It is also an elegy. The Seafarer describes the dangers and the fascination of the sea.
9. The Wife’s Complaint & The Husband’s Complaint: These pieces deal with love- passion.
10. Wulf & Eaduacer: This is also an important composition of the Anglo-Saxon period. It is an early example of dramatic monologue.


1. Caedmon: He is known as the first maker of English verse.
2. Cynewulf: Only very little is known about Cynewulf. He is one of the greatest poets of Anglo-Saxon period.
3. King Alfred: He is the creator of English prose. He drove back the Danes from England. He began the writing of prose in Wessex. He was the greatest and noblest king of Anglo-Saxon period.
4. Aelfric: He was a churchman. He is known for his grammar.
5. Bede: Bede was the venerable scholar and priest in the monastery at Jarrow. He wrote in Latin.
6. Aldhelm and Wulfstan were also important persons of Anglo- Saxon period.


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