The Fates of the Apostles, lines 1-122 [all]

This poem contains one of the famous runic “signatures” that indicates that Cynewulf was the author. A passage towards the end of the poem uses runes to spell out letters that can be re-arranged to spell “Cynwulf.” This is possible because Anglo-Saxon runes had names as well as phonetic values; for example, the rune “wyn” (which looks somewhat like a “p” with a triangle instead of a half-circle loop) means “joy” and also the sound “w.” (so using runes in writing was the Anglo-Saxon equivalent of text-message speak: Where R U, U R L8 works the same way).  Runic Cynewulf signatures are also found in Elene (also in the Vercelli Book) and Christ II and Juliana (in the Exeter Book).

The poem itself tells of the fates of the apostles after the death and resurrection of Christ and is thus a simplified martyrology. It is particularly notable for the similarity between its introductory passage and that of Beowulf (which you can listen to if you buy Beowulf Aloud). The Fates of the Apostles is most aesthetically appealing at the end of the poem, where Cynewulf implores the reader who has been pleased by the poem to pray for the poet’s soul.

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