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He builds a tower with some of it, but when people find the stones are older than the tower, they pull it down "to look for hidden carvings and inscriptions". Tolkien notes that Ker's opinion had been a powerful influence in favour of a paradoxical contrast between the poem's supposed defect in speaking of monsters, and (in Tolkien's words) its agreed "dignity, loftiness in converse, and well-wrought finish".Tolkien cites other critics, such as Raymond Wilson Chambers and Ritchie Girvan, who objected to the poem's "wilderness of dragons" and its unworthy choice of theme.The general structure of the poem is then clear, writes Tolkien.
Literary Analysis Essay For Beowulf
The Christian, Tolkien notes, is "hemmed in a hostile world", and the monsters are evil spirits: but as the transition was incomplete in the poem, the monsters remain real and the focus remains "an ancient theme: that man, each man and all men, and all their works shall die".Tolkien is therefore very interested in the contact of Northern and Christian thought in the poem, where the scriptural Cain is linked to eotenas (giants) and ylfe (elves), not through confusion but "an indication of the precise point at which an imagination, pondering old and new, was kindled".The poet takes an old plot (a marauding monster troubling the Scylding court) paints a vivid picture of the old days, for instance using the Old Testament image of the shepherd patriarchs of Israel in the folces hyrde (people's shepherd) of the Danes.Tolkien argues that the original poem has almost been lost under the weight of the scholarship on it; that Beowulf must be seen as a poem, not just as a historical document; and that the quality of its verse and its structure give it a powerful effect.He rebuts suggestions that the poem is an epic or exciting narrative, likening it instead to a strong masonry structure built of blocks that fit together.Tolkien finds it improbable that "a mind lofty and thoughtful", as evidenced by the quality of the poetry, "would write more than three thousand lines (wrought to a high finish) on matter that is really not worth serious attention".He notes that heroic human stories had been held to be superior to myth, but argues that myth has a special value: "For myth is alive at once and in all its parts, and dies before it can be dissected." In Tolkien's view, the poem is essentially about a "man at war with the hostile world, and his inevitable overthrow in Time". Grendel and the dragon are identified as enemies of a Christian God, unlike the monsters encountered by Odysseus on his travels.In its simplest terms it is a contrasted description of two moments in a great life, rising and setting; an elaboration of the ancient and intensely moving contrast between youth and age, first achievement and final death." A secondary division of the poem occurs, Tolkien writes, at line 1887, after which all the earlier story is summarized, so a complete account of Beowulf's tragedy is given between 1888 and the end, but without the account of the gloomy court of Heorot, or of the contrast between the young Beowulf and the old Hrothgar.The poem's metre, too, is founded on a balance of two halves to each line, "more like masonry than music".Though if we must have a term, we should choose rather 'elegy'.It is an heroic-elegiac poem; and in a sense all its first 3,136 lines are the prelude to a dirge.