The Old English poem Exodus, an extensive and complex rewriting of the biblical Crossing of the Red Sea episode, has several distinctive features; not only is it characterized by an original selection of episodes and the adoption of unusual perspectives, but it also makes full use of uncommon sylistic features and lexical strategies, resulting in a deeply elliptical and semantically multi-layered poetic language. These features stand out especially in the final part of the poem dealing with the drowning of the Egyptian army while it persues the fleeing Israelites. The drowning of the soldiers, caused by the waters returning to their sea-bed after a temporary and miracolous suspension, in the poem, turns into a battle scene. The main characters of this narrative section are the sea, personified agent of the divine punishment, and Jahveh who, according to a widespread Old Testament iconography, passes His sentence on the Pharaoh and his army brandishing a sword. The reference to the weapon is plain in the noun phrase alde mece "ancient sword" (l. 495b), which is possibly anticipated a few lines before in an elliptical way, through the controversial hapax witrod (l. 492b). Its interpretation as “punishment-rod”, suggested in the present analysis, makes it part of an icastic net of references to the death sentence inflicted by God on the Egyptians. This image, besides having a solid Scriptural background, may have been inspired by a passage of the Divinae Institutiones by Lactance, in which the approaching Last Judgment is hinted at by the use of a similar vivid and plastic image (cadet repente gladius e caelo, VII, 19).
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|Titolo:||'Cadet repente gladius e caelo’: la dimensione giudicante in Exodus (vv. 492-495)|
|Data di pubblicazione:||2009|
|Tipologia:||2.1 Contributo in volume (Capitolo o Saggio)|