Sung-Il Lee. The Old English “Husband’s Message” - Is It an ‘Elegy’? Is the One Sending the Message a ‘Husband’? Is the Addressee His ‘Wife’? pp. 153~164


The Old English poetic fragment universally referred to as “The Husband’s Message” has been interpreted simply as the message that a lord living in exile sends to his wife or betrothed, asking her to make a journey across the sea for familial reunion. The message is being delivered in the voice of a retainer, who has recently attained reunion with his lord by crossing the sea. The appearance of the words denoting femininity—“sinchroden” and “þeodnes dohtor”—inr eference to the addressee notwithstanding, the fact that the whole message is being delivered by an intermediary, whose voice is employed throughout the fragment, indicates that the message should not be read only on its surface level. I argue that the husband-to-wife message is only a façade, a frame set for covering a political implication of the work—an exiled lord urging a former retainer of his to come and join his newly built camp. A political situation involving the reinforcement of one’s military power in preparation for an upcoming feudal strife necessitates the deceptive frame of a husband sending his message to his wife or betrothed. There is nothing ‘elegiac’ in the fragment, and no romantic longing for one’s faraway spouse. Only the exiled lord’s desire to have his camp reinforced with the help of a retainer he had to leave behind at his old homestead.
Key words
 intermediary, political implication, intended addressee, critical misinterpretation, cryptic emblems or codes, oaths of comitatus