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Seasons for Fasting

Mary P. Richards

May 2014
PB  978-1-938228-43-8
ePub 978-1-938228-45-2



Seasons for Fasting, a late Old English poem probably composed in the early eleventh century, focuses on proper fasting observances in England. This poem, composed in eight-line stanzas, survives only in a sixteenth-century transcript made by the antiquary Laurence Nowell. With its topics, vocabulary, sources, and style derived from those of contemporary ecclesiastical prose, it belongs to a school of late tenth/early eleventh century poetry that only now is coming to be recognized and defined.

The Old English Poem Seasons for Fasting: A Critical Edition provides a new text and translation of the poem, accompanied by an extensive introduction, commentary, and glossary. The introduction includes analyses of the poem’s manuscript origins, sources, language, meter, style, and structure. The text is collated with all previous editions. The commentary elucidates points of grammar and style, and justifies all editorial decisions. The glossary covers every instance of each word in the poem.

Since its discovery among the papers of Laurence Nowell in 1934, the poem has had only four editions, two of the text with basic notes, and two in doctoral theses with more commentary and analysis. This new edition brings the latest resources on manuscript study, lexicon (through the Concordance and Dictionary of Old English A-G), poetics, and cultural milieu to bear on this fascinating poem. The apparatus, including the glossary, will allow fellow scholars to extend these findings through links to their own work.

Medieval European Studies: Volume 15


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Mary P. Richards is Professor of English Emerita at the University of Delaware. The author of four books and numerous essays and reviews, she has focused on Anglo-Saxon and early Norman manuscripts and texts, especially those associated with Rochester Cathedral Priory and Old English laws. Her book Texts and Their Traditions in the Medieval Library of Rochester Cathedral Priory, drew together all of these interests and laid the foundation for her recent work on Seasons for Fasting. Since 1986 she has published eight essays on the laws, three on Rochester materials, and two on Seasons: “Prosaic Poetry: Late Old English Poetic Composition” in Old English and New: Essays in Language and Linguistics in Honor of Frederic G. Cassidy, and “Old Wine in a New Bottle: Recycled Instructional Materials in Seasons for Fasting,” in The Old English Homily: Precedent, Practice, and Appropriation.


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