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King Alfred’s Anglo-Saxon version of De Consolatione Philosophiæ by Boethius offers a religious presentation of an Anglo-Saxon world view in terms of both the mutability of fate and the relationship between God and men, rather than a mere translation from the original.
In Alfred’s Boethius OE wyrd ‘fate/happening’ plays a vital role. The word continued to be used from the pre-Christian times, whose idea of fate was superseded by a Christian one. One can call such an alteration of meaning in a word without any modification semantic borrowing. Behind native words lies a long history which goes back to Anglo-Saxon pagan culture. However, Alfred did not reject them, and instead used them with a Christianised meaning, and in translating De Consolatione he aims to provide in the vernacular for his people a rational answer to the idea of fate possibly influenced by earlier notions of this concept.
The present study deals with the problem in terms of the procedure of the semantic borrowing of wyrd as well as the translator’s attitude to introducing a new idea of fate into Anglo-Saxon culture from a linguistic point of view. A close study of the semantic range of wyrd with special attention to its usage as nomen agentis and nomen actionis in Alfred’s Boethius will make clear the following points: 1) the relevance of wyrd to L fatum ‘fate’ and L fortuna ‘fortune’, 2) the relevance of wyrd to OE gesælða ‘prosperity’ and OE woruldsælða ‘lifetime prosperity’, 3) the translator’s awareness of the etymological meaning of these Old English words. A cursory survey of wyrd in Beowulf, Old English elegies and the poems of Cynewulf will be helpful to discern the process of the semantic borrowing in the semasiological history of wyrd.
Preface – Introduction – Chapter I: Semantic Borrowing (Flexibility of Semantic Alteration in Old English Vocabulary; The General Characteristics of Semantic Borrowing; The Process of Semantic Analogy) – Chapter II: An Etymological Examination of Fate in Old English Vocabulary (An Etymological Examination of Wyrd and Metod in Old English Vocabulary; The Relationship between Wyrd and Metod) – Chapter III: Textual Analysis of the Meaning and Usage of Wyrd in Beowulf, Old English Elegies and the Poems of Cynewulf – Chapter IV: Textual Analysis of the Meaning and Usage of Wyrd in Alfred's Boethius – Conclusion: Evaluation of the Method of Semantic Borrowing of Wyrd in Alfred's Boethius – Bibliography – General Index – Index of the Works Cited