e a m harris

Roaming the byways of literature

Archive for the tag “The Wife’s Lament”

The darkest hour and its poetry

I have recently discovered a new-to-me word that is really useful, probably to most people. It isn’t a new word, in fact it’s pretty old having been used, rarely, in Old English.

It is uhtceare and it means to lie in bed before dawn worrying.

Who hasn’t experienced this horrible, sleep-robbing feeling? Who hasn’t panicked during the darkest hour before dawn then got up after sunrise feeling a bit of an idiot for fussing over trivia?

If you haven’t, may you never go there. But if you have, you now have a name for it. Does having it named make it less scary?

The word is found in a longish Anglo-Saxon poem called The Wife’s Lament.

hæfde Ic uhtceare
hwær min leodfruma londes wære

I don’t know what this means but, given the ‘uhtceare’ it must have something to do with the lady’s worries.

The word is having something of a revival and getting more usage than it did in the lamenting wife’s days. Sauviloquy has a whole poem about

that wretched uhtceare

and so has Sohinee. There are probably others I haven’t found.

It isn’t certain yet if this word will become generally known, but it looks as if it has a chance. Maybe in future, instead of sharing dreams over the breakfast table we’ll share uhtceares.

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