Anonymous: Athelston (1588 words)

Helen Young (University of Sydney)
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Athelston is a Middle English tail-rhyme romance, probably from the South-East Midlands. It is found uniquely in MS 175 of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, which dates from approximately 1420. It is likely that the poem itself was originally composed some decades earlier, between 1370 and 1390. The poem is conventionally classed as a ‘Matter of England’ romance, and is set during the Anglo-Saxon period of the English past. Unlike many Middle English romances it does not have an existing French language source, and there is no evidence that there was one.

It tells the story of four messengers who meet at a cross-roads and swear an oath of brotherhood. One, Athelston, is of royal blood and ascends to the …

Citation: Young, Helen. "Athelston". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 03 April 2008 [, accessed 21 October 2020.]

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