The Complaint of Deor (or Deor’s Lament) Summary and Analysis

One of the early original lays of the Anglo-Saxon period is The Complaint of Deor (or Deor’s Lament). It is much shorter, only 52 lines, and in its general tone, strikes a sharp contrast.

The Complaint of Deor is all about the complaint of a bard who had a lavish lord who loved him and enriched him with gold and lands. Deor, however, has misfortune, and he is ousted from the favor of his lord by a rival poet. The poem is the poet’s complaint about his misfortune and wrongful dismissal from his lord’s court. The poem, however, ends with the consolatory message, derived by Deor from the thought of the habitual unkindness of fate and his belief that adversity will wear off in course of time.

This poem indicates the degree of advancement of Old English poetry. In a sense, the poem is an advancement upon Widsith. Widsith is mainly descriptive, though it has some subjective touches, particularly at the end. But Deor’s Complaint is mainly subjective and reflective, and in this respect, it may well be taken as the earliest specimen of English lyrical poetry.

The Complaint of Deor is found to be much more developed than Widsith in two other ways. In the first place, it portrays the individual spirit of man and thereby emphasizes the importance of individuality in literature. This is an insistent note in subsequent Anglo-Saxon elegies. In the second place, the poem, though extremely short, only fifty-two lines, is found to achieve complete unity in its theme and spirit. It has a refrain, elsewhere unknown in Anglo-Saxon verse. This achieves a lyrical unity, with one constantly dominant motive, that varies from verse to verse until the close. A characteristic melancholy strain also pervades the poem.

Also read; Summary and Analysis of the poem Waldhere, Anglo Saxon heroic poem