The Exeter Book is by far the largest single collection of Old English poetry surviving today. At first glance it might seem to be a commonplace book, a sort of dumping ground for bits of verse which caught the scribe's notice at the moment. But, before long, a careful reading of the poems collected shows an artfulness, a playfulness, and a wisdom in the arrangement of the poems. The Exeter Book is a collection designed to teach, and what it teaches is a particularly Old English Christianity, beginning with the Advent of Christ, a very particular and fundamental aspect of Christianities, proceeding through Saints' lives and allegorical pieces, and the apparently personal poems often referred to as "elegies", and puzzling the reader with the mysteries of the Riddles - and of the world - before fading to black.
Old English poetry survives in four great manuscript collections, in two Old English translations of Latin originals, and in a multitude of bits and pieces of manuscript and modern transcription of now-lost manuscripts. Virtually all that has survived of verse from the Old English period is contained in The Anglo-Saxon Poetic Records, edited by George Philip Krapp and Elliott Van Kirk Dobbie in six volumes in the middle of the last century. These six volumes amount to something around 30,000 lines of verse, roughly equivalent to the number of hexameter lines in Homer's The Iliad and The Odyssey combined. The present volume is a translation of Volume 3 of the Anglo-Saxon Poetic Records.