gleewood – the word

According to a book of mine, glee-wood is an old Anglo-Saxon word meaning “harp”. This is what the book says (The book is Glee-Wood: A Treasury of Medieval English Literature by Margaret Williams, published by Sheed and Ward in 1949.)

“In Anglo-Saxon times the harp was called ‘glee-wood’, for a maker of song is a maker of joy. It was a small harp that a roving scop could carry in his hands; it hummed to his words even when his song was sad. There is a passage in Beowulf that tells of a man’s loneliness at the passing of the heroic days of his clan: ‘There is no more harp-joy, game of the glee-wood, nor does the good hawk swing round the hall, nor the swift steed beat his hooves in the courtyard; for the war-horror sends living men far away.'”

It also turns up in later literature. I always liked the sound of that passage (the book mentioned was a gift from my brother, knowing of my interest in Medieval verse.), and decided quite a while ago that if and when I got a domain name of my own, it would be gleewood. It’s easy to spell, but also evocative.

You can find out some additional fascinating information about Anglo-Saxon and early English harps over here.

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