The characteristics of Anglo-Saxon poetry may be described in a few words,—they are loftiness of expression, exuberance of metaphor, intricacy of construction, and a diction differing entirely from that of prose-precisely the characteristics of the poetry of a people whose mind is naturally poetical, but which has not arrived at a state of cultivation and refinement. Similes, on the contrary, are rare; in the whole poem of Beowulf there occur but five, and those are of the simplest description,—the comparison of a ship, as it makes its way over the deep, to a bird (fugle ge-licost, v. 435),—of the gleam that shone from the eye of the grendel as he stalked the hall in search of his prey, to fire (ligge ge-licost, v. 1447),—of the nails of the monster’s fingers to steel (style gelicost, v. 1964),—of the light within the grendel’s den to the calm sunshine,—

Efne swa of hefene hadre scineð rodores candel.