This book, edited and with commentary by John Pope, professor of English from Yale, is a good reader companion volume for someone who is studying Old English with a grammar in another volume, or someone who has already studied the rudiments of the language and wants practice with actual texts. These are seven of the better-known poems from Old English (if one makes the exception for Beowulf). As Pope states in his preface, these poems make a good introduction before one proceeds to the study of Beowulf.
The seven poems included here are Caedmon's Hymn (in both Northumbrian and Normalised Versions), The Battle of Brunanburh, The Dream of the Rood, The Battle of Maldon, The Wanderer, The Seafarer, and Deor. These poems include classic themes from Old English (sea journeys, heroic tales, etc.), particularly edging toward Beowulf with the story in Deor.
The poems themselves make up a mere 40 pages of the text. The longest section is the commentary, with comprises nearly 100 pages in all. The commentaries develop the history and context of the poems, as well as a section on textual notes highlighting particular words or phrases of interest. This section also contains an essay on Old English versification, including discussion of areas of ambiguity and confusion based on the paucity of texts that have survived.
The glossary here, some 75 pages of the text, serves a dual role as a vocabulary builder as well as a means for learning the subtle variations in compound words. Various words and phrases throughout both the poems and the glossary have been 'normalised' for purposes of beginning students, but the parameters for this are explained in the preface.
The seven poems contained herein are not translated into Modern English, so let the reader be aware that this is meant for someone learning to translate or read Old English.
The commentary is engaging and clearly written (and includes later notes at the end in the new, 1981 edition); the poems themselves are interesting, and the glossary is very useful.