A Pebble Smoothed by Tradition: Lines 607-61 of Beowulf as a Formulaic Set-piece

In this essay Drout and Smith use new “lexomic” methods of computer-assisted statistical analysis to identify a concentration of unusual lexical, metrical, grammatical, and formulaic features in lines 607-61 of Beowulf, a scene in which Queen Wealhtheow passes the cup of friendship to the assembled warriors. Although the passage contains a number of proper names, the authors demonstrate that it is highly formulaic and adaptable, and conclude that the Beowulf-poet had an unwritten, highly traditional source for these lines.