The rune poems are poems that list the letters of the various rune alphabets providing an explanatory verse for each rune.
The three poems that have been preserved to date are the Anglo-Saxon runic poem, the Norwegian rune poem and the Icelandic runic poem.
The Icelandic and Norwegian poems list the 16 runes of the recent Fuchark, while the Anglo-Saxon one the 29 of the Ancient Fusorc.
Each poem differs from the others in the meter, but they contain numerous parallels; They also provide various references to figures from Norse mythology and Anglo-Saxon mythology (the latter also includes Christian references).
A list of rune names is also contained in the Abecedarium Nordmannicum, a 9th-century manuscript, but whether it can be called a poem or not is the subject of debate.
It has been theorized that runic poems were mnemonic techniques that allowed us to remember the order and name of each letter of the alphabet, and may have been a catalogue of important cultural information, organized so that they could be easily remembered; in this the runic poems have been compared to the Anglo-Saxon sayings, gnomic poetry and some forms of Norse poetry aimed at learning.
return to the runic index section