|Abstract: ||Research on collocations – words that show a marked propensity to occur in association with each other – has proven that their analysis can yield interesting results; not only does it allow us to gain insight into their semantics, but it also permits a better understanding of some aspects of the Old English art of poetry. In this perspective, the occurrences in verse of the noun nearu ‘confinement’, ‘oppression’, ‘affliction’, and its derivatives have been analysed, paying special attention to their original use by Cynewulf, who exploited this device to develop and to strengthen the major thematic threads of the poems in which
his signature in runes is embedded.
The survey of nearu and its associated words has illustrated that in some contexts, especially where the light versus darkness imagery is pivotal, nearu may have a further denotation, namely that of ‘darkness, obscurity’. Until now, this aspect has only been
considered in relation to the formula nihtes nearowe/nihtes nearwe ‘in the confinement/anguish/darkness of the night’ (and to its Old Saxon version, which occurs in the Vatican
Genesis). Evidence has been added to this hypothesis from the analysis of some further Old English poetic contexts and from Old Norse literature, where the connection between narrowness and darkness is present with reference to some mythological characters.|