Page images
PDF
EPUB
[blocks in formation]

worldly duties; and when he had often prayed with much devotion to this effect, after an interval of some time, Providence vouchsafed to afflict him with the above-named disease which he bore long and painfully for many years, and even despaired of life, until he entirely got rid of it by his prayers; but, sad to say! it was replaced, as we have said, at his marriage by another which incessantly tormented him, night and day, from the twentieth to the forty-fourth year of his life. But if ever, by God's mercy, he was relieved from this infirmity for a single day or night, yet the fear and dread of that dreadful malady never left him, but rendered hlm almost useless, as he thought, for every duty, whether human or

divine.

The sons and daughters, which he had by his wife above mentioned were Æthelflæd the eldest, after whom came Eadwerd, then Æthelgeofu, then Ælfthryth, and Æthelweard, besides those who died in their infancy, one of whom was Edmund.* Æthelfled, when she arrived at a marriageable age, was united to Eadred, earl of Mercia; Ethelgeofu also was dedicated to God, and submitted to the rules of a monastic life. Æthelweard the youngest, by the divine counsels and the admirable prudence of the king, was consigned to the schools of learning, where, with the children of almost all the nobility of the country, and many also who were not noble, he prospered under the diligent care of his teachers. Books in both languages, namely, Latin and Saxon, were both read in the school. They also learned to write; so that before they were of an age to practice manly arts, namely, hunting and such pursuits as befit noblemen, they became studious and clever in the liberal arts. Eadwerd and Ælfthryth were bred up in the king's court and received great attention from their attendants and nurses; nay, they continue to this day, with the love of all about them, and showing affability, and even gentleness towards all, both natives and foreigners, and in complete subjection to their father; nor, among their other studies which appertain to this life and are fit for noble youths, are they suffered to pass their time idly and unprofitably without learning the liberal arts; for they have carefully learned the Psalms and Saxon books, especially the Saxon poems, and are continually in the habit of making use of books.

In the meantime, the king, during the frequent wars and other trammels of this present life, the invasions of the pagans, and his own daily infirmities of body, continued to carry on the government, and to exercise hunting in all its branches; to teach his workers in gold and artificers of all kinds, his falconers, hawkers and dog-keepers; to build houses majestic and good, beyond all the precedents of his ancestors, by his new mechanical inventions; to recite the Saxon books, and especially to learn by heart the Saxon poems, and to make others learn them; and he alone never desisted from studying, most diligently, to the best of his ability; he attended the mass and other daily services of religion; he was frequent in psalm-singing and prayer, at the hours both of the day and the night. He also went to the churches, as we have already said, in the night-time to pray, secretly, and unknown to his courtiers; he bestowed alms and largesses on both natives and foreigners of all countries; he was affable and pleasant to all, and curiously eager to investigate things unknown.

Many Franks, Frisons, Gauls, pagans, Britons, Scots, and

[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]

worldly duties; and when he

Huntingdon

had often prayed with much
devotion to this effect, after an interval of some time, Provi-
dence vouchsafed to afflict him with the disease of the fig
which he bore long and painfully for many years, and even
despaired of life.

3 But, sad to say! it was replaced at his mar-
riage by another which incessantly tormented him, night
and day, from the twentieth to the twenty-fifth year of his
life and longer.
4 The sons and

daughters, which he had by his wife Ealhswith above
mentioned, were Ægelfled the eldest, after whom came Ead-
ward, then Æthelgeovu, then Alfthrith and Ethelward.
Æthelfled, when she arrived at a marriageable age,
was united to Æthered, earl of Mercia; Æthelgeofu also was
dedicated to God, and submitted to the rules of a monastic
life. Ethelwerd the youngest, by the divine counsels and the
admirable prudence of the king, was consigned to the schools
of learning, where, with the children of almost all the nobi-
lity of the country, and many also who were not noble, he
prospered under the diligent care of his teachers;

so that before they

were of an age to practice manly arts,
they became studious and

Simeon

Now there were born to the

king sons and daughters sufficiently beautiful and of becoming form, whose names are here gathered; Eadward and Ethelgifu, and Elfthrid. and Ethelward, Ethelfled But Eadward the king's son, and Ealfthrid his sister, were always brought up at the king's court by the great care

of their male and female tutors: for they studiously learnt both the psalms and the Saxon books and poems. Ethelward therefore

clever in the liberal arts. Eadward and Alfthrith were bred his younger son, was placed

up in the king's court,

not without learning the liberal arts; for among other studies of this life, they have carefully

learned the Psalms and Saxon books, especially the Saxon

poems

in the schools of literary discipline, with many sons of the soldiers, both noble and ignoble. Ethelfled their sister was united in marriage to Eadred prince of the Mercians; their sister Etbelgyfa was placed under the rules of the monastic life.

5 In the meantime, king, Alfred during the frequent wars and
other trammels of this present life, the invasions of the
pagans, and his own daily infirmities of body, continued to
carry on the government, and to exercise hunting in all its
branches; to teach his workers in gold and artificers of all
kinds, his falconers, hawkers and dog-keepers; to build houses
majestic and good, beyond all the precedents of his ances-
tors, by his new mechanical inventions; to recite the Saxon
books, and especially to learn by heart the Saxon poems, and
to make others learn them; and he alone never desisted from
studying, most diligently, to the best of his ability; he attend-
ed the mass and other daily services of religion; he was fre-
quent in psalm-singing and prayer, at the hours both of
the day and the night. He also went to the churches,
in the night-time to pray, secretly, and
unknown to his courtiers; he bestowed alms most largely,
he was affable

and pleasant to all, and curiously eager to investigate things

unknown.

6 Many Franks, Frisons, Gauls, pagans, Britons, Scots, and

[blocks in formation]

Armoricans, noble and ignoble, submitted voluntarily to his dominion; and all of them, according to their nation and deserving, were ruled, loved, honoured, and enriched with money and power.

Moreover, the king was in the habit of hearing the scriptures
read by his own countrymen, or, if by any chanee it so
happened, in company with foreigners, and he attended to
it with sedulity and solicitude. His bishops, too, and all
ecclesiastics, his earls and nobles, ministers and friends, were
loved by him with wonderful affection, and their sons, who
were bred up in the royal house-hold, were no less dear to
him than his own; he had them instructed in all kinds of
good morals, and among other things, never ceased to teach
them letters night and day; but as if he had no consolation
in all these things, and suffered no other annoyance either
from within or without, yet he was harassed by daily and
nightly affliction, that he complained to God, and to all who
were admitted to his familiar love, that Almighty God had
made him ignorant of divine wisdom, and of the liberal arts;
in this emulating the pious, the wise, and wealthy Solomon,
king of the Hebrews, who at first, despising all glory and
riches, asked wisdom of God, and found both, namely,
wisdom and worldly glory; as it is written, "Seek first the
kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things
shall be added unto you." But God, who is always the
inspector of the thoughts of the mind within, and the insti-
gator of all good intentions, and a most plentiful aider, that
good desires may be formed, for he would not instigate a
man to good intentions, unless he also amply supplied that
which the man justly and properly wishes to have,—insti-
gated the king's mind within; as it is written,
"" I will

hearken what the Lord God will say concerning me."
He would avail himself of every opportunity to procure
coadjutors in his good designs, to aid him in his strivings
after wisdom, that he might attain to what he aimed at;
and, like a prudent bird, which rising in summer with
the early morning from her beloved nest, steers her rapid
flight through the uncertain tracks of ether, and descends
on the manifold and varied flowers of grasses, herbs, and
shrubs, essaying that which pleases most, that she may bear
it to her home, so did he direct his eyes afar, and seek
without, that which he had not within, namely, in his own
kingdom.

But God at that time, as some consolation to the king's benevolence, yielding to his complaint, sent certain lights to illuminate him, namely, Werefrith, bishop of the church of Worcester, a man well versed in divine scripture, who, by the king's command, first turned the books of the Dialogues of pope Gregory and Peter, his disciples, from Latin into Saxon, and sometimes putting sense for sense, interpreted them with clearness and elegance. After him was Plegmund, a Mercian by birth, archbishop of the church of Canterbury, a venerable man, and endowed with wisdom; Æthelstan also, and Werewulf his priests and chaplains, Mercians by birth, and erudite. These four had been invited out of Mercia by king Elfred, who exalted them with many honours and powers in the kingdom of the West-Saxons, besides the privileges which archbishop Plegmund and bishop Werefrith enjoyed in Mercia. By their teaching and wisdom the king's desires increased unceasingly, and were gratified. Night and day, whenever he had leisure, he commanded such

[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]

Armoricans, noble and igno

ble, submitted voluntarily to

Huntingdon

his dominion; and all of them, according to their dignity, like his own folk, were ruled, loved, honoured, and enriched with money and power.

His bishops, too, and all

ecclesiastics, his earls and nobles, ministers and friends, were loved by him with wonderful affection, and their sons, who were bred up in the royal house-hold, were no less dear to him than his own; he had them instructed in all kinds of good morals, and among other things, never ceased to teach them letters night and day.

Simeon

This passage with the 3 following, is given in Florence in 872.

• He [WERFRITH]

In those times the church of Christ was faithfully and gloriously ruled by archbishop Plegmund, a venerable man, who shone in the fruits of wisdom, being built upon four columns, of justice namely, prudence, tempe

rance, and fortitude. At the same time, Warfrid with devoutness of heart, was ennobling the rule of the city of Worcester. He it was, who by order and request of the king turned Gregory's

by the king's command, first turned the books of the book of Dialogues into the

Dialogues of pope Gregory from

Latin into Saxon,

with clearness and elegance. He and in process of time Plegmund, a Mercian by birth, archbishop of the church of Canterbury, a venerable man, and endowed with wisdom; Æthelstan also, and Werewulf his priests, Mercians by birth, and erudite, had been invited out of Mercia by king Elfred, who exalted them with many honours and powers to help him in gaining the learning which he so longed for.

3 By their teaching and wisdom

Saxon tongue: and sometimes interpreted it most ele

gantly, sense from sense. Also Ethelstan and Werwlf were distinguished priests whom he [ALFRED] invited to him out of Mercia, because that they were exceedingly and thoroughly superior in the learning of the divine law he loved and honoured

the king's desires increased unceasingly, and were gratified. them with especial love; and

by their learning and erudi

[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]

men as these to read books to him, for he never suffered
himself to be without one of them, wherefore he possessed a
knowledge of every book, though of himself he could not
yet understand anything of books, for he had not yet learned
to read any thing.

But the king's commendable avarice could not be gratified
even in this; wherefore he sent messengers beyond the sea
to Gaul, to procure teachers, and he invited from thence
Grimbald, priest and monk, a venerable man, and good
singer, adorned with every kind of ecclesiastical discipline
and good morals, and most learned in holy scripture. He
also obtained from thence John,† also priest and monk, a man
of most energetic talents, and learned in all kinds of literary
science, and skilled in many other arts. By the teaching of
these men the king's mind was much enlarged, and he en-
riched and honoured them with much influence.
In these times, I also came into Saxony out of the furthest
western coasts of Britain; and when I had proposed to go
to him through many intervening provinces, I arrived in the
country of the Saxons, who live on the right hand, which in
Saxon is called Sussex, under the guidance of some of that
nation; and there I first saw him in the royal vill, which is
called Dene. I He received me with kindness, and among
other familiar conversation, he asked me eagerly to devote
myself to his service and become his friend, to leave every
thing which I possessed on the left, or western bank of the
Severn, and he promised he would give more than an equi-
valent for it in his own dominions. I replied that I could
not incautiously and rashly promise such things; for it
seemed to me unjust, that I should leave those sacred
places in which I had been bred, educated, and crowned, ||
and at last ordained, for the sake of any earthly honour and
power, unless by compulsion. Upon this, he said, "If you
cannot accede to this, at least, let me have your service in
part spend six months of the year with me here, and the
other six in Britain." To this I replied, "I could not even
promise that easily or hastily without the advice of my
friends." At length, however, when I perceived that he was
anxious for my services, though I knew not why, I promised
him that, if my life was spared, I would return to him after
six months, with such a reply as should be agreeable to him
as well as advantageous to me and mine. With this answer
he was satisfied, and when I had given him a pledge to return
at the appointed time, on the fourth day we left him and
returned on horseback towards our own country.
After our departure, a violent fever seized me in the city
of Winchester, where I lay for twelve months and one week,
night and day, without hope of recovery. At the appointed
time, therefore, I could not fulfil my promise of visiting him
and he sent messengers to hasten my journey, and to inquire
the cause of my delay. As I was unable to ride to him, I
sent a second messenger to tell him the cause of my delay,
and assure him that, if I recovered from my infirmity, I
would fulfil what I had promised. My complaint left me,
and by the advice and consent of all my friends, for the
benefit of that holy place, and of all who dwelt therein,
I did as I had promised to the king, and devoted myself
to his service, on the condition that I should remain with
him six months in every year, either continuously, if I
could spend six months with him at once, or alternately,
three months in Britain and three in Saxony. § For my
friends hoped that they should sustain less tribulation and

[blocks in formation]

John had been connected with the monastery of Corbie.

i. e. WALES.

¶ East Dene [or Dean] and West Dene are two villages near Chichester. There are also other villages of

the same name near East-Bourne.

This expression alludes to the tonsure, which was undergone by those who became clerks.

The original Latin continues, "Et illa adjuvaretur per rudimenta Sancti Degui in omni causa, tamen pro viribus," which I do not understand, and therefore cannot translate.

« PreviousContinue »