« PreviousContinue »
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 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 Eadward, 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 nobility 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,
clever in the liberal arts. Eadward and Alfthrith were bred 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
Now there were born to the
king sons and daughters sufficiently beautiful and of becoming form, whose names are here gathered; Eadward and Ethelward, Ethelfled and Ethelgifu, and Elfthrid. 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 his younger son, was placed 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 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, 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
6 Many Franks, Frisons, Gauls, pagans, Britons, Scots, and
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 instigator 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,-instigated 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
Armoricans, noble and igno
ble, submitted voluntarily to
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.
This passage with the 3 following, is given in Florence in 872.
In those times the church of
rance, and fortitude.
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
3 By their teaching and wisdom
Saxon tongue: and some-
gantly, sense from sense.
the king's desires increased unceasingly, and were gratified. them with especial love; and
by their learning and erudi
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
* Grimbald was provost of St Omer's.
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 stand, and therefore cannot translate. pro viribus," which I do not under
1. He also 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.
tion that pacific king was magnified above all the kings of the earth.