Aldhelm of Malmesbury was one of the most prolific and influential scholars of early Anglo-Saxon England. His contemporary fame rested partly on the fact that he had been a pilgrim to Rome. This article presents new evidence for Aldhelm’s literary debt to the epigraphy of early Christian Rome. Two ninth-century manuscripts from Reims contain an anthology of six epigrams which derive largely from verse inscriptions in Old St Peter’s. Aldhelm quoted two of these, de Petro and de Andrea, almost verbatim in his Carmina Ecclesiastica. It is likely that Aldhelm knew these verses from first-hand observation rather than via the pages of a manuscript sylloge.
The specifically maritime imagination of Anglo-Saxon poets resolves the potentially incongruous metaphorical models of the mind in this culture as both an enclosure and a wandering entity. The dual containing and travelling aspects of the ship provide a suitable model for the embodied yet metaphysical mind, and act in conjunction with the widespread metaphor of life as a sea voyage to produce a coherent means of imagining how the mind operates in relation to the body. The Wanderer and The Seafarer illustrate how acutely this conventionalized way of representing physical and mental experience relies on the sea voyage as both the setting for and metaphorical representation of a human consciousness that is both enclosed in the body and also able to transcend the physical.
Research into the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in the last generation has concentrated upon editing the different versions found in the extant manuscripts and on interpreting their differences. That has caused some neglect of the features that all manuscripts share, namely their remarkable preoccupation with the deeds of English kings and with the assertion of English identity – features characteristic both of the Chronicle’s ‘common stock’ down to c. 892 and of subsequent continuations. That shared agenda may most readily be explained by supposing that from the 890s until 1131 sections of the annals continued to be disseminated intermittently from the royal household. The sustained royal focus would reflect the career interests of those in the king’s service; and the local continuation of Chronicle manuscripts would reflect such men’s role in abbatial or episcopal office. The traditional assumption that the Chronicle was being composed in the churches to which copies had been distributed by King Alfred requires an interpretation of the manuscript transmission of improbable complexity.
The often-anthologized story of Cynewulf and Cyneheard is typically regarded as the earliest example of heroic English prose, perhaps a summary of an earlier oral tale. Until recently, relatively little attention has been paid to its context within the A MS of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Given this text’s association with King Alfred, this article locates the tale within the broader context of Alfredian writing on the morality of rule and, in particular, royal wisdom. Rather than simply endorsing the loyalty of fighting men to their lord, the tale also warns of the dangers of royal folly and the consequences of unrighteous rule.
Scott Thompson Smith
The two poems dedicated to King Edgar in Anglo-Saxon Chronicle manuscripts ABC can be dated with some precision. This essay consequently reads the Edgar poems as contemporary products of two very different historical moments during the Benedictine reform. Written from a distinctly monastic perspective, the poem for 973 was one of many ideological texts and events from late in Edgar’s reign committed to affirming the king’s divinely-sanctioned sovereignty. The 973 poem realigns the function of verse in the Chronicle, adopting dynastic praise poetry to more ecclesiastical concerns. The poem for 975, however, breaks with the Chronicle precedent of panegyric verse and instead offers a critical complaint against the attacks on monastic landholdings in the wake of Edgar’s death. The two Edgar poems can be best appreciated as historically-situated verse productions.
The central theme in both versions of the Old English Boethius is the Christian conversion of the soul. In the prosimetrical version, this theme is highlighted further in the metra through the poetic trope of the human soul figured as a star to reinforce the teaching in the prose passages. In the course of the metra, the trope increasingly focuses on the inner life of the man engaged in earthly affairs as he strengthens his moral resolve and his divine affiliation through meditation. Repetition and variations of the trope in Metres 5, 10, 20, 22 and 23 represent the soul’s shift from despair to understanding.
Latin manuscripts used for preaching the Anglo-Saxon laity in the tenth century survive in relatively rare numbers. This paper contributes a new text to the known preaching resources from that century in identifying the Homiliary of Angers as the text preserved on the flyleaves of London, British Library, MS Sloane 280. While these fragments, made in Kent and edited here for the first time, cast new light on the importance of this plain and unadorned Latin collection for the composition of Old English temporale homilies before Ælfric, they also represent the oldest surviving manuscript evidence of the text.
The Old English Life of St Neot has been generally dated to the twelfth century and dismissed as a late and derivative work. The article argues that it was written much earlier, in the first few decades of the eleventh century, and is both a significant example of late Old English hagiographic literature and an important witness to early legends about King Alfred and his posthumous reputation.