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The opening image of MS Junius 11

Ben Reinhard, University of Notre Dame

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Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Junius 11 – formerly known as the “Cædmon Manuscript” – is one of the great monuments of Anglo-Saxon art and literature. It contains four major Old English poetic works, the first of which, Genesis, is presented with accompanying illustrations. The manuscript has not lacked scholarly attention; the 1970s and early 1980s in particular witnessed a small flurry of publications on the iconography of the manuscript, and especially on its opening miniature (see Figure 1). [1] This attention is justified. Not only does the image serve as the introduction to one of our most important Old English manuscripts, it is a complex and allusive piece in its own right: one that, by all indications, was specially composed for the manuscript. [2] At its most basic, the miniature depicts God, his right hand raised in blessing and left hand holding a sealed scroll, seated on a throne. The throne rests on two winged heads, now commonly identified as personifications of the winds, with attending six-winged angels (in all likelihood seraphim) on either side. Frenetic wavy lines fill the area directly beneath the throne, and the whole is enclosed in a curious and perhaps somewhat clumsily executed architectural frame composed of two columns terminating in ornamental capitals and linked by an angling crossbeam. While previous attempts at explanation have successfully accounted for various unusual iconographic details of the image, they do not adequately explain the miniature as a whole and at its most basic: what it represents, and why it was included in the manuscript in the first place.

Figure 1. God enthroned at Creation. Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Junius 11, p. ii. Copyright © Bodleian Library, University of Oxford. Used with permission.

Barbara Raw’s essay on “The probable derivation of most of the illustrations in Junius 11 from an illustrated Old Saxon Genesis” helped to initiate serious study of the image, and remains a useful starting point. She tied the image to a passage in the Old English sapiential dialogue known as Solomon and Saturn. [3] The manuscript image depicts God at the moment of Creation sitting on a throne resting on winged personifications of the winds, and as Raw notes, this is exactly where Solomon and Saturn says he should be. When Saturn asks “Saga me hwær God sæte þa he geworhte heofonas and eorðan” (“Tell me where God was sitting when he created the heavens and the earth”), Solomon responds, “Ic þe secge, he sætt ofer winda feðerum” (“I tell you, he was sitting on the wings of the winds”). [4]

Raw’s explanation of the image as a visual analogue for the Solomon and Saturn riddle was echoed by Herbert Broderick in his 1978 dissertation on the iconography of Junius 11. [5] Then, in their 1982 edition of the Solomon and Saturn and Adrian and Ritheus dialogues, James E. Cross and Thomas D. Hill identified several additional parallels to this idea from medieval wisdom literature. In addition to Solomon and Saturn, the question about where God was located at the moment of Creation – together with the answer “on the wings of the winds” – is found in virtually the same form in the Old English Adrian and Ritheus, and both vernacular passages are closely paralleled by a Latin riddle in the primarily eighth-century Collectanea Pseudo-Bedae and in other early joca monachorum dialogues such as the Disputatio Adriani, Adrianus et Epictetus, and Alfræði Íslenzk. [6] Riddles and miniature, as Cross and Hill explain, can ultimately be traced to imagery from biblical sapiential literature: “both illustration and dialogue-questions are based ultimately on the conflation of ideas from the Old Latin Proverbs and the Psalms.” [7] Psalm 17:11 and Psalm 103:3 both describe God riding or walking upon the wings of the winds (super pinnas ventorum), and the Old Latin version of Proverbs 8:26–7 asserts that God established his throne on the winds at the creation of the world. [8] Appeal to another early joca monachorum can strengthen relationship between the miniature and contemporary wisdom literature even more. Omont’s Interrogationes II.5 follows the “wings of the wind” riddle with this:

Item dic mici qui tenuerunt impetus ventorum?
R: Ceruvin hac Seravin cum aliis xiim. Ceruvin habuit alas vies et Seravin alas vies. [9]

The other analogous riddles give us a picture of God enthroned at Creation upon the wings of the wind; the Interrogationes provide the attending six-winged angels as well. Although the parallels with Latin and Old English wisdom literature do not explain every feature of the Junius 11 image, they are certainly a good place to start.

As useful as this reading is, however – and it cannot be doubted that it identifies a fundamental literary inspiration for the image in question – it does not fully explain the iconographic background of the image. For that, naturally enough, we need to turn to art. Raw again provides an indispensable basis for further study. She notes that the Junius 11 miniature appears closely related to although not necessarily based on an image in a late tenth-century Boethius manuscript from Fleury which likewise depicts God enthroned between two seraphim, holding a similar scroll and making the same gesture of blessing.[10] However, as Raw points out, the Fleury miniature cannot account for all the details of the Junius 11 miniature, including the fact that in the latter manuscript God’s throne is shown to be riding on the winds.[11] She suggests a relationship to the illustration of Psalm 103 contained in the ninth-century Utrecht Psalter (Utrecht, Rijksuniversiteit Bibliotheek, MS 32), although she is careful to say we cannot know how or when the borrowing took place.[12]

Some relationship between Junius and the illustration of Psalm 103 is likely enough, but I believe two other illustrations found in the Utrecht Psalter have more direct relevance to the opening miniature of Junius 11. The first of these is the illustration of Psalm 17:11 found on fol. 9r (Figure 2). Psalm 17:11 is one of the two Psalm verses identified by Cross and Hill as a partial inspiration for the Creation riddle in Solomon and Saturn, Adrian and Ritheus, and the other sapiential dialogues. [13] It is also the only Psalm, as far as we can tell, directly connected to the riddle by medieval readers. [14] It reads: “et ascendit super cherubin et volavit, volavit super pinnas ventorum”. [15] The image contains a cross-nimbed Christ figure standing within a mandorla resting on three personifications of the winds. Most importantly for our purposes, he is flanked by two six-winged angels that, although obviously cherubim in context, could just as well be seraphim as in Junius 11. [16]

The second relevant illustration, that of Psalm 79 found on 47r, was first identified by Broderick.[17] Unlike Psalm 17, Psalm 79 has no obvious literary connection to the Junius miniature. However, and though Broderick does not press the point, this image stands at least as close to the Junius miniature as does the Fleury image identified by Raw. In it, two six-winged angels – who, unlike the angels of the Fleury manuscript but like the angels of the Junius miniature, consist of only a head and six wings – surround a cross-nimbed God seated in a mandorla. The Christ-God’s right hand is raised in blessing, while the left holds a book. As in the Junius manuscript, his left knee is raised higher than the right. While it lacks any depiction of the winds, reference to it can be used to account for many of the areas where Junius and Fleury disagree.[18] Even when features from all three miniatures are combined, however, substantial differences with Junius remain. In all these miniatures, Christ is enclosed within a mandorla as he is not in Junius, and the winds in Utrecht are slightly differently depicted than those in the opening miniature.[19] These differences should not be written off as insignificant – but, given what we know about the influence and use of the Utrecht Psalter in Anglo-Saxon England, and the composition of manuscript images in general, they should not come as a complete surprise, either.[20] We know of at least one Anglo-Saxon artist who composed new illuminations by recalling and combining various Utrecht images;[21] something very similar may have happened here. Between the Fleury Boethius and the several images of the Utrecht Psalter we find a solid grounding – at least analogues, if not sources – for most features of the opening miniature.[22]

Figure 2. Psalm XVII. The Utrecht Psalter. Utrecht, Rijksuniversiteit Bibliotheek MS 32, fol. 9r (detail).

For all this, however, several features of the Junius 11 image remain unexplained, including the addition of what looks to be architectural framework surrounding the image and the apparently chaotic wavy lines beneath the throne, as well as the purpose and meaning of the miniature as a whole. Neither the wisdom literature analogues nor the parallels with the Utrecht Psalter or Fleury Boethius can help much here: it is one thing to identify possible literary and iconographic influences on the artist, quite another to understand how he used them, and why. Subsequent attempts to explain the miniature have somewhat stalled. In his 1986 iconographic catalogue of Anglo-Saxon illuminated manuscripts, Thomas Ohlgren claimed that the image represents God “enthroned above chaos … flanked by two Seraphim with eyes in their wings and, below, two angels support the throne. Wavy lines surrounding throne suggest [the] cloudy arc of heaven.”[23] Ohlgren’s identification is not particularly convincing, however, and more recently Catherine Karkov has attempted a more comprehensive reading of the image by arguing:

The whole composition of the picture refers directly to the descriptions of the Lord in Isaiah VI.1–2 and Rev. IV.9–11, references that unite Old and New Testaments just as the manuscript as a whole unites poems based on the Old and New Testaments in a narrative present. The reading of the book thus becomes a metaphor for the progress of time from Genesis to Last Judgement. The architectural frame of the picture adds to its visionary quality, recalling the door opened in heaven through which John saw his vision. The cloudbank evokes the sea of glass lying before the throne, and the two seraphim and the two winds the four living creatures, the four living creatures, the four symbols of the evangelists, that surround the throne in Rev. IV.6–8.[24]

This is a perceptive and integrative reading, and one that offers a means to tie up several of the loose ends of the Junius 11 miniature, but it cannot be the final word on the subject. To begin with, some of Karkov’s identifications stretch the imagination a bit too far. It is difficult to see, for instance, how two seraphim and two winds can be made to suggest the four living creatures of the Apocalypse. They are indeed winged, and four in number, and they appear more or less to surround the throne of God, but there the resemblance ends. They certainly do not correspond to a man, an eagle, a calf, and a lion: they are two six-winged angels and two winged heads. [25] Nor is it clear in what sense a bank of cloud approximates a “sea of glass like to crystal,” especially since clouds and glass do not possess the same essential qualities of cloudiness and transparency. Karkov also makes no reference to the work of Raw, Broderick, or Cross and Hill on the subject, and while she does mention that images of the winds are included in the miniature, she offers no indication as to why. But most importantly, Karkov fails to recognize to the primary biblical inspiration for the miniature. Following Raw, she cites the first two verses of Isaiah 6, which provide six-winged seraphim on either side of God’s throne, [26] but in order to properly account for the full design of the miniature, the first four verses of Isaiah 6 must be read together:

1 in anno quo mortuus est rex Ozias vidi Dominum sedentem super solium excelsium et elevatum et ea quae sub eo erant implebant templum
2 seraphin stabant super illud sex alae uni et sex alae alteri
duabus velabant faciem eius et duabus velabant pedes eius et duabus volabant
3 et clamabant alter ad alterum et dicebant
sanctus sanctus sanctus Dominus exercituum plena est omnis terra gloria eius
4 et commota sunt superliminaria cardinum a voce clamantis et domus impletus est fumo. [27]

The whole is a scene whose significance would have been immediately apparent to any medieval churchman – by the turn of the eleventh century, Isaiah’s Sanctus had already been enshrined in the liturgy from time immemorial. [28] The passage’s importance for the manuscript image is obvious: as Karkov notes, the first two verses provide us with our image of God enthroned, with six-winged seraphim on either side. But when read in conjunction with the next two verses, the passage reveals far more. It explains the architectural imagery – which does not occur in the other Junius 11 miniatures of God enthroned between seraphim or any analogues of the image – as an integral and literal part of the composition, not mere framing. [29] What Karkov understands to be an “architectural frame” for the image can be viewed as the very door whose lintels will tremble at the angel’s voice, and it is just possible that the strangely fractured frame is an attempt to capture this commotio in greater detail. [30] We also now have an apt explanation for the strange billowing substance that surrounds God’s throne. It is the smoke that fills the house of God in Isaiah 6:4, precisely as the substance in the Junius 11 miniature does. [31] This does not necessarily mean that Ohlgren’s chaos or Karkov’s cloudbank are no longer tenable explanations of this image. On another level of interpretation, it is possible that the image’s wavy lines can be taken to represent either one, but on the most basic, literal level, they certainly represent the smoke of Isaiah 6:4. Between the imagery of Isaiah 6, the iconography of the Utrecht Psalter and Fleury Boethius, and the parallels from Old English wisdom literature, every iconographic detail can be accounted for. On a textual level, at least, there is no need to search for any further inspiration.

What does this identification do for our understanding of the miniature as a whole – of its place and purpose in the Junius manuscript? The opening verses of Isaiah 6 involve two major ideas that both may be relevant here. First we have a simple expression of awe and worship before a terrible God enthroned in majesty. The seraphim of Isaiah cry out their unending Sanctus, and, as Karkov observes, readers of the manuscript are invited to join in this response in the opening lines of Genesis A: [32]

Us is riht micel     ðæt we rodera weard,
wereda wuldorcining,      wordum herigen,
modum lufien.      He is mægna sped,
heafod ealra      heahgesceafta,
frea ælmihtig.      Næs him frum æfre,
or geworden.      ne nu ende cymþ
ecean drihtnes,      ac he bið a rice
ofer heofenstolas. [33]

In the book of Isaiah, however, the prophet’s reaction to the vision of God enthroned is noticeably less positive. He fears at first that he is undone by the sight of divine majesty:

5 et dixi vae mihi quia tacui quia vir pollutus labiis ego sum
et in medio populi polluta labia habentis ego habito
et Regem Dominum exercituum vidi oculis meis. [34]

After all this fear and trembling comes a scene of commission. Isaiah is purged of his uncleanness by the ministry of one of the seraphim, and he hears the voice of God:

8 et audivi vocem Domini dicentis
quem mittam et quis ibit nobis
et dixi ecce ego sum mitte me
9 et dixit vade et dices populo huic
audite audientes et nolite intellegere
et videte visionem et nolite cognoscere. [35]

And with that, Isaiah keeps silent no longer, and his great public ministry to the house of Judah begins. All of this is highly relevant to our understanding of the image and its place in the manuscript. In the first place, recognition of the importance of Isaiah 6 adds another layer of liturgical resonance to Junius 11. While it has long been recognized that the opening lines of Genesis A are based on the preface of the Mass, [36] the fact that the preface leads into the Sanctus, and that the Sanctus is directly evoked by the opening miniature, has gone unnoticed. That miniature and accompanying poem allude to one continuous section of the ordinary can hardly have been accidental: whatever may happen later in the manuscript, this is evidence of a fairly high level of cooperation between the first artist and the scribe, and strengthens Karkov’s arguments for a “universalized” text. [37] Second, granting that nobody believes the Junius 11 poems to have been written by Cædmon anymore, it is still interesting to note the striking similarity between the commissioning of Isaiah evoked by the miniature and Cædmon’s own poetic mandate recounted in Bede’s Ecclesiastical History: both Isaiah and Cædmon are recipients of an angelic vision, both are initially unable to communicate their divine message, and both are, ultimately, miraculously enabled to do so. [38] It is exactly this process of commissioning that the opening miniature of Junius 11 evokes: and then the manuscript, like Cædmon, begins to tell of the first creation. It may be that the ideas of vernacular poetics and divine commission were closely associated in ways not yet explored – and one wonders about the role of Bede’s text in promoting this idea, especially since the beginning of Genesis A looks, on a superficial level at least, so much like Cædmon’s Hymn. [39]

Suggestive though this may be, it is ultimately beside the point. What needs to be emphasized is this: from a proper understanding of the composition of the opening miniature, we can get a sense of how the first Junius artist intended his work to be read by his contemporaries. In the first place, it is obviously, undeniably, a call to worship. No appeal to Isaiah 6 or any other text is needed to recognize the import of a full-frontal image of God enthroned in majesty. But a sufficiently educated individual would recognize the image for what it is, an illustration of Isaiah 6, and would perhaps connect it to the familiar Sanctus of the liturgy, or tie Isaiah’s commission to prophesy with the worship and doctrinal exposition at the beginning of Genesis A. Given that God’s throne is quite literally riding on the wings of the wind, the most observant and best-informed readers (those familiar with a particular jocum monachorum) would be alerted to precisely how the Junius manuscript would proceed in its mission: by expounding on the creation of the world. Wrapped in its layers of meaning, the image is itself a riddle, an invitation to look more closely at the intersection of text and illustration. All in all, it is a meticulously planned and perfectly appropriate opening to the manuscript. [40]

NOTES

[1] Images of the manuscript are now easily accessible directly from the Bodleian website, http://image.ox.ac.uk/, and from the superb digital facsimile edition by Bernard J. Muir and Nick Kennedy, A Digital Facsimile of Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Junius 11, Bodleian Digital Texts 1 (Oxford: Bodleian Library, 2004). For a recent discussion of the complex relationship between texts and drawings in Junius 11, see Herbert R. Broderick III, “Metatextuality, sexuality and intervisuality in MS Junius 11,” Word & Image 25 (2009), 384–401, who provides a thorough and up-to-date guide to scholarship on the manuscript.

[2] Herbert Reginald Broderick, “The iconographic and compositional sources of the drawings in Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Junius 11,” (unpubl. Ph.D. dissertation, Columbia University, 1978), 72. The fact that we can find no direct parallel to the frontispiece of Junius 11 suggests “an original synthesis of separate motifs on the part of the Anglo-Saxon artist, rather than a ready source at hand in the form of a unified hand.”

[3] Barbara C. Raw, “The probable derivation of most of the illustrations in Junius 11 from an illustrated Old Saxon Genesis,” Anglo-Saxon England 5 (1976), 133–148, at 143.

[4] The Prose Solomon and Saturn and Adrian and Ritheus, ed. J. E. Cross and Thomas D. Hill, McMaster Old English Studies and Texts 1 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1982), 25.

[5] Broderick, “Iconographical and compositional sources,” 66–68.

[6] Collectanea Pseudo-Bedae, ed. Martha Bayless and Michael Lapidge, Scriptores Latini Hiberniae 14 (Dublin: School of Celtic Studies, 1998), no. 90: “Dic mihi ubi sedit Deus, quando creauit coelum et terram? Super pennas uentorum” (“Tell me, where did God sit when He created heaven and earth? On the wings of the winds”), 132–133, with commentary and additional references at 221. The image of God sitting on the wings of the winds is shifted from Creation to Doomsday in the early Hiberno-Latin poem known as the Hisperica Famina, in which God dispenses justice “mormorantibus degesti de pennis euri” (“out of the whirring wings of the aforesaid wind”): The Hisperica Famina: I. The A-Text, ed. and trans. Michael W. Herren (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1974), 102–103 (line A495); for discussion see Charles D. Wright, “The Three ‘Victories’ of the Wind: A Hibernicism in the Hisperica Famina, Collectanea Bedae, and the Old English Solomon and Saturn Pater Noster Dialogue,” Ériu 41 (1990), 13–25.

[7] Cross and Hill, Prose Solomon and Saturn, 61.

[8] Cross and Hill, Prose Solomon and Saturn, 60–61.

[9] “Next tell me who restrained the fury of the winds? Response: the Cherub and the Seraph with their twelve wings. The Cherub had six wings and the Seraph had six wings.” See Henri Omont, “Interrogationes de fide catholica (joca monachorum),” Bibliothèque de l’école des chartes 44 (1883), 58-71, at 63. Omont, 58, identifies the manuscript from which the riddle comes as Spanish and eleventh century.

[10] Raw, “Probable derivation,” 138.

[11] Other substantial differences exist between the two images. The scroll held by the Deity differs considerably from image to image, as does the throne on which he sits. These differences, and possible explanations for them, are discussed in detail by Broderick, “Iconographical and compositional sources,” 60-65.

[12] Raw, 143. Similar images occur also in the eleventh-century English-made Harley Psalter (London, British Library, MS Harley 603), which is based heavily on the Utrecht Psalter, but in no case do they stand closer to the iconography of Junius 11 than do those in the Carolingian original. For the peculiar dependence of the Harley Psalter on the Utrecht Psalter, see William Noel, The Harley Psalter (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), especially 2-7. For a comprehensive introduction to the Utrecht Psalter, see The Utrecht Psalter in Medieval Art: Picturing the Psalms of David, ed. Koert van der Horst, William Noel, and Wilhelmina C. M. Wüstefeld (Westrenen: Hes, 1996).

[13] Cross and Hill, Prose Solomon and Saturn, 60. The other, naturally enough, is Raw’s Psalm 103.

[14] Omont’s Interrogationes II.4 (63) reads: “Item dic mihi quando fecit Deus celum et terram, ubi continuit ipsa majestas? R/. Super pinnas ventorum, unde dicit in Psalmo xviio: Et volabit super pinnas ventorum.” (“Next tell me where that majesty was contained when God created the heavens and the earth? Response: Upon the wings of the wind, whence it is said in the seventeenth Psalm, ‘And he flew upon the wings of the wind’.”).

[15] “And he ascended upon the cherubim, and he flew; he flew upon the wings of the winds.” Quotations from the Latin Bible are taken from Biblia Sacra iuxta Vulgatam versionem, ed. Robert Weber and Roger Gryson, 5th corrected ed. (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2007). English translations are from the Douay-Rheims version: The Holy Bible Translated from the Latin Vulgate (Baltimore, MD: John Murphy, 1899).

[16] It is difficult if not impossible to identify the rank of angels in an Anglo-Saxon illustration based on the iconographic details of the angels themselves, as Anglo-Saxon artists did not rigorously distinguish between the different levels of the hierarchy. See Broderick, “Iconographic and compositional sources,” 68-69: “Elements of the several ranks of angels are often combined in early medieval pictorial representations.”

[17] Broderick, “Iconographic and compositional sources,” 69 n. 27.

[18] In Utrecht, God sits on what looks like a draped throne, in Fleury, on a combination of a rainbow and a globe. In Utrecht, the seraphim/cherubim appear as heads surrounded by wings; in Fleury, we see their bodies. In Fleury, the angels stand on capitals and do not come into contact with the mandorla; in Utrecht, they do not, and do. In all these details, Junius agrees with Utrecht. Broderick points out a number of these differences between Junius and Fleury in “Iconographic and compositional sources,” 65-66 and 68: on all these points, Junius agrees with Utrecht. The same is true in reverse: Junius agrees with Fleury on those details – God’s hair and beard, and the scroll he holds – it disagrees with Utrecht.

[19] Broderick, “Iconographic and compositional sources,” 67, points out that the Utrecht winds generally have small wings sprouting from their foreheads, while the Junius winds have larger, feathery wings coming from the sides of their heads. The difference seems significant, but certainly not great enough to rule out some measure of artistic influence.

[20] For a detailed discussion of the Utrecht Psalter’s thorough-going influence on the English visual imagination and compositional techniques, see T. A. Heslop, “The Implication of the Utrecht Psalter in English Romanesque Art” in Romanesque Art and Thought in the Twelfth Century, ed. Colum Hourihane (University Park and Princeton: Pennsylvania University Press in association with the Index of Christian Art, 2008), 267-90.

[21] That is, the artist of the Winchester “Quinity,” who composed the famous image by combining Utrecht’s illustrations of Psalms 109 with that of the Gloria and Creed. See Ernst Kantorowicz, “The Quinity of Winchester,” Art Bulletin 29 (1947), 73-85, especially 75-80. T. A. Heslop argues that the author had a particularly high level of familiarity with the Utrecht Psalter, and, in all likelihood, composed from memory.

[22] This does not mean that the artist of the opening miniature of Junius 11 drew directly upon the Utrecht Psalter, only that the Psalter lay (at however much distance) behind the illustration. There is good reason to be cautious of claiming direct reliance on the Utrecht Psalter: its forms and images were widely enough appropriated to become almost universal. See William Noel, “The Utrecht Psalter in England: continuity and experiment,” in The Utrecht Psalter in Medieval Art, 121-66, especially 144-45.

[23] Thomas Ohlgren, Insular and Anglo-Saxon Illuminated Manuscripts: An Iconographic Catalogue c. A.D. 625 to 1100 (New York: Garland, 1986), 141.

[24] Catherine E. Karkov, Text and Picture in Anglo-Saxon England: Narrative Strategies in the Junius 11 Manuscript, Cambridge Studies in Anglo-Saxon England 31 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 46–47.

[25] For further discussion of Karkov’s reading of the Junius 11 miniatures, see Broderick, “Metatextuality.” For his discussion of the opening miniature, see especially 393: “Why should these four very different entities, two seraphim and two winged wind-heads under the throne of the Creator, call to mind anything other than what they are: two seraphim and two winged wind-heads?” It is also important to note that, as far as we can tell, no illustration of the Apocalypse scene lies behind the opening image of Junius 11, at any remove.

[26] It is possible, that the six-winged angels are meant to recall the cherub and seraph of Omont Interrogationes II.5. However, recognition of this would have depended upon knowledge of a one specific jocum monachorum. The primary significance of the angels should, instead, be traced to the universally recognizable biblical passage.

[27] “[1] In the year that king Ozias died, I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne high and elevated: and his train filled the temple. [2] Upon it stood the seraphims: the one had six wings, and the other had six wings: with two they covered his face, and with two they covered his feet, and with two they flew. [3] And they cried one to another, and said: Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God of hosts, all the earth is full of his glory. [4] And the lintels of the doors were moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke.”

[28] The roots of the passage’s liturgical use stretch back to turn of the second century. It was enshrined in the Roman liturgy by c. 400. See Joseph A. Jungmann, The Mass of the Roman Rite, trans. Francis A. Brunner (New York: Benziger, 1951), 381 and John Harper, The forms and order of western liturgy (Oxford: Clarendon, 1991), 111. A liturgical version of the Sanctus (most likely that of the Gregorian Sacramentary) is versified in the Old English Christ I. See Thomas D. Hill, “The ‘Sanctus’ in the Old English ‘Christ I’, Lines 403-415,” Neuphilologische Mitteilungen 83 (1982), 26-30.

[29] On pp. 1 and 17 of the manuscript. Neither illustration clearly contains the billowing substance of p. ii, although it is possible that the miniature on p. 2 makes a largely uninspired attempt at it. For a discussion of the use of framing devices in later Anglo-Saxon manuscript illustration, and the narrative potential of such frames, see Herbert R. Broderick, “Some attitudes toward the frame in Anglo-Saxon manuscripts of the tenth and eleventh centuries,” Artibus et Historiae, III/5 (1982), 31-42.

[30] It should be noted that architectural framework is the norm in the Junius manuscript for both celestial and terrestrial scenes; the opening miniature’s frame may not be evocative of anything at all. However, given the other features of the scene, it is certainly possible to interpret the frame as a literal and meaningful aspect of the composition. No other frame in the manuscript has the same puzzling, fractured execution.

[31] It is conceivable, but in my view altogether unlikely, that the billowing substance is meant to recall drapery, in which case it would be a depiction of the “train” of the first verse.

[32] Karkov, Text and Picture, 45–46: “The picture is clearly designed to accompany the poet’s opening injunction to his readers to praise God, who is here pictured in majesty before them.”

[33] “It is very right for us to praise the Guardian of the Heavens, the Glory-King of Hosts, with words, to love him with our hearts. He is glorious with virtues, the head of all noble creation, the Lord almighty. There is no beginning for him ever, nor will any end come to the eternal Lord, but he will be mighty forever over the throne of heaven.” Genesis A, lines 1–8a, ed. George Philip Krapp, The Junius Manuscript, Anglo-Saxon Poetic Records 1 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1931), 3. While it is probably unwise to place too much weight on any one of the titles heaped upon God, the epithet wereda wuldorcyning echoes the Vulgate’s Dominus Deus exercituum of Isaiah 6:3.

[34] At Isaiah 6:5. “Woe is me, because I have held my peace; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people that hath unclean lips, and I have seen with my eyes the King the Lord of hosts.”

[35] At Isaiah 6:8-9. “[8] And I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: Whom shall I send? and who shall go for us? And I said: Lo, here am I, send me. [9] And he said: Go, and thou shalt say to this people: Hearing, hear, and understand not: and see the vision, and know it not.”

[36] Gollancz doubted the connection between the preface and Genesis A, but consensus has shifted to accept it. See Israel Gollancz, The Cædmon Manuscript (London: Oxford University Press, 1927), lxii n. 2. For the consensus view, see Laurence Michel, “Genesis A and the praefatio,” Modern Language Notes 62 (1947), 545–550; Bernard F. Huppé, “Cædmon’s Hymn,” in Old English Literature: Twenty-Two Analytical Essays, ed. Martin Stevens and Jerome Mandel (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1968), 117–138, at 124–125; and Karkov, Text and Picture, p. 46.

[37] The cooperation between the artists and the scribe breaks down dramatically later in the manuscript. See George Henderson, “The Programme of Illustrations in Bodleian MS. Junius 11,” in Studies in Memory of David Talbot Rice, ed. G. Robertson and G. Henderson (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1975), 113-145, especially 127-130; and Herbert R. Broderick, “The Method of Illustration in MS Junius 11,” Scriptorium 37 (1984), 161-77. For Karkov’s universalized text, see Karkov, Text and Picture, 47.

[38] Zacharias Thundy was the first modern observer to note the narrative and thematic parallels between Isaiah 6 and the story of Cædmon’s composition of the Hymn: see Z. P. Thundy, “The Qur’ān: source or analogue of Bede’s Cædmon story?” Islamic Culture 63 (1989), 105–110, at 107. The large number of texts that have been proposed as analogues for the Cædmon story are conveniently surveyed by Daniel Paul O’Donnell, “Cædmon’s Hymn”: A Multi-Media Study, Edition, and Archive (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2005), 191–202, with an additional folkloric analogue since detected by John D. Niles, “Bede’s Cædmon, ‘the man who had no story’ (Irish tale-type 2412B),” Folklore 117 (2006), 141–155. The association of Isaiah 6 with “Cædmonian” poetry at the beginning of the Junius manuscript suggests that it is possible – just possible – that tenth-century Anglo-Saxon readers may have made the connection as well.

[39] In addition to sharing a few half-lines and stylistic similarities, the opening lines of Genesis A and Cædmon’s Hymn have closely similar themes. See Gollancz, The Cædmon Manuscript, lx–lxi: “The opening lines of Genesis A seem almost to echo the Hymn … both [are] evidently based on some specific hymn or prayer in praise of God the Creator.”

[40] I am grateful to all those who read advance drafts of this essay and offered suggestions for its improvement, especially Thomas Hall, Danielle Joyner, and Catherine Karkov.

(via Old English Newsletter)

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